"She goes, 'I love your beard' and starts to clean it!" What happened when country icon Dolly Parton met Judas Priest frontman and heavy metal legend, Rob Halford

Rob Halford singing with Dolly Parton
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images)

Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has opened up on the moment he met the legendary Dolly Parton, as well as the unlikely collaboration their meeting eventually spawned. The two beloved singers crossed paths at the 2022 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony, where Parton was inducted into the Hall itself and Priest were honoured with a special Musical Excellence Award

Near the end of the night, Parton invited some of that year's hosts and inductees, including Brandi Carlile, P!nk, Duran Duran's Simon LeBon, Sheryl Crow, Annie Lennox, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, to come on stage and sing trademark hit Jolene with her. Halford was amongst the stars to take part in the amazing spectacle, meaning the Metal God got to meet a longtime idol of his.

“Somehow, instinctively, I knew we were going to meet,” Rob explains in the latest issue of Metal Hammer. “I always tell the story of my mother’s grandmother, who was a clairvoyant, and I still think I’ve got a little of that in me, because something went, ‘You’re going to meet Dolly Parton.’ Two or three days later, these emails come into the office, and Dolly’s reached out, asking, ‘Would you sing some lines on Jolene?’ You sit at home and go, ‘Oh my god, this is truly going to happen!’ Being a gay guy, ‘I’ve got nothing to wear!’ I know that she likes to sparkle and I like to sparkle, so what I wore on that night was apropos.”

As overawed by the encounter as Halford evidently was, it seems Parton herself was also very impressed to meet the heavy metal hero - not least because of his impressive facial hair.

“She goes, ‘I love your beard!’” Halford exclaims, “and she starts to clean my beard! It was so surreal! I’m meeting this living legend and she’s tickling my beard and going, ‘So you’re going to sing some Jolene with me?’ I was just floating.”

The following year, Halford's new-found friendship with Parton would level-up courtesy of an appearance on her rock 'n' roll album Rockstar, where the two would duet on the track Bygones. Halford recorded his vocals separately from Parton, sending her the demos to rave reviews.

“We’re on the phone to each other and she’s going, ‘Send me the files! Send me the files!’" he explains. "So I sent her the files and she calls back and goes, ‘I love these! This is gonna be great!’ This is Dolly Parton on speakerphone! Ha ha! She’s just this beautiful beacon of life. You can tell by the way I’m speaking that this is important to me as a musician, to have had this literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with someone so great.”

Judas Priest earned their highest ever UK album chart position last week, with latest, critically acclaimed album Invincible Shield landing at an impressive Number Two. They are currently on tour in the UK, with European dates to follow. Meanwhile, you can read more from Halford in the latest issue of Metal Hammer, out now.

MHR385 Cover

(Image credit: Future)
Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.