Dolly Parton and Reba Discuss Divorce and Bold Business Moves

No topic was off limits for Reba's podcast premiere.

Written by Chris Parton
Dolly Parton and Reba Discuss Divorce and Bold Business Moves
NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 23: Honorees Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton attend the 11th Annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium on August 23, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM)

Reba McEntire went big for the premiere of her new Spotify podcast, Living & Learning with Reba McEntire, inviting country icon Dolly Parton to join as her special guest. And they wasted no time getting to the good stuff.

The podcast’s first episode was all about making your own path in the world — which is something Parton knows plenty about — and both stars shared a personal story on the topic.

Reba first opened up about how she coped with the 2015 divorce from ex-husband Narvel Blackstock. Blackstock was more than just a spouse, he was also McEntire’s manager and had a big hand in steering the country star’s business operations, so when they split, she was left to figure things out alone.

“The divorce was not my choice. I did not want it. At all,” McEntire began. “So, it was left up to me of, ‘Okay. Kid, how you gonna handle this?’ So, when the three people who were literally taking care of me and my company, my career, left me … I had to, what the hell am I gonna do? And so it was kind of a, as I call it, ‘come to Jesus’ meeting. And I had to gather my wherewithal, put my feelings aside, and go forward. So it was forging a path that I didn’t want any part of, but I had to do it. But not only for myself, but for my band, my crew, my organization. The RBI [Reba Business Inc.]. I had to say, ‘Okay, this has happened. We all know what’s happened, ’cause you were all involved. Now we’ve got to move forward.'”

Parton had an empowering story to share on the subject, too, although hers came from a much different situation. She famously wrote the epic “I Will Always Love You” and took it to Number One in the 1974, and there’s always been a story about how Elvis Presley wanted to cover the tune. It would have been a sure-fire smash, the thinking goes, and Parton was all for it … until Elvis’ manager demanded she hand over the song’s publishing rights, which were potentially worth a fortune.

To the shock of many, Parton turned Elvis’ team down, refusing to surrender her hard work. And although many questioned it, that one bold decision made Parton millions over the years — and cemented her status as a savvy businesswoman. On the podcast, she opened up with some more detail about how the ordeal made her feel.

“That is a true story,” she told co-host Melissa Peterman. “It didn’t have anything to do with Elvis. I loved Elvis. It was Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, who was brilliant. You can’t take that way from people. He did all right by him. But, I already had a number one song, ‘I Will Always Love You.’ And that was the most important copyright I had in my publishing company. And so I was so excited, I told everybody. They had called me that Elvis was recording it, and if I wanted to come to the studio. Elvis wanted to meet me and all that.

“So, anyway, I was so excited that he was going to do it. And the night before the session, Colonel Tom called me and said, ‘You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have the publishing, or at least half the publishing.’ I said, ‘Well, that throws a new light on this. Because I can’t give you half the publishing. I’m gonna leave that to my family.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, then we can’t do it.’ And I cried all night. ‘Cause I thought, ‘Oh, I just pictured Elvis, like, singing it.’ And I know that Elvis loved it. And I know it wasn’t him, but it’s true. I said ‘no.'”

Also on the first episode, McEntire and Peterman discovered Parton’s five favorite “Dolly-isms,” and chatted with Lauren Alaina and Leslie Jordan about the importance (and challenge) of friendship. And next week Monday, the hosts will welcome another round of celebrity guests.