The Story Behind The Song: “Kentucky Gambler”

Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard

On December 21, 1974, Dolly Parton placed three different songs on Billboard’s country singles chart as a writer: Porter Wagoner’s “Carolina Moonshiner” (#19), her own recording of “Love Is Like A Butterfly” (#1), and Merle Haggard’s “Kentucky Gambler.”

When Merle’s release topped the chart a month later, it became Dolly’s only number one single as the writer of someone else’s record on Billboard’s country singles chart.

Other Parton songs that found success with different artists on Billboard’s country chart were Emmylou Harris’s “To Daddy” (#3), Zella Lehr’s “Two Doors Down” (#7), Waylon Jennings’ “Waltz Me To Heaven” (#10) and “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” which was a hit twice. Bill Phillips scored a #6 peak with his original version in 1966 (with Dolly herself providing harmony vocals), and The Kendalls’ cover which came in at #9 in 1980.

And, last but certainly not least, Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You” was taken to worldwide acclaim as a massive pop hit by international superstar Whitney Houston. Her version spent multiple weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 1992.

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