Dolly Parton is mourning the loss of her beloved Uncle Bill Owens, who passed away on Wednesday, April 7. Owens, who Parton credits with inspiring her successful music career, was 85 years old when he passed away.
“I’ve lost my beloved Uncle Bill Owens,” Parton wrote in a tribute posted on her website. “I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did. I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there. He was there… there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing. And he was there to help build my confidence standing on stage where he was always standing behind me or close beside me with his big ol’ red Gretsch guitar.
“He was there to take me around to all of the local shows, got me my first job on the ‘Cas Walker Show,'” she boasted. “He took me back and forth to Nashville through the years, walked up and down the streets with me, knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies.”
Owens was also a musician and songwriter, whom Parton says wrote at least 800 songs over the years, including one of her songs, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” which won the BMI Song of the Year in 1966. Some of Owens’ other credits include songs by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and others. Parton also says he played with several artists on stage, including her in the early years of her career.
In her touching tribute, Parton also lauded her uncle for his work with the environment, particularly in fighting to have the endangered chestnut tree returned to the Great Smoky Mountains.
“That was his passion,” she said. “He also championed the cause of protecting the natural environment at Dollywood in 1986. During that time, he took it upon himself, with his wife Sandy, to plant 70,000 trees on the Park property.”
The Country Music Hall of Fame member closed by pointing all of her success back to Owens.
“It’s really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success,” Parton wrote. “But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot … I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life. But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful. I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill.”
Read the entire eulogy here.