This is the story of a song in which the performer expresses love for another person in the storyline. In country music, that’s pretty ordinary. The big difference here is that Merle Haggard was professing his real-life love for an artist that he had become infatuated with while on tour with her: Dolly Parton. He didn’t mention Parton by name in the song, of course, but it became common knowledge that’s who he was singing about, and he had no problem talking publicly about his feelings regarding Dolly. She and Merle had toured a lot together during 1974-75, and during that time they spent large blocks of time with each other.
Traveling from show to show, she would ride on his bus or he would ride on hers, and they talked a great deal about music and their personal goals. Not only that, Haggard expressed his desires for a more intimate relationship on several occasions, but Dolly insisted throughout that it could never work (she was married, but he was between wives at the time). Although her husband Carl Dean never went on tour with her, she claimed that she loved only him, and would never cheat on him. Nonetheless, Merle’s desires persisted.