Elle King’s drunken Dolly Parton tribute at Grand Ole Opry sparks backlash

Dolly Parton, the queen of country music, turned 78 in style amid some controversial drama thanks to singer Elle King.

Even though Parton wasn’t at the birthday celebration, the iconic Nashville concert hall, Grand Ole Opry, held a Dolly-themed birthday bash at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 19. The Dolly-inspired evening was supposed to be filled with a night of performances dedicated to the music icon from other country musicians. Still, it turned into what some described as a “lackluster karaoke performer wasted out of their minds,” leading to an apology from the Opry after people complained about King’s supposed drunken performance, The Tennessean reported.

On Friday evening, numerous musicians were set to take the stage to perform Parton’s hit songs. When King took the stage to sing Parton’s “Marry Me,” she didn’t sing the correct lyrics. The singer-songwriter and daughter of Rob Schneider was filmed by fans who expressed their frustrations with what they said was a tasteless cover.

In the widely circulated videos of King’s performance, the 34-year-old singer seemed to flub the lyrics to Parton’s song.

“I don’t know the lyrics to these things in this f**king town/Don’t tell Dolly ’cause it’s her birthday.” A heckler chimed in and King responded: “I’m not even gonna f**king flie … Y’all bought tickets for this s**t, you ain’t getting your money back.”

According to UsWeekly, the singer said “I’ll tell you one thing more: ‘Hi, my name is Elle King (and) I’m f**king hammered.'”

Soon after the performance, fans took to the internet to express their outrage, saying that King ruined what was supposed to be a family-centered celebration of Parton. One user on X said: “Elle King ruined the night with her horrible, drunk and profane performance. Dolly Parton would’ve been mortified. For our first time at The Opry, it was a shame we all had to witness that.”

The venue responded to the complaint with the apology: “Hi Judas, we deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used during last night’s second Opry performance.”

The user replied that the experience was “such a disappointment to spend $300 on tickets for a show where one of the artists ruined an entire night. I mean it’s The Opry, the greatest country venue in the world. That performance was like lackluster karaoke performer wasted out of their minds. Awful.”

Neither Parton nor King have responded to any requests to comment on the incident, CBS News reported. But King has been known to put on edgier personas while performing. In an interview with the San Diego Tribune, the singer shared that she has performed both drunk and sober “and they are different.”

“They don’t call it ‘liquid courage’ for nothing. I mean, how many jobs do you show up for and there are bottles of liquor on the table for you [in your dressing room]? There are not a lot,” she continued.

However, she shared that “I really like to drink and sing. I don’t want to get as drunk as I used to.” But drinking “makes me less nervous about hitting the notes when I sing. If I don’t make them, it won’t sting as much.” Last year, she said that her new tour life would be different “because I put being a mother way, way, way above having a good time.”

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