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Dolly Parton Patti LaBella

Watch Dolly Parton play her acrylic nails in this unearthed clip from 1987


TextAlex Peters

Dolly and Patti LaBelle turned their nails into instruments

A true musician can make an instrument out of just about anything and for Dolly Parton that includes the dashboard of her car and her famous acrylic nails.

In a recently unearthed clip from 1987, Parton demonstrates just how proficient she is on the acrylic nails during an interview on her variety show Dolly with guest star Patti LaBelle. Wearing inexplicably matching sparkling dresses and some incredible 80s hairdos, the two stars are discussing writing songs. 

“I write a lot of songs when I don’t have my guitar,” Parton explains. “I beat around the dashboard of my car when I’m riding around writing songs but then I have a little rhythm that we can do with these acrylic nails.” The two then launch into a rendition of folk song “Short'nin' Bread” using just their nails as percussion.

The clip comes as part of a major new release of Parton’s archival material. Dolly: The Ultimate Collection is a 19-disc, 35-hour DVD collection filled with performances and appearances from Parton’s sparkling career spanning over 50 years from early visits to The Porter Wagoner Show in the 60s to episodes of her own variety show Dolly. There’s even an entire disc dedicated to Christmas content. 

The Patti LaBelle clip was tweeted by Yashar Ali over the weekend and quickly went viral with 137.8K likes and 33K retweets. This is not the first or only time, however, that Parton has played her nails in interviews.   

Last year, she revealed that her famous acrylic nails played a big part in her hit song “9 to 5”. In an interview on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, she shared that part of the chorus was actually played on her nails. “When I actually wrote this song, I used my acrylic nails on the set when I was writing it. I did because they make noise and it sounded like a typewriter to me,” she says. “I played it on the actual record, it says Nails by Dolly on the album!” she adds laughing. 

The next few months are going to be a treat for Dolly Parton fans (AKA everyone) as she has an abundance of new material on its way. The country star will release her first Christmas album in 30 years next month, she has a Christmas movie coming to Netflix for the holiday season, and a coffee table book focusing on her song lyrics coming in November. 

Parton also recently opened up about the tattoos which have long been rumoured to cover her body. Fans have speculated for years that she always wears long-sleeve shirts because she’s actually covered in tattoos. In an interview with People last week, however, she put this to rest, sharing that while she does have some “tasteful” ink she isn’t a “tattoo girl.”

“My tattoos are pretty, they’re artful and they usually started out to cover some scar, not to make a big statement,” explains Parton. “Ribbons and bows and butterflies are the things that I have.” She says that she was very sick for a while and had to wear a feeding tube which left a little indention in her side. “I didn’t like it because I’m so fair that scars turn purple on me,” she says. “I like to make positives out of negatives. I had a little beehive tattooed over it – a little yellow-and-brown beehive with a tiny little bee on top of the hive. The mouth of it is that little sinkhole.”

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