How Dolly Parton mobilized country music for wildfire victims

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton talks about Smoky Mountains before telethon | 2:39

More than 20 country music singers will donate their time Tuesday for “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund.”

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Why is it ‘personal’ for you. | 0:17

Dolly Parton Q&A: Why is it ‘personal’ for you to help all of the people affected by the wildfires?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Could you have ever imagined anything like this | 0:21

Dolly Parton Q&A: In all of your years growing up there, could you have ever imagined anything like this happening?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parto Q&A: What is the ultimate goal with the telethon | 0:28

Dolly Parto Q&A: What is the ultimate goal or benchmark you’re trying to reach with the telethon?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Approximately how many families are you anticipating being able to help | 0:30

Dolly Parton Q&A: Approximately how many families are you anticipating being able to help?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A:Talk about the personal sense of responsibility | 0:38

Dolly Parton Q&A: Talk about the personal sense of responsibility you have to take action.

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Explain why you are dropping everything to do this | 0:27

Dolly Parton Q&A: You’re a very busy business lady … you could have easily gone on with your busy packed schedule … explain why you are dropping everything to do this.

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: What message does this send to other people who want to get involved | 0:26

Dolly Parton Q&A: What message does this send to other people who want to get involved?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Give us a sneak peek of some of the artists who will be performing | 0:24

Dolly Parton Q&A: Give us a sneak peek of some of the artists who will be performing on the telethon.

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: What is mountain tough | 0:52

Dolly Parton Q&A: We’ve heard the term ‘mountain tough’ — you’re from there — explain what that means to someone who doesn’t live there. These are very tough people right?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Who came up with the name, “My People Fund” and explain what those three words me | 0:32

Dolly Parton Q&A: Who came up with the name, “My People Fund” and explain what those three words mean to you.

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Take us back to the night this happened | 1:27

Dolly Parton Q&A: Take us back to the night this happened … what was going through your mind? Were you in disbelief? How were you processing what you were seeing and hearing as it unfolded?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Do you still have family there and are they okay | 0:43

Dolly Parton Q&A: Do you still have family there and are they okay?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: We heard Dollywood lost some cabins… is there any other damage | 0:28

Dolly Parton Q&A: We heard Dollywood lost some cabins… is there any other damage?

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DOLLY PARTON: Q&A ON TELETHON FOR GATLINBURG FIRE RELIEFDolly Parton Q&A: Anything else you want to add | 0:50

Dolly Parton Q&A: Anything else you want to add?

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  • Dolly Parton talks about Smoky Mountains before telethon
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Why is it ‘personal’ for you.
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Could you have ever imagined anything like this
  • Dolly Parto Q&A: What is the ultimate goal with the telethon
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Approximately how many families are you anticipating being able to help
  • Dolly Parton Q&A:Talk about the personal sense of responsibility
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Explain why you are dropping everything to do this
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: What message does this send to other people who want to get involved
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Give us a sneak peek of some of the artists who will be performing
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: What is mountain tough
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Who came up with the name, “My People Fund” and explain what those three words me
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Take us back to the night this happened
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Do you still have family there and are they okay
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: We heard Dollywood lost some cabins… is there any other damage
  • Dolly Parton Q&A: Anything else you want to add

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Hank Williams Jr. hugs Dolly Parton at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.(Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)Buy Photo

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Dolly Parton had just walked off stage after a rendition of her famous “Jolene” with Miley Cyrus on NBC’s “The Voice” on a Monday late last month when she was given the news: The Smoky Mountains were burning. Her mountains — the ones she grew up in and still calls home, the mountains where her brothers and sisters live, that surround her Dollywood theme park — were on fire.

Parton went straight to her dressing room and turned on the television.

“My first thought was my family,” Parton said, her voice breaking with emotion. “Just my family, that’s always your first thought. It was so scary.”

Once assured her relatives were safe, Parton set to work on an effort that she was singularly equipped to carry out: mobilizing country music for a fundraising telethon that raised millions of dollars for victims of the devastating Sevier County wildfires — all in a matter of days.

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Buy Photo Hank Williams Jr. hugs Dolly Parton at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Governor Bill Haslam, Dolly Parton, Crissy Haslam and Nan Kelley celebrate the end of the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton chat at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Stapleton answers phones for the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Don Mclean performs Vincent for the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Young and Dolly Parton chat during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton speak during pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  Shelley Mays / The Tennessean Dolly Parton listens as Chris Stapleton records his performance for the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseaBuy Photo Dolly Parton speaks to the media during a break in the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Jamey Johnson, left, and Alison Krauss perform at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant and Mac McAnally perform during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Former and current Titans players and Tina Tuggle, team director of community relations, pose with Dolly Parton while making a donation of $144,270 for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kristian Bush of Sugarland holds up a donation during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris and Morgane Stapleton perform during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson noodles on his guitar as he waits to record his performance for the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Aaron Lewis poses with Dolly Parton at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Aaron Lewis performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson noodles on his guitar as he waits to record his performance for the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Montgomery Gentry performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Charles Esten of the Nashville tv show takes calls for the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Titans running back DeMarco Murray mans the phone at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Comedian Henry Cho answers the phones at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Cyndi Lauper and Dolly Parton hug during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant signs an autograph on a poster for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton chat at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Belmont University vice president development and external relations Perry Moulds presents a check for $155,000 at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Montgomery Gentry performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Young performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Cyndi Lauper performs “Time After TIme” at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton listens to a performance at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Hank Williams Jr. performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reba McEntire performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo First Lady Crissy Haslam and Governor Bill Haslam with pose for a picture with Dolly Parton during the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alabama performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Rhonda Vincent performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo LoCash performs at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reba McEntire performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alison Krauss, center, and Jamey Johnson, right, perform at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alison Krauss performs fat the telethon or “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Jamey Johnson performas at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton and Billy Ray Cyrus chat during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Gatlingburg Mayor Mike Werner chats with HLN anchor Robin Meade during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Michael W. Smith performs during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Michael W. Smith performs during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton and Billy Ray Cyrus chat during the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lee Greenwood mans the phones at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Paula Deen answers phones at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Harry Wayne Casey of KC and the Sunshine Band answers phones at the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Bobby Bones hosts a segment of the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday ,Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton hosts “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Cyndi Lauper performs at the telethon for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo HLN anchor Robin Meade hosts a segment of the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund,” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo HLN anchor Robin Meade hosts a segment of the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund,” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton faces the camera at the start of the telethon, “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton talks with Billy Ray Cyrus at the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Reality star Todd Christly and Paula Deen share a laugh while manning the telethon phones for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Don McLean performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Stapleton performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” on Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  George Walker IV / File / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Mac MacAnally poses with Dolly Parton during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Big and Rich perform during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina and Dolly Parton pose for photos during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton poses with Don McLean, left, and Chris Janson during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The Tennessean Lauren Alaina and Chris Janson pose with Dolly Parton during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseaBuy Photo Don McLean and Dolly Parton pose for photos during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Don McLean performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton and Chris Janson pose for pictures at the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Stapleton and wife Morgane pose for photos with Dolly Parton for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant, Dolly Parton and Morgane Stapleton pose for photos during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant and Mac McAnally perform during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton speaks to the media during a break in the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Janson performs during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Lauren Alaina performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV, George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris Stapleton and wife Morgane pose for photos with Dolly Parton for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton chats with Morgane Stapleton during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Chris and Morgane Stapleton perform during pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant and Mac McAnally perform during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant talks to the media before performing at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Amy Grant performs during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  George Walker IV / The TennesseanBuy Photo Big and Rich perform during the pre-taping for “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Hank Williams Jr. performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Rhonda Vincent performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton chats with Big and Rich during pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton poses with Alabama at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo LoCash performs at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo LoCash performs at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo LoCash performs at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Hank Williams Jr. performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton poses with Hank Williams Jr., left, and members of Alabama at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Jr. pose for photos at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  helley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Hank Williams Jr. and Dolly Parton share a moment at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Hank Williams Jr. performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The Tennessean Dolly Parton performs during a pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton rehearses at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alabama performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alabama rehearses at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Alabama performs during the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers signs posters at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton rehearse at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The Tennessean Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton perform together during pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton rehearses for the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton rehearse at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton rehearses for the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton rehearse at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton rehearse at the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton rehearses for the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The TennesseanBuy Photo Dolly Parton rehearses for the pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.  Shelley Mays / The Tennessean Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton perform during pre-taping for the “Dolly Parton‘s Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville.  Shelley Mays/tennessean

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By that Friday, Parton had created immediate, long-term ways to help her “people.” She announced her My People Fund, a coordinated effort with the Dollywood Foundation and area businesses that pledged to provide $1,000 a month for six months to families who lost their primary residences in the fire. Then she revealed plans for the telethon. And as only she could, the legendary singer used a combination of unmatched influence in the industry and a wealth of goodwill that she has built over several decades to ensure its success. More than 20 artists played the event Tuesday.  By the halfway point in the telethon, Parton had collected $1.86 million in large donations and celebrity call-ins alone — a total including money gathered from online and the phone bank staffed by stars including Paula Deen, Chris Stapleton, Jason Crabb, Larry Gatlin and members of the Tennessee Titans wasn‘t available. According to event organizers, several million dollars was raised by the end of the live telethon. The final total was expected to climb far higher and would be announced after the program aired on the West Coast.

“It’s my place to do this,” Parton said before a live show featuring performances from Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Chris Stapleton, Amy Grant, Chris Young, Alabama, Alison Krauss, Cyndi Lauper, Hank Williams Jr. and more. “I should do it.”

Grant noted that Parton was the only person who could do it.

“Because of her story and because everyone has been welcomed into Dolly’s story through her movies, I just think people feel vested and invested in her and where she came from,” said Grant, who used her only day off this week to play the telethon. “It’s just the way she’s lived her life. She’s just welcomed the world to that part of Tennessee.”

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Dolly Parton hosts "Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund" on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

Others also carved out time to participate.

Big & Rich stepped away from recording their new album to play the telethon. Parton’s fellow Sevier County native Kristian Bush left a video shoot and came straight to the studio to work the phone bank. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry stopped by on her way to the airport, saying: “We’re all Tennesseans, and the fact that Dolly is doing this today speaks to her big heart and her commitment to making sure those folks in Sevier County have what they need.”

Alabama’s Randy Owen rescheduled a yearslong standing birthday dinner date with his daughter to perform.

“I’m here, my daughter is totally cool with it,” Owen said. “We’ll find another day. Unfortunately for the people up there, they couldn’t have another day.”

Parton dreamed up her My People Fund on Nov. 30 and it was announced the same day. At the time, 300 homes were reported lost. Soon after, the number swelled by 1,000. For Parton and her foundation, that meant a total outlay of more than $8 million. Parton’s team, including manager Danny Nozell, publicist Kirt Webster and Dollywood’s director of media/public relations, Pete Owens, developed the idea for the fundraiser two days later to help with ever-ballooning costs and to raise awareness.

Parton agreed and Webster leaked the news of the telethon Dec. 3. By the next day, Alison Krauss had volunteered to perform. Then Kenny Rogers signed on. Parton wanted to invite Reba McEntire. With those three names, Webster officially announced the telethon. On Dec. 5, Parton’s team started looking for a broadcast partner. CMT turned them down, because, Webster said, the network didn’t believe the production value they required could be executed in such a short time frame. However, CMT donated $100,000 to Parton’s My People Fund. Next, phone calls were placed to Scripps Networks, AXS-TV, RFD-TV and other networks and television partners were secured.

“Now we have to put on a show,” Webster said. “Within a period of nine or 10 days, we had all of the artists booked, we had all of Dolly’s tour production handling production … and we were off to the races. And here we are, day of, and it’s going smooth.”

Parton never doubted they could pull it off.

During the show, fellow singers including Carrie Underwood and singer/actor Kiefer Sutherland taped video messages and promised financial support. Dierks Bentley and Paul Simon each called in and pledged $100,000, and Chris Young was on hand with members of the CMA to present a $250,000 joint check from Kenny Chesney and the trade organization. Young, who also performed on the show, got carried away in the moment and tossed in $50,000 of his own money to make it an even $300,000.

“It wouldn’t have been possible unless God was in it, and I had such an amazing crew that’s so used to working together,” Parton said.

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Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton speak during pre-taping for the "Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund" telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville. (Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)

Rogers and a small handful of other acts pre-taped their performances Tuesday at Nove Entertainment, which is owned by Nozell. Hours later, the space also housed the live telethon. As soon as Parton spotted Rogers from the stage, their decadeslong friendship was apparent.

“Get up here, old man,” Parton joked. “Is your back hurting you again?” she asked as he gingerly eased onto a stool on stage. Rogers stood up to sing their famous duet “Islands in the Stream,” and when he swung his arm out dangerously close to Parton’s head, she swatted it away.

“You’re gonna mess up my hair,” she said laughing, mid-song.

After the performance, Rogers joked that she had slapped him. Parton quipped, “I’d slap my daddy before I’d slap you.”

Other performance highlights included Cyndi Lauper, who drew applause from the crew watching the telethon with her stripped-down version of her hit “Time After Time” performed on a dulcimer and McEntire‘s soaring “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Later, Rogers, 78, said he hurts every day and that at his age, he doesn’t get good days anymore. However, when Parton asked him to perform, he couldn’t say no.

“I’m thrilled to be here and I’m going to donate $10,000,” Rogers said. “Me and Dolly have a deal with each other. We don’t ask each other to do trivial things. When she asks me, I know it’s important to her. And when I ask her, she knows it’s important to me.”

And it was important. The Sevier County fires, which killed 14 people and scorched more than 17,000 acres, blazed closer to Parton’s property than many people realize. Owens said the blaze scorched to within 100 feet of the train depot at Dollywood. A team of 50 people stayed ahead of the flames by spraying structures down, and a fire line was cut around the Upper Middle Creek ridge.

“I can’t say the fire didn’t come close,” Parton said. “It was a good year for us to be safe, but everybody is not that fortunate, and that’s all the more reason we should be grateful for what we have. That’s the great thing about the country music business. I just love how the country people just come to our rescue. … It’s just amazing how everyone works together.”

For a pre-application for the My People Fund to receive aid or to donate, visit www.dollywoodfoundation.org.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated the day of the week that Dolly Parton learned of the wildfires in Sevier County. She was told of the disaster after stepping off stage on Monday, November 28. 

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