Dolly Parton and Carl Dean's first date was at a McDonald's drive-through.

The 72-year-old singer - who was just 18 when she met her now-husband - has always enjoyed low-key evenings out with her partner and they've learned over the years where to go without being spotted.

She said: ''When I met my husband, he wanted to take me out to dinner. He pulled up to the drive-in window and got our food at McDonald's.

''We know a few little places we can go without being bothered. He only likes to go places where he can be comfortable!''

Carl prefers to stay out of the spotlight and the '9 To 5' hitmaker joked her long absences on tour are key to making their 52-year marriage last.

She told People magazine: ''I always joke and laugh when people ask me what's the key to my long marriage and lasting love.

''I always say 'Stay gone!' and there's a lot of truth to that. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we're together and the little things we do.''

Two years ago, the couple renewed their wedding vows at their Nashville home on their 50th anniversary and Dolly admitted one of the reasons for the ceremony because they ''never really felt'' they had had the wedding they wanted when they eloped in 1966.

She said: ''I never really felt like I had the wedding that we really wanted. He got all dressed up and I got all dressed up.

''Fifty years is a long time for anything, and I felt that we needed to do something to commemorate this. It's been a good 50 years and I don't know how many more years we'll have left.''

The couple never had children but Dolly - who donated her 100 millionth book through her Imagination Library initiative earlier this year - always wants to help youngsters.

She said: ''Now that I'm older, I realise I didn't have kids of my own, so everybody's kids could be mine.

''I [want to] empower children and give them confidence.''