It was a roller coaster of emotions. As Dolly Parton hosted her “Smoky Mountains Rise: a Benefit for the My People Fund” on the evening of Dec. 13 and the early morning hours of Dec. 14, viewers were taken on a ride that included laughter, tears, some amazing stories of heroics and divine intervention, and a whole lot of great country music. And money — a whole lot of money.
With performances from artists like Chris Stapleton, Chris Young, Amy Grant and Alison Krauss, there were plenty of magical moments, but none as much as when the hostess herself stepped up to sing. Of course, closing the telethon with a performance with her longtime friend and duet partner, Kenny Rogers, was hard to beat, there was another stand-out moment that found Dolly’s trembling voice, which sent us over the edge.
Now, we’ve seen Dolly strum a guitar and a dulcimer with her perfect manicure, but for her performance of the original “Appalachian Memories,” the queen of country played a recorder, giving the song an even more haunting feel. The song tells the story of a humble mountain family in search of a better life. The lyrics say, “You oughtta go north somebody told us cause the air is filled with gold dust and fortune falls like snow flakes in your hands.” Of course, the family finds that the north was far from being the promised land, but their faith and memories of their Appalachian home keeps them strong.
But during the broadcast, Dolly took some creative license with the original lyrics singing, “I’ll keep leanin’ on my Jesus, I know He’ll love and guide and lead us. Smoky Mountain memories keep me strong.”
We’re still waiting for a final tally from the benefit, but during the televised portion, viewers saw multiple six-figure donations came in, including checks from Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, the CMA, ACM and CMT, and big call-in donations came from Dierks Bentley, Paul Simon and so many more.
“Appalachian Memories” is from Dolly’s 1983 “Burlap & Satin” album.