In a deal that seems as natural as biscuits and gravy, Dolly Parton and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store have partnered to release "Backwoods Barbie: The Collector's Edition."
The project not only propelled the veteran entertainer back into the top 10 of Billboard's Top Country Albums chart but also became the first Cracker Barrel title to be tracked by Nielsen SoundScan.
"Our exclusive music program has grown to the point that participating in SoundScan just makes good sense," says Cracker Barrel vice president of marketing Peter Keiser.
Released March 24, "Collector's Edition" debuted at No. 9 on Top Country Albums and No. 40 on the Billboard 200, selling 12,000 copies its first week. Buoyed by Parton's April 5 appearance on "60 Minutes" and a continued push by Cracker Barrel, the set sold 10,000 units the following week, charting at No. 14 on the country list. The album features three cuts exclusive to Cracker Barrel and new packaging.
"Backwoods Barbie" originally bowed last year on Parton's Dolly Records. The title track will be featured in the Broadway musical "9 to 5," for which Parton wrote the score. The musical's formal premiere takes place April 30 at the Marquis Theater in New York.
"Me and Cracker Barrel have a lot in common: We're both Tennessee-based and country people," Parton said during a break from "9 to 5" rehearsals. "I thought we'd make a perfect pairing, and evidently it's working."
In addition to the CD, Cracker Barrel is selling a limited-edition pink rocking chair and collector's edition photo album. "We're proud of that chair," Parton says with a laugh. "We figured they needed a pink one out there. And the picture book is doing great. People like to follow their favorite artists and see what they've done through the years."
Cracker Barrel has partnered with Kenny Rogers, Amy Grant and other artists on CDs, but the Parton partnership is the first to include merchandise.
"Only 1,350 rockers were made, and we sold approximately 70 percent in the first two weeks," Keiser says. "The collector's edition photo album has sold more the first week than any book we've sold at Cracker Barrel."