The Grand Ole Opry celebrated Dolly Parton’s 78th birthday on Jan. 19 with a night of performances at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Friday. While the country legend herself wasn’t present for the Opry Goes Dolly event, other musicians took the stage to perform her hits in tribute — or at least they were supposed to. Singer-songwriter Elle King derailed the performance by appearing onstage in a seemingly inebriated state: At one point, she admitted to being “hammered” and forgot the words to Parton’s songs during her set.
The next day, the Opry issued an informal apology to an attendee of the concert on X (formerly Twitter).
“We deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used during last night’s second Opry performance,” the official Grand Ole Opry account replied to a disappointed fan who had tweeted: “Elle King ruined the night with her horrible, drunk, and profane performance.”
Representatives for the Grand Ole Opry and Elle King did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
Lauren Alaina, Terri Clark, Tigirlily Gold, Ashley Monroe, Dailey and Vincent, and more were tapped for the Friday night event, a pair of shows broadcast live on 650 AM WSM from the Ryman Auditorium instead of the Opry’s usual home of the Opry House. Alaina pulled out of the appearance before it began.
“I’ll tell you one thing more,” King told the audience after briefly going back and forth with those seated close to the stage. “Hi, my name is Elle King and I’m fucking hammered.”
In videos posted to TikTok, King’s bandmates can be seen attempting to get the performance back on track, suggesting that she play one of her own songs instead. “I can barely play another person’s song, let me see if I can play one of mine,” she said in response. Moments before, she had fumbled through Parton’s “Marry Me,” singing: “I don’t know the lyrics to these things in this fucking town. Don’t tell Dolly ’cause it’s her birthday.”
King also told fans that their search for a refund would be unsuccessful and when one suggested they wouldn’t want their money back anyway, she hit back with: “Good, ’cause you ain’t getting it.”
The singer also expressed disbelief that anyone would have paid to be there in the first place, asking: “Holy shit. I’m not even going to fucking lie. Y’all bought tickets for this shit?” Five dollars from each ticket was put toward the Opry Trust Fund in Parton’s honor. The fund has assisted members of the music community in need for more than 50 years.
King previously came under scrutiny for her appearance and performance last month during Nashville’s televised New Year’s Eve celebration, New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash, with some online commenters questioning if she were inebriated.