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Could the Woman in Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” Be a Real-Life Canadian Woman?

One of the most haunting songs Dolly Parton ever wrote was “Jolene,” which became a major hit for her in the fall of 1973. Since then, people have speculated on the identity of this beautiful woman. Was she real? Or was she someone Dolly just made up?

The official story is that the character was inspired by a red-headed bank teller who flirted with her husband. The name “Jolene” was derived from a fan who once asked for an autograph. So the Jolene in the song is a composite, correct?

Maybe, but we’re still looking at two real-life women, one of whom lives in Canada.

Here’s the White Stripes version.

Now read the story of Juline [sic] Whelan of Prince George, BC. We may have found our real-life Jolene.




Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37438 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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