Hello, Dolly! Kelly Clarkson had country music royalty on The Kelly Clarkson Show Thursday morning (Dec. 1), with Dolly Parton stopping by to help sing a duet of her 1981 smash “9 to 5” and reminisce on the first time she ever heard Whitney Houston‘s iconic cover of “I Will Always Love You.”
Clarkson kicked off the “9 to 5” performance by singing its first few lines as a solo, before surprising her audience with the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, who strutted on stage in her trademark blonde updo and sky-high heels. The two exchanged smiles and harmonies back and forth as members of the crowd clapped excitedly to the famous beat.
The two vocalists had teased their duet a day prior in a sneak peak video, and a few months before that, they teamed up to record a studio version of the track for the documentary Still Working 9 to 5.
Following their performance, the pair sat down on The Kelly Clarkson Show couch to chat, at which point the “Stronger” singer asked Dolly to recall the first time she’d heard Whitney Houston’s infamous cover of her 1974 classic “I Will Always Love You.” Houston had recorded the track to serve as the theme for Mick Jackson’s 1992 film The Bodyguard, in which the “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” musician also starred.
“When they were doing the Bodyguard movie, they had chosen another song for the theme song,” Dolly explained. “Someone came out with that very song right when they were about to put the movie out.”
In a rush to find another great theme song to replace the scrapped original, Dolly says the film’s producers requested permission to use “I Will Always Love You.” “They called me to see if they could use it and I said yes,” she continued. “And I didn’t hear anything else about it. I didn’t know if they had done it.”
The “Jolene” singer went on to tell a shocked Clarkson that this had been the last she’d heard about the song’s use — until much later, when she heard the opening bars to her own song playing on the car radio. But it wasn’t her voice singing. It was The Voice.
“I was just driving along, and I had the radio on,” Dolly recalled. “It’s one of those things, it was like a dog hearing a whistle. ‘What is that?’ That’s the first time — they hadn’t sent it to me or nothing. When it went into, ‘And I …,’ I just freaked out.”
“I had to pull over to the side, because I honestly thought I was going to wreck,” she added. “It was the most overwhelming feeling, and you know how great that was.”
Watch Dolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson sing “9 to 5” and discuss Whitney Houston below: