When country singing legend Dolly Parton entered the Ashdown, Ark., High School cafeteria and gym Saturday evening, it was a sublime vision highlighted by her performance with Kent Wells and Derek Wells.
Dolly paid respect to Kent Wells, a native of Ashdown who has produced some of Dolly's music and played in her band.
The high school's Alumni Association named Kent Wells the outstanding alumnus on Saturday during the 11th annual Alumni Banquet in the high school cafeteria.
Dolly said she at first declined to come but wanted to honor the talented Wells.
Kent Wells said he was honored, "but when they called me about the award, I thought they dialed the wrong phone number."
He praised his father, the late Billy Jack Wells, and choked back tears, but the audience encouraged him to continue.
The event was like the family reunion.
Dolly posed for photos with fans—from entire families to lawyers and dentists—for more than an hour in the school's library.
Kent Wells was selected by the alumni association for his work as a musician, songwriter, performer and producer, said Susan Setliff Simmons, president of the alumni association. He graduated from Ashdown High School in 1981.
He has toured and recorded with major artists and groups including Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Brooks & Dunn, Travis Tritt, Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood and Keith Whitley.
Kent Wells has produced projects and vocal performances for Michael Peterson, Neal McCoy, 4 Runner, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Allison Krause, Keith Urban and George Jones.
In addition to two Grammy nominations, he was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the original soundtrack for the major motion picture "Travelin' Through."
"As a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, (Kent) Wells has performed on numerous Billboard chart certified No. 1 and Top 10 hits for various artists and performed on recordings across nearly every genre of commercial music. He has also toured the world as lead guitarist and musical director with several of the biggest names in country music, including record-breaking tours with Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire," Simmons said.
He has performed around the world in places such as Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall, Texas Stadium, Glastonberry Festival, Radio City Music Hall, Houston Rodeo, Woodstock, CMA Fest and The Grand Ole Opry.
Kent Wells' list of television and radio performances includes "Saturday Night Live," "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, "Late Night with David Letterman," "The Arsenio Hall Show," "The Today Show" on NBC, "Good Morning America," "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee," "Grand Ole Opry Live," "Hee Haw," "A&E Live by Request," "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars," "BBC Radio Live," "Austin City Limits," "A Capitol Fourth" and "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
His songs have been recorded by artists and performed on "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars." He has written and produced major advertising spots for Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's and Goodyear.
Wells lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Donna, and four sons, Jack, Alex, Derek and Austin. He is the owner of Kent Wells Productions studios in nearby Franklin, Tenn.