Dolly Parton telethon tonight to benefit east Tennessee wildfire relief

Dolly Parton’s telethon to benefit victims of the wildfires that ravaged east Tennessee last month starts in just a few hours, offering television and online viewers a chance to donate to her My People Fund. The fund is a part of her charitable Dollywood Foundation, which has pledged to provide $1,000/month to people who lost everything in areas near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN.

This is where Dolly grew up, and where she owns a number of tourist-related attractions. The people affected by the fires are in many cases her employees, some of them entertainers who work at her theaters or parks, or the many others in the region.

Many of those are bluegrass musicians, like Jasper Lorentzen, bass player with Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. The cabin where and his wife were living was burned to the ground, along with everything they owned. Fortunately they weren’t home at the time, and were unable to even get back to the cabin to see how it fared for several days.

Another was Jack Hatfield, long time banjo player in Pigeon Forge whose home and business were destroyed in the fires, leaving him with nothing but his banjo, his dog, and the clothes on his back.

Over time, some of these victims will receive restitution from insurance, but not everything will be covered, and with so much destruction in one region, it will take some time to get claims paid and rebuilding started.

Tonight’s telethon, which is airing on several cable and satellite networks (Great American Country, RFD-TV, Heartland, AXS-TV) as well as being carried online by Livestream, will be hosted by Dolly with live performances from some of the top artists in Nashville. In addition to country stars like Alabama, Hank Williams Jr., Reba McEntire, there will be songs as well from bluegrass royalty in the persons of Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent.

All of the artists, songwriters, and music publishers are foregoing any compensation for this live event so that all proceeds can be directed to the My People Fund. Instructions for making a donation will be shown on screen during the 3-hour broadcast, which begins at 8:00 p.m. (EST) tonight.

There will be a bevy of stars in the studio answering phones, which will include bluegrass luminaries like Lorraine Jordan and Darrin Vincent. Lorraine will also get to present a check to Dolly for $10,000 which was raised at Jordan’s Christmas in the Smokies festival this past weekend in Pigeon Forge. They held a silent auction and collected donations on site, and also donated the proceeds from specially-priced tickets to see the show.

If you can’t tune in and call in tonight, donations are also being accepted on the Dollywood Foundation web site, or they can be sent in by mail.

My People Fund
c/o Dollywood Foundation
111 Dollywood Ln.
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Lorraine has promised us a report tomorrow from this evening’s festivities.

A great many people have suffered from these wildfires, and tremendous damage has been done to a beautiful area that has long supported the music we love. If your situation allows you to make a donation, we hope you’ll be moved to do so.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.