After more than 60 years in show biz, it feels like we know Dolly Parton inside and out. The legendary country singer is seemingly an open book, pouring her heart out to her fans about everything from her decision not to have children to her famous wig collection through her interviews and social media accounts. There’s one part of her life that remains largely shrouded in ambiguity, however: her husband, Carl Thomas Dean. Despite his better half's popularity, the businessman has managed to largely stay out of the spotlight—until now.
Read on for everything you need to know about Dolly's mysterious spouse.
Carl Thomas Dean is so private, Dolly has actually had to debunk conspiracy theories over the years that her spouse is fictitious! “He does not want to be in the spotlight at all,” she explained to ET last year. “He said, I didn’t choose this world, I chose you, and you chose that world.”
It clearly hasn't stopped the pair from keeping the spark alive, however. “They say that opposites attract, and it’s true,” Dolly told People in 2015. “We’re completely opposite, but that’s what makes it fun. I never know what he’s gonna say or do. He’s always surprising me.”
He’s been married to Dolly for 55 years.
The couple tied the knot on Memorial Day, 1966—against her label’s wishes. As Dolly tells it, she was asked to put her personal life on hold for work. “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,” she reportedly recalled to CMT News. Instead, the pair eloped two years after they met in Ringgold, Georgia, with only Dolly’s mother, Avie Lee, a preacher, and his wife around to witness it.
He’s the inspiration behind some of his wife’s biggest hits.
Dolly hasn’t been shy about revealing which songs she’s written about her longtime paramour—most famously, her 1974 classic, “Jolene.” As she once explained to a crowd full of concert-goers, the tune was partially inspired by Carl Thomas’s flirtation with a pretty bank teller early on in their marriage. “He was spending a lot of time at the bank … so I followed him down there one day,” she said. “He was putting a lot of interest in this redhead. I put a stop to that."
Dolly also had the last laugh in the situation. "You know what? Even the things that you think are bad, they turn out to be good, cause if it hadn’t have been for Jolene, I wouldn’t have made all that money that I go to the bank with myself, now!" she joked.
Decades later, Carl Thomas continues to act as the songwriter’s muse. In fact, she wrote a whole album about their relationship in 2016. "I was just trying to think about all the different colors of love through the years," she shared with Rolling Stone in 2016. “I thought, 'Well I'm going to write about mine and Carl's relationship. It's just a pure and simple relationship.’”
He met Dolly on her first day in Nashville.
Dolly found a lot more than a new home on her first day in Nashville, Tennessee—she also met her future husband. And at a laundromat, of all places! According to her website, Carl Thomas instantly won her over with his eagerness to dive beneath the surface. “I was surprised and delighted that he talked to me, he looked at my face (a rare thing for me),” she said of their meet-cute. "He seemed to be genuinely interested in finding out who I was and what I was about.”
And boy, was he ever: "My first thought was 'I'm gonna marry that girl,'" Carl Thomas revealed to ET. "My second thought was, 'Lord, she’s good lookin'. And that was the day my life began. I wouldn't trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth," he gushed.
He had his own stint in show business.
Despite his ultra-private nature, the asphalt businessman has had his own brush with show biz independent of Dolly with an IMDb credit for his role as Chester in 2003’s Vigorish.
She's a little bit country, he's a little bit rock 'n roll.
Believe it or not, Dolly’s records aren’t spinning nonstop in Carl Thomas’s player. "[He's] not particularly [a fan of my songs], but he loves me," the singer confessed to TODAY back in 2014. The pair adore each other so much, in fact, that they know every detail of the other’s physical attributes. "I know every line in his face and he knows every hair in my wig," she joked.
The Grammy winner later elaborated further on the matter to Good Morning Britain, explaining that her husband is a rock-and-roller at heart. “He likes hard rock and Led Zeppelin and bluegrass music,” she said. “He doesn’t dislike [my music], he doesn’t go out of his way to play my records, let’s put it that way.”
He avoids seeing her perform live.
As the businesswoman shared with Ellen DeGeneres in 2011, Carl Thomas has more stage fright for his spouse than she herself gets. “He gets nervous seeing me perform,” she said. "It’s almost like seeing your kid in a recital. He’s afraid I’ll mess up."
He's pretty low-key when it comes to date night.
The 79-year-old didn’t put on any airs when it came to date night. "When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner,” the Heartstrings star once told People. "He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald's.”
…But he’s still a hopeless romantic.
Carl Thomas Dean never misses a chance to shower his lady with sweet gestures. "In the springtime, when the first yellow daffodils come out ... my husband always brings me a bouquet,” Dolly gushed to People last year. “And he'll usually write me a little poem. Which to me, that's priceless. That's like a date in itself." Swoon!
He exchanged vows with the 'Joyful Noise' star for a second time in 2016.
The twosome had an extra-special celebration for their most recent milestone. “We got married again on our 50th anniversary,” Dolly revealed to ET back in October. “We got all dressed up, he was so handsome.”
More than good looks, however, Carl Thomas still has his sense of humor firmly intact. “Now he tells everybody I’m his second wife."