090916 Dolly Parton, Toronto, ON

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In early September, 2016 I was busy tromping through Newfoundland & Labrador in the folly of filming the second episode of my ill-fated webcast/television program entitled Earth Beat.  I was in Port au Port on my last scheduled day on the island filming a family trio of French musicians when they offered me the episode closing scene I was really, really hoping for: 

“Mon Dieu!  If you want to experience a good old-fashioned Newfoundland kitchen party we can have one here tonight!”

Oh dear.  No only did I have a reservation on the ferry that very night, I also had booked a berth.  I would have to forfeit both and who knows how many days I would have to wait to find the next available spot on the ferry…but amazingly enough these were not the issues floating through my head as I looked questioningly at my cameraman, who was giving me a nonchalant accepting shrug.

No, the issue was Dolly Parton.

Y’see, here I was 2,300 kilometres plus a seven-hour ferry-ride from Toronto’s Budweiser Stage (formerly known as the Molson Amphitheatre) where I had tickets to see the great Dolly Parton in just a few short days.  So few, in fact, that delaying my Newfoundland departure by even a dozen hours would make it basically impossible to get to Toronto on time, which would mean forfeiting my Dolly tickets.  Which was definitely an issue in my mind.

So there I was, frozen in the headlights, looking across the table at three friendly, fabulously talented musicians each with wide, eager smiles plastered all over their faces, glancing back and forth between them and my bearded, baseball-capped cameraman who was busy filming the growing awkward silence and shrugging away casually…

“No,” I finally stated, with a shaky firmness that I still have on video.  “We’ve got to get on that ferry tonight.

“We just have to get back.”

So I missed the money shot and the episode flounders because of it, but a few days of near-sleepless travel got me to my one and only Dolly Parton concert on September 9th, and it was fantastic.

I tell you, a younger me would be shocked to learn that the older me was so hard-pressed to see Dolly in concert, and young me would be further bewildered to know that old me enjoyed the concert so much, but then the younger me was bound by rebellion, which forced him (me) to disavow any and all music his (my) parents listened to.  Thank goodness they only listened to country & western and ’50’s rock & roll so I had relatively little to rebel against, and thank goodnesser I finally came around to realizing that old country music is nothing but soul music for white people, and I finally came to love it so (not to mention my now-heathy appreciation for ’50’s rock & roll).

Though I fully anticipated loving the Dolly concert, I was surprised by several things at the show.  First, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were quite a few tailgate parties evolving in the lot before the concert, and I was further impressed to see such a wide variety of people of all ages and ilk out for the evening.  

I was on the lawn for the show and was surrounded by equally happy concert-goers when the elder stateswoman of country emerged onto the stage to join her sizeable band.  And when she did it was song-story-song-story courtesy of one of the finest singers (and most engaging storytellers, it turns out) in the business for the next two hours.  I mean Dolly Parton was unrelentingly entertaining and her greatness just never let up.

Get this: over the course of the show she played over a dozen instruments, and she played them all extremely well.  Guitar, piano, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, harmonica, ukulele, and on and on…it was unbelievable…

…So unbelievable in fact that by the time she donned a tenor sax and dished out a screaming Yakkity Sax I had to wonder if she wasn’t just lip-syncing with all the instruments which – to be honest – I kind of think she was.

And here’s the surprise of all surprises: I didn’t care a stitch.  We’re talking about the woman who once answered a reporter’s query as to what she would say to those that accused her of just being a dumb blonde thusly:

“I would say ‘who cares?’ because I know I’m not dumb, and I know I’m not blonde!”

Dolly knows about show business, and she is and has always been entirely honest and unabashed about the business she is in.  This (and a lifetime of talent as wide as the prairie skies) gives her unlimited artistic license as far as I’m concerned.

Do I have any regrets about going to the show and missing my episode closer?  Only that I have yet to master the ability to be in two places at once.  Sure, I wish I had gotten my kitchen party shot, but at least I don’t have to wish that I had seen Dolly Parton.

I’ll get to a Newfoundland kitchen party soon enough I suppose, but I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to see Dolly Parton.

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