Who Is Dolly Parton’s Husband, Carl Dean? Everything We Know

It's been more than five decades since Dolly Parton said “I do.” And yet, sparks are still flying between the country legend and her husband, Carl Dean.

In honor of his 79th birthday in July, the singer and philanthropist surprised her partner with a flirty gift, featuring a stunning photo of herself posing in a playboy-inspired bunny costume. On Twitter, she shared a fun video of the ensemble and captioned the post, “It’s always #HotGirlSummer for my husband, Carl. Happy birthday my love!”

As most fans may know, Parton has been very open about her happy marriage with Dean, which inspired a number of her songs. But we were curious to know: Does Dean work in the same field? And how did his romance with the singer begin? Here’s what we know about Dolly Parton’s husband.

Dolly Parton Is Releasing a Book She Wrote with Popular Mystery Novelist James Patterson

1. Who Is Carl Dean?

Carl Dean, 79, is a retired businessman and actor from Nashville. Since he leads an extremely private life, very little is known beyond that, but we do know that he owned a successful asphalt-paving company and that he landed the title role in the 2003 short film Vigorish as Chester, a fast-talker whose one-night stand with an old flame goes horribly wrong.

2. Dean Met Parton When She Was 18.

The pair first met in 1964 at a laundromat in Nashville, when Dean was 21 and Parton was just 18. He was driving by in his white pickup truck when he first spotted the “Jolene” singer, and right away, he knew that he wanted to marry her.

In 2016, when the couple renewed their vows, he recalled that moment and said, "My first thought was I'm gonna marry that girl. My second thought was, 'Lord she's good lookin.' And that was the day my life began."

While speaking with Interview magazine, Parton also confirmed that they crossed paths on the first day she got to Nashville. She said, “I graduated on a Friday night, went to Nashville on a Saturday morning with dirty clothes and I went to a laundromat looking for anything but love. I had just left two boyfriends back home and I wasn’t looking to get involved because I had gone to Nashville to really get started in the business.”

3. Parton’s Record Label Wasn’t Too Thrilled When She Got Engaged To Dean

to say that this engagement didn't last very long. While speaking with CMT, Parton revealed that they intended to get married right away, and Dean’s mom was thrilled about the news. She said, “When Carl and I told his mother that we were getting married, she was so excited that she was finally gonna get to do a wedding. Because her only daughter had eloped. So she was so happy she would get to throw a big wedding party.”

However, Parton’s record label wasn’t as enthusiastic. They worried that her marriage would get in the way of her success, and so they suggested that she hold off on the wedding. Parton recalled, “Everyone at my label, Monument Records and Fred Foster, had invested money in me and in building my career, so they asked me if I’d wait a year to get married. And I didn’t want to not do what I was supposed to do. Carl’s mother was just heartbroken.”

Still, despite the label's position, Parton and Dean tied the knot in 1966 in a private ceremony, which was held at a church in Ringgold, Georgia to avoid any media attention in Tennessee.

Parton said, “We found a little Baptist church in town, and went up to Pastor Don Duvall and said, 'Would you marry us?' We got pictures on the steps right outside the church."

4. Dean Has Only Attended One Red Carpet Event With His Wife

In that same year, Dean and Parton made their official red carpet debut at a BMI dinner, where the country star was honored with her first songwriting award for Bill Phillips’s "Put It Off Until Tomorrow." But this also turned out to be their last outing at a country music event.

While speaking with The Boot, Parton revealed, "This was my first big record. It went to No. 1 for Bill and it was BMI's Song of the Year. So Carl and I got dressed up, he was in a tux, and we drove to the dinner. We got out and walked up the red carpet and went inside and sat through dinner and the awards, and I went up and got my award.”

She continued, “After the dinner, we walked back out and they brought us our car—I don't even remember what we were driving then—and we got in it and headed for home. Carl turned to me and said, 'Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I'm happy for you, but don't you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!'"

Since then, Dean has never been spotted at a single outing or red carpet event, causing several fans to speculate about the existence of Parton’s husband. But after the “9 to 5” singer caught wind of these claims, she explained his need for privacy on Entertainment Tonight, “He does not want to be in the spotlight at all,” she explained. “He just hates that, it's not who he is. He said, 'I didn't choose this world, I chose you. And you chose that world. But we can keep our lives separate and together.’”

5. But Dean Made A Rare Appearance On The Cover Of One Of Parton’s Albums

While he’s known for keeping his distance from the limelight, he graced the cover of her fourth studio album, My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy, which was released in 1969. But it wasn’t until several years later when Parton finally confirmed that the man in the cover art was, in fact, her husband.

In the image, there’s a close-up of Parton staring out into the distance, and she appears to be daydreaming about her “Blue Ridge mountain boy,” who’s shown sitting on a tree log.

6. He Was The Inspiration For Many Of Parton’s Songs

While speaking with Rolling Stone in 2016, the country singer revealed that the entirety of her album, Pure and Simple, was inspired by her relationship with Dean. She said, "I was just trying to think about all the different colors of love through the years. I thought, 'Well I'm going to write about mine and Carl's relationship. It's just a pure and simple relationship,' so it started with that and then I thought, 'Well why don't I just write a whole album of love songs?'"

Fans may also recall that her hit song “Jolene” was written after a real-life receptionist flirted with her husband. And according to Parton, her song "From Here to the Moon and Back" from Joyful Noise was written specifically for her husband. "I needed to write a beautiful love song," she told The Boot. "I picked my husband, who I love, and I thought, 'Well, I’ll write some beautiful song about him.' It was about my husband in the movie, played by Kris Kristofferson, so I thought in order to make it really real and really touching, I would write my real, true emotions about someone I really do love."

7. To Mark Their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Dean Sat Down For His First-ever Interview

After 50 years together, the lovebirds celebrated their milestone anniversary by renewing their vows in a small ceremony in Nashville. In a press release, Parton said, "If I had it to do all over, I'd do it all over again, and we did. I'm dragging him kicking and screaming into the next 50 years. Wish us luck.”

But they didn’t just tie the knot for the second time. Parton also turned the occasion into an opportunity to raise funds for children’s charities—a key factor that would convince Dean to sit down for his first-ever interview with the country legend. Parton said, “In all honesty, the only way I was able to get Carl to do any of this in the first place was that it was a great opportunity for us to raise money for some very worthy causes."

Per Taste of Country, Parton auctioned off exclusive photos from the ceremony and conducted her own interview with Dean, where she asked questions that were submitted by fans. While discussing their special bond, Dean said, “I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.”

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...