ASSUMPTION, Ill. (WCIA) — Country music legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dolly Parton turned 77 years old on Thursday, and many people in Assumption are reflecting on her time in town over 40 years ago.
The Assumption Jaycees Club sponsored two performances on July 4, 1975, with Parton performing once in the afternoon and once at night at what is now Central A&M Middle School. Tickets cost $7.50 for reserved seating and $5.00 for general admission.
For longtime Assumption resident Bob Bantner, Parton coming to town was one of the best days of his life.
“She was a real wonderful lady,” said Bantner, a member of the Jaycees Club at the time. “She sounded just as great as she did on the radio and television. I remember her taking photos with everyone after the shows.”
The Jaycees Club hosted many events in Assumption at the time, including the annual haunted house at Halloween, fundraisers, and more. Bantner said the club decided they should host a concert sometime, and they soon chose their first act to be Parton.
“Only a few hundred people were there for the shows,” Bantner said. “It was really hot that day, and poorly planned on our part with it being our first sponsored show. But I’m really glad we booked Dolly. Just look at who she’s become.”
Parton and her Traveling Family Band, as they were known at the time, were paid $4,250 for the performances. Though a setlist for the performances is unknown, she more than likely performed many of her hit songs at the time, including “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” and “I Will Always Love You.”
“Dolly is by far the biggest name that ever played in Assumption,” said Joyce Throneburg, president of the Assumption Historical Society. “In fact, she was booked several months prior to the appearance, and as the time approached she had started playing bigger venues. Dolly’s manager tried to break the contract but in the end, she honored it.”
Nowadays, the original contract signed by both Parton’s manager Hugh Moffett and Jaycees Club President Dale Helm, is on display at the Assumption Historical Society along with photos from her short time in Assumption.
“No one ever thought she would become as famous as she is today,” Bantner said. “I still can’t believe I talked with her for a few minutes.”