A Grand Ole Opry-mounted Opry Goes Dolly show celebrating Dolly Parton‘s 78th birthday went sideways for Elle King — one of the performers on the bill — on Friday (Jan. 19). In fact, King’s performance got so mangled that the Opry even apologized on social media to outraged fans after the show.
During her time onstage, King struggled through the lyrics of Parton’s 2001 song “Marry Me” before admitting to the crowd that she’d had a little too much to drink before she hopped onstage. In between lyrics, King seemed to acknowledge that things weren’t going great — and she jokingly asked the crowd not to let Parton know how badly she was botching her song.
“Don’t tell Dolly. Holy s–t. I swear to God if you guys tell Dolly,” King said at one point in the set, according to fan-filmed video circulating on TikTok. After wrapping up her “Marry Me” cover, King continued her expletive-laden, seemingly-intoxicated banter with the crowd.
“Everyone’s like, ‘Holy s–t, we bought tickets for this s–t….You all bought tickets for this s–t? You ain’t getting your money back,” King deadpanned. “I don’t want it!” one fan yelled back from the audience. “Good. ‘Cause you ain’t getting it,” King replied.
“I’m gonna tell you one thing more: Hi, my name is Elle King. I’m f–king hammered,” she went on to say
King’s — apparently sober, and admirably quick-thinking — backing vocalist chimed in at that point, cracking jokes with the crowd about celebrating Parton’s birthday with the bottle, then suggesting that they pivot to perform one of King’s own songs next.
“I tell you one thing: I can barely play another person’s song. Let’s see if I can play one of mine,” King told the crowd, hoisting a mandolin over her shoulder.
After the show, many fans expressed outrage on social media, both because they felt that King’s performance was disrespectful to Parton herself, and because the profane language she used is a violation of the Opry’s code of conduct, since it is a radio show. The Opry Goes Dolly show was held at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium — not at the Grand Ole Opry house itself — but was still technically an Opry broadcast event, with shows running at 7PM and 9:30 PM (King’s botched performance was at the later show; she also performed at the 7PM show.)
One upset audience member tagged the Opry on social media, complaining that King’s “horrible, drunken and profane” performance was disrespectful to Parton and “ruined the night.” The venue replied with an apology for the incident.
“We deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used during last night’s second Opry performance,” they responded.
King’s team did not immediately respond to Taste of Country’s request for comment regarding the incident. Parton hasn’t voiced any opinion on the performance either, though her sister, singer Stella Parton, defended King’s misstep in a three-part tweet.
“It wouldn’t be the first time a Hillbilly went on the stage of the Opry “hammered” but I guess it’s ok if you’re a male but good lord don’t ever let a girl behave that way folks!” Stella opined. “Double f–king standard if ya ask me.”
She also made the point that memorizing all of Parton’s lyrics is harder than it seems, and that she expects half of the naysayers watching King’s performance would look just as foolish if they tried to sing a Dolly Parton song. “You’ll look as silly as that lil girl. Do your homework people. Memorize the lyrics to Jolene or COMC,” Stella concluded. “My sister loves words. A brilliant wordsmith.”
30 Photos of Dolly Parton Young
Dolly Parton has been a fixture in country music and really, all of entertainment, since the 1960s. The only thing that has changed about the icon is her age — she’s as radiant as she’s ever been! Check out these pictures of a young Dolly Parton.
Gallery Credit: Evan Paul