Dolly Parton's Story
Most artists are satisfied having topped the music charts or made their way onto the silver screen. That's not the case with Dolly Parton. She's conquered both-and then some. And, her success in both is so widespread that she's known around the world as simply Dolly.
Born January 19, 1946, in tiny Locust Ridge, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains, little Dolly Rebecca Parton had big dreams. The fourth of 12 children born to Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton, Dolly began writing songs when she was just a little girl. By the age of nine, she had appeared on WSEV radio in Sevierville, Tenn. By age 10, she was a regular on nearby Knoxville television's "Cas Walker Show."
With determination and a cardboard suitcase full of songs, Dolly headed for Nashville the day after her high school graduation destined to realize her dreams. She met her husband-to-be, Carl Dean, on the very first afternoon she was in town. They were married two years later in May 1966. One year later, after working as a demo singer on Nashville's famed Music Row, Porter Wagoner chose Dolly to replace his then "girl singer" Norma Jean on his syndicated television show in 1967. Soon audiences and the music industry knew that Dolly was a force to be reckoned with.
Acting & Singing Career
Dolly left the Porter Wagoner Show in 1974, but not before she and Porter would claim two Country Music Association (CMA) Awards for Duo of the Year. Dolly soon found her wings as a solo artist. In 1969, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She would go on to win CMA Female Vocalist of the Year honors two years in a row (1975 & 1976), and in 1978, Dolly was named Entertainer of the Year.
With talent that knows no boundaries, Dolly took a turn at acting. Not only did she appear in the highly successful 1980 film 9 to 5, she also was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Having been bitten by the acting bug, Dolly followed with starring roles in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982); Rhinestone (1984); Steel Magnolias (1989); and Straight Talk (1992). She even has her own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Dolly never abandoned her first loves-singing and songwriting. She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and won countless awards including eight CMA and seven Grammy Awards. She has taken more than 20 songs to No. 1 including the mega hit "I Will Always Love You" which is the only song to have topped the charts three times-twice for Dolly (1973 & 1982) and once for Whitney Houston (1992). She won a 1999 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration (with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt) for "After the Goldrush." After returning to the music of her roots-bluegrass-Dolly received critical acclaim for her album The Grass Is Blue. In 2000, it won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. The following year, she took home a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Shine" from her Little Sparrow album.
In 1999, she received the highest honor bestowed upon a country music performer when she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
A successful author, Dolly has written two books—an autobiography entitled Dolly Parton: My Life and Other Unfinished Business and a children’s book, Coat of Many Colors. In 2006, Dolly shared some of her favorite recipes with her fans with the release of her cookbook Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s. Not only has Dolly written books, to countless children, she is known simply as “the book lady.” Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library inspires children to “Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More!” by providing children in participating communities with a book each month from birth until age five. The Imagination Library was launched in 1996 for preschool-age children in Parton’s native Sevier County. It has since expanded, currently operating in nearly 600 communities in 44 states. In his February 2006 State of the State address, Tenn. Gov. Phil Bredesen announced matching funds in Dolly’s home state for communities that wish to sponsor the program. The Imagination Library is now replicated in all 95 counties in Tennessee. In 2006, Dolly realized yet another dream when the Imagination Library expanded into Canada.
After a decade hiatus from touring, Dolly hit the road in 2002 for her highly successful Halos and Horns tour. In November 2003, she released For God & Country, a collection of patriotic and gospel songs. Dolly released Live and Well in 2004, a two-cd and -dvd set recorded at Dollywood. It was followed by Those Were the Days in 2005, Dolly’s first full cover album in 20 years, featuring duets with the likes of Judy Collins, Keith Urban, Norah Jones and many more. In 2004, Dolly hit the road yet again for her Hello, I’m Dolly tour followed by The Vintage Tour in 2005. Dolly takes her music to Europe in 2007, marking her first overseas tour since 2002.
The accolades recognizing Dolly’s talents and philanthropic contributions continue. In December 2006, Dolly was one of six Kennedy Center honorees recognized for their outstanding career contributions to American culture. Later that month, Dolly was voted Tennessean of the Year by Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper readers. In addition to her musical accomplishments, many voters cited Dolly’s Imagination Library among her most worthy achievements.
That determined little girl from the mountains of East Tennessee carries on with no signs of slowing down. Dolly promises that she’ll never retire. And, she says that not a day goes by that she doesn’t write. With mountains left to conquer, Dolly is still a force to be reckoned with—and then some.