It’s been a handful of decades since Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire rose to fame as two of country music’s biggest stars, but the longtime icons have always remained close. In fact, a source exclusively tells Closer Weekly that despite their fame and fortune, the beloved country songstresses “are friends first [and] that’s never going to change.”

“Reba and Dolly’s relationship is all about history, sisterhood and respect,” the insider continues in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “They’re both fully aware of their place in county music.”

'Dolly Parton's Heartstrings' TV show premiere, Arrivals, Pigeon Forge, USA - 29 Oct 2019

Despite being a little “competitive” in the entertainment business, Dolly, 74, and Reba, 65, share a close bond and “check in on each other” time and again. “They’re connected in so many ways,” the source explains, noting the Steel Magnolias actress and the Reba star are “both women of faith” and “keep each other in each other’s prayers.”

“They both love gospel music, it’s part of their roots,” the insider adds. “They’re mentors to so many in the business too.”

There’s no doubt Dolly and Reba have a lot to be proud of since reaching superstardom as young singers. “Their bond started the day Dolly met Reba in 1977 when Reba was playing the Grand Ole Opry for the very first time,” the source reveals. “Dolly has been like a big sister to Reba since that day and now they’re both proud to be country music contemporaries.”

Considering Dolly has been a staple in country music since the late 1960s, Reba feels “ever so grateful for Dolly’s support and friendship over the years,” the insider tells Closer. “Reba says Dolly paved the way for her. She looked up to her … so now, to be friends with her idol, it’s just surreal.”

Reba McEntire

While the source notes the two entertainers have celebrated a handful of accomplishments throughout the years — including Grammy Awards, Hall of Fame inductions and record-breaking achievements — they point out one thing “9 to 5” singer and the Young Sheldon actress have yet to check off their bucket list.

“Dolly and Reba’s dream is to go on tour together, but everyone is so busy and doing their own thing that it just hasn’t happened,” the insider dishes. “Not yet anyway. But imagine that? It would be fabulous.”

“For years they’ve also talked about doing a duet,” the source also teases, “which they both say they’ll write every time they see each other.”

It looks like we’ll have to stay tuned to see what Dolly and Reba have up their sleeves!

For more on Dolly and Reba, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter!