Dolly Rebecca Parton was born on January 19, 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee and was the fourth child out of 12. Growing up her father was a construction worker and farmer, while her mother stayed at home to look after the children.
Despite her father working hard, Parton has always been honest about how poor her family was. They all lived together in a one-room cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Parton played a huge part in church and at just six-years-old she began performing regularly. Her uncle gave her her first guitar when she was just eight.
She Started Early
It was from then that Dolly started singing. As she got older she performed on local TV and radio in the Eastern Tennessee area and when she was 10 she appeared on WBIR-TV and WIVK radio shows as well as The Cas Walker Show in Knoxville, Tennessee.
By the age of 13 Parton had her first ever gig at the Grand Ole Opry hotel where she met Johnny Cash. Cash gave her stage advice and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
Dolly The Songwriter
In 1964, Parton graduated from Sevier County High School and moved straight to Nashville in a bid to become a singer. However her first successes did not come from her voice, but from her songwriting skills instead. She regularly wrote songs for her uncle Bill Owens and even has two top ten hits.
“Put It Off Until Tomorrow” by Bill Phillips in 1966 and “Fuel the Flame” by Skeeter Davis both hit the top 10. Hank Williams Jr. and Kitty Wells also sang songs written by Parton, but this is not where her passions lay. She wanted to be singing the songs for herself.
Monument Records signed Parton when she was 19-years-old. The plan was for her to sing upbeat pop music designed for teenagers – however songs like this didn’t perform well in the charts. Dolly released a few, but none reached the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1966, Parton harmonised on a Bill Phillips hit which allowed her to move into the country genre. She then released a full-length album titled Hello, I’m Dolly. Two featured songs reached No.24 and No.17 in the country charts.
A Permanent Fixture
After the huge success of her album, Dolly was asked to be a regular fixture on The Porter Wagoner Show. Parton replaced Norma Jean which left audiences upset – so much so that the audience would chant “Norma Jean” when Dolly appeared.
With the help of Wagoner she was eventually accepted by the audience. The duo put out a lot of hits together and over six years they had a streak of top 10 singles. In 1974 Dolly left the show.
A Big Number 1
Wagoner convinced her to record “Mule Skinner Blues” – it was this song that would set her career into motion. It reached number three in the charts and she went on to record “Joshua” – her first number one single. Over the next two years her songs continued to reach the top of the charts, including “Coats of Many Colors”, “Touch Your Woman”, “My Tenessee Mountain Home.” But in 1973 Dolly Parton’s biggest hit, “Jolene” was released. Not only did it top the country charts, but it also charted in the UK.
A Worldwide Hit
Between 1976 to 1977 Parton changed her sound from country to pop and started working with Sandy Gallin – her manager for the next 25 years. In 1976 her album All I Can Do was co-produced with Wagoner and was aimed at a more mainstream crowd.
In 1977 she produced her own album, titled New Harvest…First Gathering which included hits such as “Higher and Higher”. The album didn’t do too well but this did not deter Dolly- she kept pushing for her dreams.
She released “Here You Come Again” which sold over a million copies world wide – topping the country chart and reaching no. 20 on the pop chart.
The Hall Of Fame
Dolly’s success just kept coming. Her album Trio sent her to new heights – it spent a massive five weeks at the number one spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart. Four singles from the album also made it into Top 10 country hits. Trio was also award winning – it won a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
The ’90s continued to be a success for Dolly – so much so she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. She then released bluegrass albums – some of which gained her more Grammy Awards.
I Will Always Love You
Songwriting is where it all began for Parton and it is something that has stayed with her throughout her career. She wrote the famous song “I Will Always Love You” which was sang by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.
The songstress has also been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1980 and 2005 for the songs “9 to 5” and “Travelin’ Thru'”.
A Business Woman
Dolly hasn’t just dedicated herself to music she has also become a successful business woman. She invested a lot of money in Eastern Tennessee, specifically in Pigeon Forge. She is also the co-owner of The Dollywood Company who operate the Dollywood theme park.
The Dollywood Company also operate include Dollywood’s Splash Country, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and a dinner theatre that has branches in multiple locations.
The Big Screen
Dolly has also taken to the stage. While she appeared on The Porter Wagoner Show she continued on the stage throughout her career and had her own show Dolly! in the mid 1970s and again in the mid 1980s.
She then took to the silver screen and played a secretary that joins forces with her co-workers to tackle their sexist boss in the film 9 to 5. Her second film was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was also made into a musical. Both movies had a huge success world wide.
Go Her Own Way
Dolly explained that the two argued so much, she knew it was time to go her own way. She said: “We both believed that we knew what was best for us. Well, he believed he knew what was best for me, too, and I believed that I knew more what was best for me at that time. So, needless to say, there was a lot of grief and heartache there, and he just wasn’t listening to my reasoning for my going.”
Bitter Wagoner then sued Dolly for a breach of contract – ruffling the feathers further. After leaving, Dolly played Wagoner a song she had written about him .
A Song For Him
It was one of her greatest hits, “I Will Always Love You”. She said: “It’s saying, ‘Just because I’m going don’t mean I won’t love you. I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I’m out of here…’”
“I took it in the next morning. I said, ‘Sit down, Porter. I’ve written this song, and I want you to hear it.’ So I did sing it. And he was crying. He said, ‘That’s the prettiest song I ever heard. And you can go, providing I get to produce that record.’ And he did, and the rest is history.”
Happily Married Woman
While it is widely unpublicised, Dolly is actually married to a man named Carl Thomas Dean. The pair married in 1966 in Georgia. Carl used to run an asphalt salt paving business in Nashville and has always stayed out of Dolly’s limelight. He does not attend her events and has only seen her perform once.
Dolly has always said how romantic her husband is and how he always surprises her. While they do not have any children of their own they have helped raise many of Dolly’s siblings. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, Dolly and Carl renewed their vows in 2016.
Under The Knife
It’s no secret that Dolly Parton is a fan of plastic surgery and has been under the knife a number of times over the years. In an interview, the singer said: “It’s like what I always say: I may look fake but I’m real where it counts.”
“I’m quite content with who I am/And if you ain’t, well, kiss my ham.” Dolly famously said: “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
Not Convincing Enough
Dolly Parton once lost a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest. She walked into the competition on Santa Monica Boulevard where she was surrounded by contestants who’s looks were extravagant.
She said: “I just walked up on stage…I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close, I don’t think.” To make matters worse she said it was a lot of men dressed up in drag as her.
Never Been To Dollywood
Despite having a theme park named after her, Dolly has never actually been on any of the rides. She said: “My daddy used to say, ‘I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,’ I am the same way. I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus.”
A Famous Grandmother
Dolly is the godmother of none other than Miley Cyrus. In 2014 Parton was asked about her opinion on the media attention that Miley receives. She said that she has loved the Disney star since she was a baby and said Miley wanted to become Miley but no one would let her, so she went extreme. Parton has also spoke about how she hopes Miley makes good choices because she has a lot of talent.
Talking about Miley again, Parton explained: “If I didn’t know how smart and talented Miley is, I might worry about her. But I’ve watched her grow up. So I don’t. She knows what she’s doing. She was very proud of the work she did as Hannah Montana, but people were gonna leave her there forever… The girl is smart. And she doesn’t have to be so drastic. But I will respect her choices. I did it my way, so why can’t she do it her way?”
A Strange Influence
Dolly’s look is definitely one that stands out and it something she has always received criticism for – but it turns out there is a strange inspiration behind it. It’s actually inspired by a lady of the night Dolly used to see in her town growing up.
Parton told ABC News, “There was this woman, we won’t call her names, but she was beautiful. I had never seen anybody, you know, with the yellow hair all piled up and the red lipstick and the rouge and the high heeled shoes, and I thought, ‘This is what I want to look like.’”
A Close Encounter
Dolly has had to shut down rumours that she is gay over the years. The media speculated that she was strangely close to her childhood friend Judy Ogle. But Dolly just compared it to to the friendship of Oprah and her friend Gayle King.
She said: “Like Gayle, her friend, Judy, my friend, they just think that you just can’t be that close to somebody. Judy and I have been best friends since we were like in third and fourth grade… We still just have a great friendship and relationship and I love her as much as I love anybody in the whole world, but we’re not romantically involved.”
Getty Images / WireImage / Frank Mullen
Despite having years of estrangement, when Wagoner was on his deathbed, she came to his side. In 2007, Wagoner aged 70, was battling lung cancer but Dolly was not going to let him pass without amending the relationship with the man who helped her get to where she is today.
Parton said: “It was really, really hard. I held his hand, and we prayed… Porter’s soul was already with God. All that was left was a shell.” Dolly was at the bedside when Porter passed away.
Battle Of The Voice
When Whitney Houston sang “I Will Always Love You” the song blew up. This led to many media outlets reporting that Dolly hated Whitney for taking her song and being more successful with it but this was not the case.
Houston told Rolling Stone that she had the chance to thank Dolly personally: “I talked to Dolly Parton by phone not too long ago,” she said in 1993. “She said to me [imitates Dolly’s accent]: ‘Whitney, I just want to tell you something. I’m just honored that you did my song. I just don’t know what to tell you, girl.’ I said, ‘Well, Dolly, you wrote a beautiful song.’ And she said: ‘Yeah, but it never did that well for me. It did well for you because you put all that stuff into it.’”
Of course, the song was played at Whitney’s funeral. Parton said: “When they played it at her funeral and they lifted her coffin up, man, it was like somebody stabbed me in the heart with a knife. It just overwhelmed me.”
The song holds the record for being the best-selling single by a woman in music history.
In a book released by the star, Dolly on Dolly, she reveals that she sadly tried to take her life one day. She was in an open relationship with her husband Carl Dean and the break up of an affair left her life spiralling.
She credits her Boston Terrier, Popeye, for saving her life when she was lay on her bed with a gun. The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality and I suddenly froze. I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God,” recounts Dolly.
Net Worth- $500 Million
Being one of the most iconic singers in Country music definitely has it’s benefits!
When asked in an interview as to what she does before she goes on stage, ever the outspoken, Dolly said:
“I pee and I pray. I still get those butterflies, you can’t take pride in what you do and not get nervous, you want people to like you. That’s why I’m so famous for butterflies. They originate in my stomach.”
Being one of the most known Country Divas, you would expect that Dolly has quite the hospitality rider, you’d think wrong. She claims that all she needs are tissues, ‘crazy glue’ in case she breaks a fingernail, a mirror and other cosmetics. She very rarely eats a lot pre-show, saying: “I don’t like to eat a lot before I do shows. But then I eat like a pig after, get out of those tight clothes and let it all hang out.”
Affair With Kenny
After years of rumors and speculation, Dolly and Kenny decided to do a join interview on Good morning America in 2013. In the interview they put to bed any affair. Dolly claimed she never had any feelings for him and that she still loves her husband after more than 50 years of marriage and Kenny responded saying he had never even thought about a potential relationship.
When Dolly made it big, her and Wagoner had a falling out over disagreements about her future. Dolly finally announced the end of their partnership on February 19, 1947, after spending seven years working on the show with him.
Parton told CMT: “I was trying to get away on my own because I had promised to stay with Porter’s show for five years. I had been there for seven. And we fought a lot. We were very much alike. We were both stubborn.”
Over the years there have been multiple rumours that Dolly is covered in tattoos – however the star always wears long sleeved dresses and covers her cleavage. But every now and then she bends over a little too far and reveals a glimpse of colour.
Recently these rumours seem to have been given a bit more backing after celebs Roseanne Bar and Jennifer Saunders saw Dolly in a restaurant. In an interview, Roseanne said: “I shouldn’t even tell this. Dolly Parton is totally tattooed…She showed me.” Roseanne continued, “She’s got all these awesome tattoos all over body—no black or blue lines, all like, pastel gorgeous bows all over everything.” It’s been suggested that the colourful tatts cover scars from her enhancement surgeries.