Maintenance rehearsal gave us Jolene

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My favorite version of Jolene is Dolly Parton performing with Pentatonix. I know I’m not alone in thinking that. They won the 2017 Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for it. Or perhaps your favorite is this one by Parton’s goddaughter Miley Cyrus. Or maybe it’s this Parton/Cyrus duet. Or maybe your new favorite is the Parton/Cyrus duet from Cyrus’s recent New Year’s Eve party. Or maybe you prefer Parton’s 1974 performance on the Porter Wagoner Show. Maybe not, but it’s worth a watch just to see how Parton’s stage presence has developed. The words night and day come to mind. If you can find it, check out the Parton/Cyrus/Pentatonix performance of Jolene on The Voice.

What I recently learned was that the lyric “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene” was the result of maintenance rehearsal. Parton writes:

There was a little girl at one of the shows when I was touring with Porter [Wagoner in the early 1970s]. We used to sign autographs after the shows. She came up to the stage and said, "Would you sign this 'To Jolene'?" I said, "Jolene, that's a beautiful name. I bet you're named after your daddy. Is his name Joe?" She said, "No, it's just Jolene." I said, "Well, I love that name, and if you ever hear a song with it, you'll know it's about you."

So I just kept it in my mind. To remember the name, I went "Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene" until I could get back to the bus and write it down. Which is when I thought, "I'll just start the song like that, because that's how I remembered the name, and I'll add to that." So then I came up with a story that I knew women could relate to (Parton & Oermann, 2020).

Parton’s initial remembering of the name Jolene took maintenance rehearsal, but as my wife observed, “I’m pretty sure she remembers it now.” It has been stored in Parton’s—and our—long-term memory for quite some time.

As a side note, it’s entirely possible that Parton wrote I Will Always Love You and Jolene on the same day. Parton said that when they were going through her old cassettes of her working recordings to digitize them they found a cassette where she recorded those two songs back to back.

Dolly Parton turns 77 later this month. Reread my last blog post on ageism in emotion research, and then rewatch Parton/Cyrus duet from Cyrus’s New Year’s Eve party of two days ago.



Parton, D., & Oermann, R. K. (2020). Dolly Parton, songteller: My life in lyrics. Chronicle Books.





About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.