The Grand Ole Opry apologized to offended fans over the weekend after singer Elle King unleashed a profanity-laced rant during a Dolly Parton tribute concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Friday celebrating the iconic singer’s 78th birthday. The mea culpa came after King, who described herself onstage as “f–king hammered,” was attempting a cover of Parton’s 2001 song “Marry Me,” during which the “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” singer admitted she could not remember the lyrics.
In video clips of the incident, King appears to fumble for the lines to the song, singing instead “I don’t give a s–t” and “I don’t know the lyrics to these things in this f–king town… Don’t tell Dolly ’cause it’s her birthday,” holding the last word for an extended beat before rolling her eyes exaggeratedly.
The singer then turned her attention to the surprised crowd, telling them, “I’m not even gonna lie. That’s a b-side for ya. I’m not even gonna f–kin’ lie. Y’all bought tickets for this s–t? you ain’t getting your money back… I’ll tell you one thing more. Hi, my name is Elle King and I’m f–king hammered.” When a member of King’s band suggested she sing one of her own songs instead of trying another Parton cover, King responded, “I can barely play another person’s song, let me see if I can play one of mine.”
King’s uneven performance drew the ire of many country music fans and resulted in an apology from the Opry, which tweeted “We deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used during last night’s second Opry performance.” The tweet came in response to a message from a disgruntled attendee, who’d written, “It was such a disappointment to spend $300 on tickets for a show where one of the artists ruined an entire night. I mean it’s The Opry, the greatest country venue in the world. That performance was like lackluster karaoke performer wasted out of their minds. Awful.”
In a follow-up, the person added, “I wish she would’ve been there because Elle King ruined the night with her horrible, drunk, and profane performance. Dolly Parton would’ve been mortified. For our first time at The Opry, it was a shame we all had to witness that.” The show also featured tributes from Ashley Monroe, Terri Clark, Tigirlily Gold and Dailey and Vincent.
Parton’s younger sister, singer Stella Parton, was also disappointed with King’s performance, tweeting, “I didn’t see nor hear the Grand Ole Opry birthday tribute to my big sister Dolly over the weekend. But some lil girl by the name of Elle King apparently cussed and insulted some of Dolly’s fans by not knowing a song. She did admit to being ‘hammered’ her word not mine.”
Stella Parton continued with a history lesson about the Opry, as well as a friendly bit of advice for performers who don’t do their homework. “But let me just say this, it wouldn’t be the first time a Hillbilly went on the stage of the Opry ‘hammered’ but I guess it’s ok if you’re a male but good lord don’t ever let a girl behave that way folks! Double f–king standard if ya ask me. So the Opry is apologizing! Lol,” Stella wrote, adding, “To any lil ego thinking they can learn the lyrics correctly with a half assed listen to one of Dolly’s song. Surprise! You’ll end up looking as silly as that lil girl. Do your homework people. Memorize the lyrics to ‘Jolene’ or ‘COMC.’ My sister loves words. A brilliant word smith.”
At press time a spokesperson for King had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment and it did not appear as if King had commented on the incident on her socials.
Parton celebrated her birthday last week by releasing a deluxe edition of her debut rock album, Rockstar, featuring nine bonus tracks.