Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson have a shared history that predates the CMA Awards but now will be inexorably linked by a special honor Parton will receive from the Country Music Association next month. On Monday night, ABC late-show host Jimmy Kimmel revealed that the superstar entertainer will be the 2016 recipient of the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented during the 50th Annual CMA Awards telecast on November 2nd.
According to the CMA, the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award is recognition of “an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in Country Music… an artist who has achieved both national and international prominence and stature through concert performances, humanitarian efforts, philanthropy, record sales, and public representation at the highest level.”
Previous recipients of the honor are Willie Nelson (2012), Kenny Rogers (2013) and Johnny Cash (2015).
Parton’s CMA-winning classic tune “I Will Always Love You” (Musical Event of the Year with Vince Gill in 1996), is among the songs featured in the “Forever Country” single and music video which celebrates the awards’ golden anniversary.
“Willie and I go back all the way to 1964, when I moved to Nashville,” Parton told Kimmel. “[We] got to town about the same time. We both wrote for Combine Music.” The two also had record deals at the same time with the Monument label, with another future Hall of Fame member, Fred Foster, producing them.
Parton also revealed that the pair wrote songs together at a time when Nelson had short hair and no beard. “He looked like a schoolteacher,” she said. One thing Nelson had already developed, however, was a penchant for the unique vocal phrasing that sometimes made it difficult for her to sing with him.
“We did a duet of a song I wrote, ‘From Here to the Moon and Back,’ [from Nelson’s 2013 duets LP, To All the Girls…],” Parton recalled. “He put his vocal down first, sent it to me to go in the studio in Nashville to do my part. Trying to sing with him? I was everywhere! I called him up and said, ‘Willie, send me a sack of that grass you’re smokin’, ’cause I can’t follow you.”
The 50th Annual CMA Awards, hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, will air live from Nashville, Wednesday, November 2nd at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.