Leslie Jordan First Saw Dolly Parton at a Concert in 1973

Dolly Parton is among the many stars to feature on Company’s Comin’, a new album of Southern gospel standards from actor-turned-pandemic-social-media-star Leslie Jordan. While Jordan has had a long, often circuitous life path — and hasn’t always rubbed elbows with the stars of country music — meeting Parton was a dream he’d had ever since he was young.

At the 2021 ACM Awards, Jordan was on hand as a presenter for the Best Duo of the Year category. Backstage in the virtual press room, he shared the story of the first time he ever saw Parton, decades before they met and decided to collaborate.

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“I drove from Chattanooga, Tenn., all the way up to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Sevierville — that area,” Jordan explains, speaking of the East Tennessee region from which Parton hails. “The rumor was Dolly was coming back to perform in the high school auditorium.”

Much later on in life, after he and Parton had officially met, he would relay this story to her. “She said, ‘What year was that?’ and I said, ”73 … Dolly, I can also tell you what your opening line was.’ She goes, ‘No you can’t, because I think you’re making this up.'”

“I said, ‘Dolly, I was there. It was 1973. You walked onstage and said, ‘What’s a country girl without her haystack?!’ Because her hair was like this,” Jordan says in an animated Southern drawl, hands gesticulating wildly above his head. “She goes, ‘You were there!'”

But although Jordan ultimately fulfilled his dream of meeting Parton, he says that having gotten to know her, he’s realized something important: “I’ll tell you what I tell everybody: You don’t have to meet Dolly. You know Dolly,” he says. “Dolly is exactly what you think she is … I just wanna live my life like her. There’s nobody that doesn’t like Dolly!”

Company’s Comin’ came out on April 2. Also featured on the project are country superstars like Tanya Tucker and Brothers Osborne‘s T.J. Osborne, as well as Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile and many more.

The best dressed on the 2021 ACM Awards red carpet brought color — lots of color — for an awards show that promises to be a celebration. Photos show stars like Carly Pearce, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Young, Kane Brown and more wearing the hottest and often most expensive designer outfits, or suits they designed themselves, in the case of Jimmie Allen.

Check out a full gallery of country music’s hottest stars on the ACM Awards red carpet. Who do you think is best dressed and worst dressed?

The 2021 ACM Awards took place at the Bluebird Cafe, Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on Sunday (April 18).

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