Christian Chronicle

Saints and singers

The surprising ties that bind some of country music’s biggest stars to Churches of Christ.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

“Mr. & Mrs. Carl Dean.”

The black-and-white picture of the newlywed couple appeared in a 1966 directory of the Radnor Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn.

Still happily married to the pretty blond nearly 55 years later, Carl Thomas Dean has eschewed the media spotlight for decades.

Mrs. Dean, who met her future husband on the day she moved to Music City after her 1964 high school graduation, is better known as country music superstar Dolly Parton.

A portrait of Carl Dean and his wife, Dolly Parton, from a 1966 church directory.

The 75-year-old entertainment icon talked about her little-known — and apparently brief — connection to Churches of Christ in her 2020 book “Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics.”

“I loved my husband’s mother. She was very sweet, and we were like best friends. Her name was Virginia, but everybody called her Ginny,” Parton wrote concerning her mother-in-law, who died from cancer at age 71 in 1991. “Carl’s mother was very religious. She was in church every Wednesday and every Sunday morning.

“The Deans were Church of Christ people. They don’t believe in having any instruments in their church; they just use their voices,” added Parton, who wrote her 1971 song “Lord Hold My Hand” with Ginny Dean. “Ginny had this big, beautiful, ‘church’ kind of voice. Very proper. It sounded totally different from our ‘Holy Roller’ church back home.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the March edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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