In a touching eulogy posted to her website, the “9 to 5” songstress called Owens “beloved” and admitted that without him, the world would have no Dolly.
“I’ve lost my beloved Uncle Bill Owens. I knew my heart would break when he passed, and it did. I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there,” Parton began.
“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,” she added.
The 75-year-old music and culture icon maintained that it was Owens who took her back and forth to Nashville, Tenn., schlepped her to local gigs, got Parton her first job and “walked up-&-down the streets with me, knocking on doors to get me signed up to labels or publishing companies.”
“It’s really hard to say or to know for sure what all you owe somebody for your success,” the “Heartstrings” actress said. “But I can tell you for sure that I owe Uncle Billy an awful lot,” she wrote, adding that he was “so many things.”
Parton said her late uncle loved music and that the pair had written several songs together over the years.
“The biggest one being ‘Put It Off Until Tomorrow.’ We won our first big award on that one back in 1966. It was the BMI Song of the Year,” Parton reflected.
In addition, Owens penned songs that were recorded by Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs and Porter Wagoner.
Often low-key in her approach to music and business, the country superstar praised Owens for the way he moved clandestinely behind the scenes and to many of their relatives’ surprise.
They “don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life,” Parton expressed. “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.”
“I’m sure that Uncle Bill’s friends, fans, his wife Sandy, his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will join me when I say that we will always love you. Rest in peace, Uncle Bill,” Parton concluded.
Owens’ death comes less than three months after Parton’s brother, Randy Parton, died in January after a battle with cancer. He was 67.
“The family and I are grieving his loss but we know he is in a better place than we are at this time,” Parton wrote at the time. “We are a family of faith and we believe that he is safe with God and that he is joined by members of the family that have gone on before and have welcomed him with joy and open arms.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report