Dolly Parton told Mojo magazine June 2008 that this is one of her favorite songs. She added: "When I wrote that - Lord, so many years ago, the mid-'60s, I guess - I knew a lot of young girls getting pregnant, and usually in the mountains people would pretty much turn you out: you were trash and a whore and your daddy and mama wouldn't let you come home, so you'd have to go to some home for unwed mothers or a relative would take you in. I'm touched by everything, and that used to bother me: how cruel and awful must that be, how lonely they must feel. That was great fodder for a song: it came to me as a story, like writing a movie."
This was relegated to an album track because RCA thought it was too controversial to get radio play as a single. Instead, "Daddy Come And Get Me
" was the sole single from The Fairest Of Them All
, Dolly's fifth studio album. It wasn't exactly light subject matter, either - it's about a distraught women who's put in a mental institution by her cheating husband.
There are towns called Dover in Delaware, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and in England's southeastern county of Kent. The song, however, is set in Dover, Tennessee.
In 1969, Dolly was still going on the road with Porter Wagoner and regularly appearing on his TV show. The tour bus was traveling through the Tennessee town, when Dolly was inspired to write the song. She recalled in her 2020 book, Songteller: "It was a beautiful day, and the wind was blowing. There was this field of clover waving in the wind. So there we were, Dover-clover, and that started me off: 'The sun behind a cloud just cast a crawling shadow o'er the fields of clover. And time is running out for me. I wish that he would hurry down from Dover.'"
This is another sad entry in Dolly's catalog but, like her other weepers, it just came out that way. "When you tell these stories, you have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. So I just keep writing along. I never know, myself, how I'm going to end it, until I get close to the end," she explained in Storyteller. "Only when I start talking about it or thinking about it do I realize how morbid I really am. People always say, 'You just seem so happy.' I say, 'Yeah, but I can certainly write you a morbid song!'"
This inspired the fifth episode of the 2019 Netflix anthology series Dolly Parton's Heartstrings, which features stories based on Dolly's songs. The episode involves a teenaged interracial couple who are faced with an unexpected pregnancy just as the boyfriend is sent to serve in the Vietnam War. Introducing the installment, Dolly said the message is that "hope and love are the greatest forces there are, and if you have hope you can survive prejudice, you can survive separation, you can even survive unspeakable loss."
Dolly re-recorded this for her 2001 album Little Sparrow, which featured a verse that was edited out of the original version:
I found a place to stay out on a farm, takin' care of an old lady
She never asked me nothin', so I never talked to her about my baby
I sent a message to my Mom with a name and address of ol' Missus Grover
And to make sure he got that information when he came down from Dover
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood sang this as a duet on their 1972 album, Nancy & Lee Again. It was also covered by Skeeter Davis, Spell, Kate Campbell, Marianne Faithfull, and Stella Parton.
The album title was inspired by the fairy tale Snow White, which has the evil queen asking her magic mirror, "Who's the fairest of them all?" - only to be told that her beautiful stepdaughter is the fairest. Of course, it's Dolly who takes the title on her album cover. Wearing a pink costume with an enormous pink collar, she gazes happily upon her reflection in an oval mirror.