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Elle King explains 'traumatic' reason behind drunken Dolly Parton birthday tribute

The Ex's & Oh's singer was 'hammered' for her Grand Ole Opry performance

Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
May 17, 2024
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Elle King has revealed that a "traumatic" experience led to her controversial drunken performance at Dolly Parton's 78th birthday tribute show in January. 

The Ex's & Oh's singer went viral after she admitted she was "hammered" on stage at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and was filmed slurring her words and appearing to forget the lyrics to Dolly's 2001 hit Marry Me

The 34-year-old has now recalled the infamous moment and explained that she was going through "something very heavy" before the performance. "I had been going through something very heavy and traumatic in my life at the time," she said on Chelsea Handler's podcast Dear Chelsea

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Elle suffers from PTSD

"That day was a really big day dealing with what I was going through and am still going through, and I suffer from severe PTSD." 

Because of her overwhelming emotions, Elle said she "hadn't eaten" and "hadn't slept in days" ahead of the tribute, adding: "I was really overwhelmed." 

"I was like a shell of myself," Elle continued. "There was a big snowstorm that day, and this other singer who's supposed to be the headliner backed out like three hours before, and they asked me if I would sing - if I would be the headliner and sing Jolene. I was like, 'Great, I know that song.'" 

Elle was scheduled to perform twice that evening, and while her first show was "perfect", she admitted that in between she took "one shot too many".

"I'm just not there, in my body," she recalled. "I don't even remember what I said," she added. 

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Elle was 'mortified' by her drunken behavior

It wasn't until after the show, that Elle realized she was "hammered". 

"I got the curtain dropped on me, and I was totally 100% disassociated, and I just cut to the dressing room – me on the floor just sobbing, like, 'What have I done?'" she said, adding the next day she was "mortified". 

Following the incident, Elle wrote a handwritten apology to the Grand Ole Opry and Dolly, who didn't hold her antics against her. 

"[Dolly] just gave me really kind words and made me laugh and that's the kindness from women," Elle said. "That's the stuff that I received that I'll never forget because I wanted to [expletive] die and I had to remove myself from the population for a while." 

Elle King attends Estee Lauder at Stagecoach Festival on April 28, 2017 in Indio, California.  (Photo by David Crotty/Getty Images for Estee Lauder)© Getty Images
Elle took 2 months off touring

Elle hasn't spoken about the performance in months, admitting she had to take time to "just chill" because her behavior was a "big deal". 

She took two months off from touring, and in March she addressed her performance on Instagram, writing: "To everyone sending me love, because I'm human and already talked to Dolly. I love you. To everyone who told me to kill myself, I love you too."

Dolly Parton attends a press conference before a performance celebrating her 50-year anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry at The Grand Ole Opry on October 12, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee© Getty
Dolly has forgiven Elle for her antics

. Dolly also publicly came to Elle's defense, saying she had forgiven and forgotten. "Elle King is a doll," she previously told E! News

"I called her, and I said, ‘You know, there are many F-words. Why don't we use the right one? Forgiveness, friends, forget it.'"

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