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Tennessee Valentine, Part 1

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Watch David perform "Tennessee Valentine" at the 2001 dual launch party for the Starlings, Tn's album, Leapers Fork and David's Uncle Dulcimer. The Pancake Pantry is still a a busy hive of activity in Hillsboro Village in Nashville, Tennessee, and the food is delicious! Visit the next time you're in Nashville.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how I never anticipated what an interesting, informative, contemplative, rich and fortunate experience this entire project would become since I plunged in. So today I want to share another bit of the research and writing aspects of how all this came to be.

Several readers have written or asked if I found out anything about David's love life. I did learn about some of his love relationships within different periods of his life, most of which I decided early on to leave out of Pluck for a number of reasons: to respect his privacy; to respect his former lovers their privacy, and because adding his love life as a threaded subject within the narrative would not significantly add to my thesis.

The only person that I included with a faint hint of a possible intimate relationship was Diana White. (More about Diana here, and then here.) But even with Diana, any intimate relationship was subtext only for a number of reasons. First, I had no real evidence that they were lovers; just a strong feeling that there was something more than a platonic partnership there back in the seventies. Second, she passed away in 2017, and it was only after the book was published that her brother found me. Since then, our e-tronic and phone friendship grew. He connected me with a number of Diana's long-time friends and her daughter, so extended conversations and emails with her family- and friend-circles provided enough information to confirm my feelings that they had not only been involved professionally but personally as well for a time. However, the real importance of David's relationship with Diana--for me, anyway--was her influence on him as a developing musician. It was helpful to learn more about that.

Okay, that was all background. During research, another thread I pursued was the history behind each of the songs he composed to help me understand him as a musical storyteller. One of David's most well-known songs is "Tennessee Valentine" which he co-wrote with Rachel Dennison. (I wonder if Ms. Dennison has gotten tired by now of having "Dolly Parton's sister" always appended to her name?) I considered it lucky that they were sisters because it would likely make it easier to find her, and it was. Sort of.

I had one question only for her: What was the backstory to their writing together? Oh, and, one more: Was it David's "Valentine" they wrote about, or was it hers? To make a long story short, I never did get a chance to interview her. Even though I am a dogged and determined with it comes to research, I never could connect with her. Well, sort of.

I strongly suspect that the "assistant" who answered whenever I called was her. She said she would give her my message. But no one ever called back.

So, that was okay with me; there were so many people who were interested in being interviewed and sharing information and stories that I didn't think it would matter much whether I ever learned about the background to "Tennessee Valentine."A few representative tune background stories would be plenty; there was no need (or space!) to explicate and explain every song he wrote. So I crossed that one off my to-do list.

Well, once again I have a story for you. David's "Tennessee Valentine" contacted me out of the blue not too long ago. We had a most enjoyable time together over coffee. And that's when I learned the backstory, not only about them, but about the romantic side of David during their time together. Some lovely things I learned will be my next blog post, but only with her permission. Stay tuned.

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