folk music

David from Washington, DC (left) Josef Just (right)

Patti LaBelle and Dolly Parton created the genre-busting duet we didn’t know we needed.

If you were to choose two female artists on the opposite ends of the musical spectrum, it wouldn't be a reach to say Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle. Parton made a name for herself in the country music world long before "crossover artists" diluted the twangy sound of country music to more resemble pop. And Patti LaBelle has long been an R & B, soul and gospel legend, without nary a banjo or yeehaw in sight.

But talent is talent and both of these women have musical talent oozing out of their (highly manicured) fingertips.

A video from 1987 has re-emerged showing the two women talking on Parton's variety show, "Dolly." Parton was explaining to LaBelle how she often uses her fingernails as instruments.

“I write a lot of songs when I don’t have my guitar,” Parton said. “I beat around the dashboard of my car when I’m riding around writing songs, but then I have a little rhythm that we can do with these acrylic nails.”

Then she and LaBelle launched into a nail duet, which morphed into a gorgeous two-part harmony, of the folk classic "Shortnin' Bread."


Dolly Parton & Patti LaBelle play 'Shortnin' Bread' on their Acrylic Nails

People loved seeing these big stars' big 80s hair, big nails and big vocal talent.

"Two women who hold a special place in my heart. Probably everyone’s heart," wrote one person.

"I luv how Patty just came right on in with that TIGHT harmony," wrote another. "That's a true vocalist with natural, God given abilities."

"I've always liked Dolly Parton's music, energy, country accent, just her whole vibe. And Patti Labelle is auntie who can shatter crystal with her vocal range," added another.

"Divas. Pure unadulterated talent and joy. God, don't they sound great together? Love you Miss Patti, love you Miss Dolly," shared another.

And by the way, Parton wasn't making a joke when she said she wrote songs with her nails. She literally used them while writing and recording her 1980 hit "9 to 5."

“When I actually wrote ["9 to 5"] I used my acrylic nails on the set when I was writing it. I did because they make noise and it sounded like a typewriter to me,” she told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show." “I played it on the actual record, it says 'Nails by Dolly' on the album!” she added.


@Dolly Parton’s nails are credited in #9to5 💅 #FallonFlashback #DollyParton

When musicians have true talent, they can make just about any kind of music sound magical, anywhere, any time, with any instrument—even when all they have are their voices and some fancy fingernails.

It's been nearly 40 years since this clip aired, and both of these rockstar women are still going strong. Dolly Parton has become a beloved national treasure not only for her music and sunny disposition but for her efforts to increase literacy with her Imagination Library book donation program. And "Godmother of Soul" Patti LaBelle has expanded her talents to the business world, launching Patti's Good Life food company in 2007 and growing it into a $200 million venture.