December 25

Dolly Parton’s “Joshua” is a Reclusive Man from Her Youth

Dolly Parton's "Joshua" is a Reclusive Man from Her Youth 1

The Start of her Career

In 1959, thirteen-year-old Dolly Parton began her recording career by taking a bus from her Tennessee mountain home where an uncle had rented studio time. The young girl recorded a song called “Puppy Love”, a composition of her own. Even at that early age, her mind was set on a career in country music.

On May 30, 1964, just one day after she graduated from high school, Dolly Parton moved to Nashville. Along with her uncle, Bill Owens, she began a prolific period of writing. Her first success came when Bill Phillips went to No. 6 in 1966 with their composition, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”. Shortly afterward, Dolly signed a recording contract with Fred Foster’s Monument Records. On January 21, 1967, she made her first appearance on Billboard’s country singles chart with the No. 24 “Dumb Blonde”. The song “Something Fishy” took her to No. 17 later that summer. However, a pivotal event occurred on October 16, 1967, when she debuted as a member of the Porter Wagoner Show.

A Man from her Childhood

Wagoner was instrumental in securing Dolly Parton a contract with RCA. While their duets found immediate acceptance, it took somewhat longer for Dolly’s solo records to take hold. She didn’t reach the Top Ten until her seventh solo RCA release, “Mule Skinner Blues” in the summer of 1970. “Joshua,” her next single, debuted on December 12th. The song took her all the way to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart February 6, 1971.

Like Dolly Parton’s later song “Applejack,” “Joshua” was written about a reclusive man from her youth. However, they were two entirely different songs. Although written about the same hermit-like fellow who lived alone and entertained the locals by playing the banjo. This man was a very special friend to Dolly as a child. “Applejack” is much more true-to-life than “Joshua” though in that “Joshua’s” storyline featured a love interest between the song’s narrator and the title character, when in real life there was no such romance between Parton and the old man.

“Applejack” did serve an important and specific purpose for Dolly. It was included in the “New Harvest…..First Gathering” album, her first after signing with new management in Los Angeles. This move to the West Coast generated a lot of controversy regarding her career direction. Parton’s departure from Porter Wagoner back in Nashville had been less than amicable. Dolly was concerned for the opinions of the industry as a whole, as well as that of her fans. Almost as if to prove that she was holding on to her country roots. She featured appearances by country legends Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins and Grandpa Jones on the studio recording of “Applejack.”


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Dolly Parton, Joshua, porter wagoner, porter wagoner show


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