Few don’t know the name Dolly Parton, and that is for a good reason. The legendary performer has been a superstar for decades, and despite her age, she doesn’t seem to have any plans of quitting. At age 18, Parton had decided she would be a star – and it didn’t take long for her to fulfill her dream. Today, she is still living it.
Dolly Parton’s childhood wasn’t easy. As one of 12 children, there wasn’t a lot of money. Though, while she didn’t have much, she always wanted to look good and had gotten inspired by the “town tramp.”
However, that didn’t work out well with one of her family members. Speaking with The Guardian, Dolly Parton now reveals that her grandfather physically abused her over her appearance.
Dolly Parton has been around music all her life, and nothing seems to stop her from doing what she loves most.
She was born on January 19, 1946, in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains. She grew up somewhat poor: as one of 12 children, money was quite an issue.
Dolly Parton – early life
However, music became something her family gathered around. Her mother sang and played guitar, and when Parton performed in church at a young age, she started to learn more about music.
“Music was such a large part of our whole family,” Parton recalled. “All of my mama’s people were musical. They all played some sort of musical instrument. Of course, I took my music really seriously, and I was always plucking along on somebody’s instrument — whatever they would leave lying around or whenever my family would come. But I always loved the guitar.”
Family and music walked hand in hand with the Partons, and her uncles helped her take the next step.
Dolly Parton got her own guitar from one of her uncles. Before long, she began to write her own songs.
By age 10, she had performed on several local television and radio stations in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at age 13, she made her debut on the national country radio station Grand Ole Opry. At the time, she was making about $20 a week.
“I had two uncles who played — Uncle Bill, who helped me get into the business, and Uncle Lewis, who was also a great guitar player,” she said. “He had this little Martin guitar that I loved, so when he saw how serious I was about my music, he gave me his little Martin guitar. It was my treasure.”
Dolly Parton has always been interested in fashion, and time and time again she has amazed her fans with her striking looks and outfits.
Dolly Parton reveals her grandfather “whipped” her over her appearance
When she was young, her interest in clothing and being sure of her looks was very much acting. Partn took inspiration from a local woman, called the “town tramp,” who wore tight skirts and high heels. Dolly would always look out for her when out on the town, hopefully seeing something cool the woman was wearing.
“She was flamboyant, she had bright red lipstick, long red fingernails. She had high-heeled shoes, little floating plastic goldfish in the heels of them, short skirts, low-cut tops, and I just thought she was beautiful. When people would say, ‘She ain’t nothing but trash,’ I would always say, ‘Well, that’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up,’” Dolly Parton told The Guardian.
However, looking different – or, in Dolly Parton’s case, glamorous – wasn’t something everyone appreciated. Not least her father, her grandfather, and a preacher.
While her father didn’t like it, he never did something about Dolly’s choice of appearance. But tragically, her grandfather did and physically abused her.
“I was willing to pay for it,” Dolly Parton revealed. “I’m very sensitive, I didn’t like being disciplined – it hurt my feelings so bad to be scolded or whipped or whatever. But sometimes there’s just that part of you that’s willing, if you want something bad enough, to go for it.”
Many years later, in 2011, she wrote a song about it, The Sacrifice.
“it kind of sums it up,” she added. It says, ‘I was gonna be rich no matter how much it cost / And I was going to win no matter how much I lost / Down through the years I’ve kept my eye on the prize / And you ask if it’s worth the sacrifice.’ I think it is, for me.”
Dolly Parton always went her own way, and even though, as you will read about in a bit, her label wanted to control a considerable portion of her private life, the legendary singer never gave way.
“I’ve always been true to myself”
She has always stayed true to her strong character, even when record label executives wanted her to dress more appropriately and tone down her look.
“I’ve always been true to myself,” Dolly Parton told The Guardian. “That was what my mama always used to say: to thine own self be true. I put a lot of stock in that. Everything I do, whether it’s my personality, how I conduct myself and business, or whatever, if I do it my way, according to what I understand and believe, there’s a strength in that. You can think, ‘I can stand by this, I can live by this.’”
While she cared about what people said, Dolly added, she “never cared so much that it keeps me from being me.”
Parton graduated high school, becoming the first one in her family to do so. But in 1964, at 18, she decided to focus entirely on her music career. Dolly Parton left home and headed to the Mecca of the country music scene, Nashville.
“I had a dream,” she said. “And I had a talent, I thought. And I really believed it was going to happen.”
In Nashville, Dolly quickly became a star. She worked with Porter Wagoner on The Porter Wagoner Show, and the duo became very popular. Parton and Wagoner released several country hits together, and she soon got a contract with RCA Records. In 1971, Parton landed her first No. 1 country hit, Joshua, and several more hits followed. One of them was, of course, Jolene.
The song only has 200 words in it. However, it became one of the biggest hits of the 20th century. Dolly Parton reached No. 1 on the charts. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance (studio and live version).
Not only that, but Jolene was ranked No. 217 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” released in 2004.
Dolly Parton has written more than 3,000 songs
With songs like I Will Always Love You – a tribute to Wagoner and their professional relationship – The Seeker, Love Is Like a Butterfly, and All I Can Do, Dolly Parton stacked up awards upon awards and became a genuine superstar worldwide.
She won her first Grammy in 1977 with Here You Come Again, and more hits followed.
In the 1980s, Dolly Parton broadened her audience by heading into the film business. She starred alongside Jane Fonda in the 1980 hit comedy 9 to 5, for which she also contributed with the soundtrack. More film appearances followed, and in 1986, she even opened her amusement park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Dolly claims to have written more than 3,000 songs in her career. Meanwhile, she sold over 100 million albums, topped the country chart 25 times, and won a staggering eight Grammy Awards. And she’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“Almost every day I come up with a few song titles or a sweet melody,” Parton told BBC in 2016.
“I’m 16 in some ways. I’m still a hopeless romantic. But I’m 35 in my spirit and in my mind. When I was 35, it was a pinnacle, a great time in my life – success and happiness and all that. And so I just decided ‘I’m gonna claim that number and always be that in my state of mind.’”
While Dolly Parton has conquered the world with her legendary music, songwriting, and incredible live performances, she found the love of her life more than 55 years ago.
Who is Dolly Parton husband, Carl Dean?
In 1964, Dolly met Carl Dean outside the Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, Dolly was 18, and Carl was 21. Straight away, Carl realized there was something exceptional about the young lady.
“My first thought was, ‘I’m gonna marry that girl,’” Dean said in a statement of the moment they met, as quoted by Entertainment Tonight.
“My second thought was, ‘Lord she’s good lookin.’’’ And that was the day my life began. I wouldn’t trade the last 50 years for nothing on this earth.”
Dean was sitting in his pickup truck when he saw Dolly and “hollered” at her, as she recalled in an interview with the NY Times in 1976.
However, she declined a date with him. Instead, she invited him over while babysitting her nephew just days after. It was the start of a love story that never ended.
In May 1966, Dolly Parton and Carl Dean married in a private ceremony in Ringgold, Georgia. Her record label wanted them to wait to get married since she had a career to think about. But Dean and Dolly didn’t want to wait, so they decided to tie the knot in Georgia so that the local press in Tennessee wouldn’t write about it. The only ones in attendance were Dolly, Carl, and her mother.
Ever since then, Dolly and Carl have been deeply in love. However, he never walks the red carpet with her at award shows or charity events: the only time was when his wife received her first songwriting award at 20 years of age.
“After the dinner, we walked back out, and they brought us our car — I don’t even remember what we were driving then — and we got in it and headed for home,” Parton recalled, as quoted by The Boot. “Carl turned to me and said, ‘Dolly, I want you to have everything you want, and I’m happy for you, but don’t you ever ask me to go to another one of them dang things again!’”
The real reason Dolly Parton never had children
In 2016, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary. To mark it, they decided to renew their vows.
“That was sweet,” Dolly Patron told BBC.
“There was no pressure at all. We had our own little ceremony in a little chapel on our property, then we went in our little RV down to Ringgold, Georgia, and spent the night where we had married 50 years before. We took some beautiful pictures and got all dressed up. It was fun really.”
“We’ve always been good buddies. We have a lot of fun and a lot of respect for one another. It was his first marriage and mine and we never thought we’d ever want to do that again. Why bother?”
Dolly Parton has been in show business all her life, so it’s helped her to have the support of her one true love through it all. These days, they can pretty much do whatever they want, and we truly think they deserve it all.
But there’s one thing that Carl and Dolly decided against – having children. Dolly Parton had a straightforward reason for not wanting to have kids: Her career.
If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d be interested too read about why Dolly Parton declined the invite to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Biden
Now, Dolly Parton has turned 77 years of age. But we hope to see her perform in front of her fans – and make albums – for many years to come.
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