Don Warden, Dolly Parton’s long-time manager, died Sunday at the age of 87, the singer announced Monday in a touching tribute on her website.
“I’ve known and loved Don Warden since I joined The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967,” wrote Parton. “He was like a father, a brother, a partner, and one of my best friends. I feel like a piece of my heart is missing today. Certainly a huge piece of my life is gone. Rest in peace Don, and know for sure that I will always love you.”
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Before serving as Parton’s manager for nearly five decades, Warden had his own successful music career. Warden met future country music legend Porter Wagoner, and the two joined with Speedy Haworth to form the Porter Wagoner Trio. After a regular run appearing on ABC’s Ozark Jubilee, Warden and Wagoner launched the syndicated series The Porter Wagoner Show in 1960.
Joining the show in 1967 was Parton, then an unknown singer. Parton and Wagoner, with Warden leading The Wagonmasters, forged a memorable partnership. Both Parton and Warden left the show in 1974, with him stepping into the role of her full-time manager.
While he is best known for helping guide Parton throughout her historic solo career, Warden’s own musical talents were honored in 2008 when he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. That same year, the duo shared the stage for the last time as they honored their recently departed boss and friend Wagoner with a special concert at Dollywood.