Dolly Parton Mourns Loss of Uncle Bill Owens: 'I Wouldn't Be Here If He Hadn't Been There'
Dolly Parton is mourning a beloved family member.
On Wednesday, the country legend, 75, shared that her uncle Billy Earl Owens died — and she penned a sweet farewell to him, describing him as a "funny, friendly and generous" person with a "kind word for everybody." He was 85.
"I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did," she wrote. "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," she wrote.
The singer recalled memories of some her first few shows — and her first job on the Cas Walker Show and the moments he took her "back and forth to Nashville" to knock on publishing companies' doors.
"It's really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success," she wrote. "But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot."
Parton said her uncle loved music, to write and sing. He wrote at least 800 songs, including some of Parton's own, such as "Put It Off Until Tomorrow."
"He wrote songs that were recorded by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and many others," she wrote. "He also traveled the road with many big artists playing his guitar, including playing on stage with me in my early years in Nashville."
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Owens worked for some time at Dollywood and also joined forces with several non-profit organizations to help "bring back the endangered chestnut tree" to the Great Smoky Mountain area along the Tennessee and North Carolina border. He and his wife Sandy planted 70,000 trees there, according to Parton.
"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," she wrote. "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," she ended the note.