Dolly Parton is honoring her beloved uncle Bill Owens and crediting him with her own success as a country icon.
"I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did," the 75-year-old musician wrote on her website. "I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there. He was there… there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing. And he was there to help build my confidence standing on stage where he was always standing behind me or close beside me with his big ol’ red Gretsch guitar."
A guitarist, Owens accompanied many artists on the road as well, including his famous niece when she was first getting her start during her early years performing in Nashville, Tennessee.
"He was there to take me around to all of the local shows, got me my first job on the 'Cas Walker Show,'" she shared. "He took me back-&-forth to Nashville through the years, walked up-and-down the streets with me, knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies."
Parton shared that the pair wrote several songs together, the biggest hit being “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” that won BMI song of the year back in 1966. According to Parton, Owens also wrote at least another 800 songs, some of which were recorded by musical greats Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and others.
Owens was also an important part of Dollywood and worked with his niece's amusement park company as well as the American Chestnut Foundation, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the American Eagle Foundation to bring the endangered chestnut tree back to the Great Smoky Mountain area. He and his wife, Sandy, worked to plant more than 70,000 on the grounds of Dollywood and in 1986, he championed the cause of protecting the natural environment around the theme park as well.
"I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life," the "I Will Always Love You" singer wrote. "But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful."
Parton also wrote, "It’s really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success. But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot."