Dolly Parton has a duet with her biggest fan

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
12-year-old Gage Blackwell is with his favorite singer Dolly Parton.

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

Gage Blackwell had something to brag about when he attended school on Monday. He sang with one of the most well-known country singers in history - Dolly Parton.

Gage, 12, has Down Syndrome, but mother Lynnae Blackwell doesn't like for people to feel sorry for him.

"People say sorry when I tell them my son has Down Syndrome, but I just tell them don't be sorry because he's absolutely great," said Lynnae.

Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder with the presence of an extra chromosome. Normally, a person has 46 chromosomes, but Gage has 47.

Unlike some with the condition, Gage doesn't have any physical problems. He was born with a hole in his heart, but it incorporated into the valve by the time he was two.

After Lynnae's Facebook was consumed in pictures of Gage, she decided to make him a personal page to share his videos and pictures with everyone.

"It's very helpful for other parents who have kids with Down Syndrome to know it's okay," said Lynnae.

When family friends Betty Carlton and her son Josh watched a video of Gage holding a picture of Dolly while saying 'I wish I could meet her,' they immediately contacted the staff at Dollywood.

After several phone calls, a meet-and-greet was made for Gage to meet Dolly. He, Lynnae, and Lynnae's parents loaded up for their trip to Dollywood Family Amusement Park in the Great Smokey Mountains. Gage was also given free passes to the park.

"Well who is this here? Is this my boyfriend? Is this Kenny Rogers?" asked Dolly to Gage, who was shaking in excitement.

Sharing laughs together, Dolly told Gage he looks like Rogers and they both sang "Islands in the Stream."

Gage showed Dolly a picture of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn and they sang "Silver Threads and Golden Needles." After their duet was over, she told Gage he can sing like Tammy and Loretta, too.

"We may have to go on the road together. We'll have to put your name on the side of my bus. Gage and Dolly, how does that sound?" added Dolly after the two sang "9 to 5."

"Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene" and "Ring of Fire" were other songs the two sang together after Gage told Dolly that she was his favorite singer.

Dolly and all of the kids in the room ended the meet-and-greet by singing "9 to 5."

Lynnae said Gage was exposed to older music because of his father, Timmy Blackwell.

"Dolly really embraced him. She was so genuine. It's amazing to watch someone that famous to be so kind to Gage," said Lynnae.

After Gage's love for Dolly sparked, Lynnae bought him all of her c.d.'s. Lynnae even says that after Gage found out Dolly has a home in Tennessee, he always says he's going to live with Dolly in Brentwood.

Since Gage's meet-and-greet with Dolly, the videos have gone viral. His story was shared on the Today Show and Huffington Post's websites.

American politician, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, even took to Facebook on Gabe's behalf, sharing Dolly and Gage's picture.

"She [Dolly Parton] met a special young fan who faces challenges that on the surface may seem unfair and unasked for ..." said Palina, who is the mother of a Down Syndrome child.

"Dolly is quoted as once saying, "I'll never harden my heart, but I've toughened the muscles around it." Thank you for your heart, Dolly. And thank you, Gage, for being you!"

Lynnae was ecstatic to know that Gage's story was shared by so many, even well-known Palin.