As part of her “Pure & Simple” Tour, Dolly Parton stopped in West Michigan to tell her story.

06-Aug-2016: For the first time in 25 years, Dolly Parton has set out on a major North American tour embarking on 60 cities across the United States and Canada. She is promoting her 43rd studio album, Pure & Simple, scheduled for release on August 19.

The new album is based on love songs that direct her back to her husband Carl Dean, to whom she has been married for 50 years. Dolly did not write the album for radio or any other specifics. She wanted an album that was “pure in nature and pretty simple.”

There were no plans to tour initially. However, after a few charity shows, Dolly and her management team had decided to hit the road and tell her story.

As Dolly appeared on the stage, she lit up the stage with the glistening of rhinestones throughout her wardrobe, instruments, and stage props. The three-piece band behind her wore only black, which accented her even more.

The three band members, Tom Rutledge (guitar), Richard Dennison (piano), and Kent Wells (guitar), provided Dolly with a full band sound accompanied by a drum machine purchased at Radio Shack for $47. Joking with the crowd, Dolly made a point to mention that the drum machine was cheaper than bringing a drummer on the road, and she needed to save wherever she could on this tour. Dolly continued to say, “I need the money, it cost a lot to look this cheap.”

As the show continued, Dolly would talk about the different times of her life and how the songs she performed reflected a part of her childhood.

Dolly grew up in the Smokey Mountains of eastern Tennessee as the fourth child of 12. Her family struggled to make ends meet, and her father worked hard to provide the best he could. This sacrifice sparked her to write “Precious Memories” and “Smokey Mountain Memories” for her father.

Her mother did everything for her family from cleaning house, feeding them, and making clothing for each of them as they grew up poor and could not afford new clothes. One of Dolly’s favorite pieces her mother made for her was a “Coat Of Many Colors.”

Dolly also performed “Banks Of The Ohio” as a tribute to her mother who entertained and sang to her as a child.

With the family hardships, she moved to Nashville to pursue her musical aspirations after graduating school. Being homesick, she wrote her first song about her family, “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”

Upon returning home, she would play and sing with a gentleman that told her “you can’t live in the Smokey Mountains and not play a banjo.” She learned how to play banjo and sang this song, “Apple Jack,” for him.

With the area only sparsely populated with other families, Dolly was told that she could not date any cousins and that she would have to go up on “Rocky Top” to find a boyfriend.

Being married to her husband Carl for 50 years, they recently renewed their vows. As they live out a happy life, she still gets fired up over one girl that used to work at the bank and flirt with Carl. Although Dolly personally didn’t care for “Jolene,” she wrote a song about her that turned out to be one of her biggest hits.

With a short intermission to separate the two parts of her show, the first part was centered around her growing up in eastern Tennessee with her family. The second part covered her songs and inspirations after moving away from home and becoming successful in the music and acting industries.

Sitting at a white grand piano glistening with more rhinestones, Dolly sang “The Grass Is Blue” as the stage filled with a dense fog.

The three gentleman in the band joined Dolly at the front of the stage to sing the four-part harmonies on “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” and “Those Memories Of You,” the latter which she had once sung with Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

Dolly finished her second set with the crowd favorite and highly successful hit, “9 to 5.”

Before leaving the stage for the evening, Dolly returned for an encore performance of her truly passionate and endearing rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” Dolly added that she would forever be grateful and always love Whitney Houston for the incredible career Whitney gave her due to the song.

From the time Dolly entered the stage until she left for the night, the audience showed their loving devotion to the artist by standing and cheering through the majority of the show.

Fans throughout the packed arena became part of the show; they stomped their feet and clapped their hands together to the beat of the music audibly in support of Dolly.

With a storied career spanning five decades, Dolly has become the most successful female artists in country music and a well-acclaimed actress on television and movie screens. At 70 years young, there are no signs of her stopping anytime soon as she continues to display her vast talent for music and vocals, and her high energy while singing and dancing.

At the Van Andel Arena, the stage was set up with five white drapes hanging across the stage as a backdrop. There were no video screens, no light shows, no pyrotechnics or plumes of smoke to distract from the music. Dolly prefers it “Pure & Simple.”

Dolly Parton
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Van Andel Arena
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1. Hello Dolly; 2. Train, Train; 3. Why’d You Come In Here Lookin’ Like That; 4. Jolene; 5. Pure & Simple; 6. Precious Memories (John Wright cover); 7. My Tennessee Mountain Home; 8. Coat Of Many Colors; 9. Smokey Mountain Memories; 10. Applejack; 11. Rocky Top/Yakety Sax; 12. Banks Of The Ohio (Traditional Cover); 13. American Pie/If I Had A Hammer/Blowin’ In The Wind/Dust In The Wind/The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down; 14. The Seeker; 15. I’ll Fly Away


16. Baby, I’m Burnin’/Girl On Fire; 17. Outside Your Door; 18. The Grass Is Blue; 19. Those Memories Of You (Alan O’Bryant cover); 20. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind; 21. Little Sparrow; 22. Here You Come Again; 23. Two Doors Down; 24. Islands In The Stream (Bee Gees cover); 25. 9 To 5

1. I Will Always Love You; 2. Hello God, He’s Alive


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