I've lost my beloved Uncle Bill Owens. I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did. 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.
He was there to take me around to all of the local shows, got me my first job on the “Cas Walker Show.” He took me back-&-forth to Nashville through the years, walked up-&-down the streets with me, knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies.
It's really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success. But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot.
Uncle Bill was so many things. He loved the music, loved to play, loved his guitar and loved to write and sing. He wrote great songs, at least 800 of them through the years. We wrote several songs together, the biggest one being “Put It Off Until Tomorrow.” We won our first big award on that one back in 1966. It was the BMI Song of the Year.
He wrote songs that were recorded by Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and many others. He also traveled the road with many big artists playing his guitar, including playing on stage with me in my early years in Nashville.
Uncle Bill worked at Dollywood from the time we opened in the family show for many years. He was funny, friendly and generous. He always had a kind word for everybody and gave good advice to young people starting in the business. He joined forces with Dollywood, The American Chestnut Foundation, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and The American Eagle Foundation to bring back the endangered chestnut tree to the Great Smoky Mountain area. That was his passion. He also championed the cause of protecting the natural environment at Dollywood in 1986. During that time, he took it upon himself, with his wife Sandy, to plant 70,000 trees on the Park property.
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. 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.
From an early age, Dolly knew she wanted to become a star. As a teenager in East Tennessee, she could hardly wait until she was old enough to leave home and move to Nashville, TN.
Before she turned 18, Dolly pursued her dreams in Music City part-time with her Uncle Bill Owens. The two had a publishing contract, and Dolly had released two songs on Mercury Records, but she knew she wanted to be there full-time. She counted down the days until she could make her big move. Dolly said,
"Probably the best birthday I ever had was when I turned 18, because I had been traveling back and forth to Nashville all those years before, and I knew my Daddy would send a posse after me if I left before I was 18."
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort was driven by Dolly’s dream to create a place where families can reconnect. To honor her dreams and the people who made them possible, Dolly created a Dream Box which will remain locked until 2045. Visiting families can see Dolly’s Dream Box on display at the resort.
“My resort is a dream 30 years in the making, and the items I picked for my Dream Box are closely tied to special people who encouraged me and certain events in my life where that encouragement paid off,”
Dolly’s Dream Box contains:
Dolly credits her Uncle Bill Owens with being one of her earliest supporters and one of the biggest reasons she reached for her childhood dreams. On March 23, 2013, she dedicated a section of her Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood in honor of Uncle Bill and everything he has done for her. The room features pictures, songs, her very first single and, occasionally, Uncle Bill himself!
Shortly after her song 'Dumb Blonde' was released, Dolly performed the song on "The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour" alongside her Uncle Bill Owens. Years earlier, Dolly was a regular guest on the popular show after being hired by Cas Walker at the age of 10.
In this rare video, shown in color, Dolly and Uncle Bill perform onstage together during "The Case Walker Farm and Home Hour."
'Dumb Blonde' was one of two singles released from Dolly’s first full-length solo album, “Hello, I'm Dolly.” It climbed to No. 24 on the U.S. country singles charts. Curly Putman wrote the song and Fred Foster at Monument Records knew it was right for Dolly. In the liner notes of the album, Foster wrote about what he saw in the young artist. He opened with,
“Sometimes you just know… sometimes. And that makes up for all the times you had to guess.”
"The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour" was a radio show based in Knoxville, Tenn. that transitioned to television in 1953. It was recorded before a live audience. Between performances, it featured live commercials for Walker’s grocery stores.
During the mid-1950s, the Everly Brothers were regular guests on the show. Other notable guests included Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, Carl Butler, Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, Jim Nabors and Carl Smith.