Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton
Photo: Gems/Redferns

Dolly Parton was born on 19 January 1946 in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in Pittman Center, Tennessee. The fourth of 12 children born to Avie Lee Caroline and Robert Lee Parton Sr, her father was a subsistence farmer and construction worker, and her mother was a homemaker for their large family. Her 11 pregnancies between 1939 and 1959 made her a mother of 12 by the age of 35.

Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she recorded the single “Puppy Love” on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her own instincts regarding her career.

In 1967, country star Porter Wagoner invited Dolly to join his company, offering her a regular spot on his weekly TV series The Porter Wagoner Show, and in his live road show. Wagoner convinced his label, RCA Victor, to sign her. They recorded several albums and singles together, and became one of the country’s most popular and successful double acts.

From 1974 to 1980, she consistently charted in the country Top 10, with eight singles reaching number-one. Parton had her own syndicated television variety show, Dolly! (1976–77). During this period, Parton began to embark on a high-profile crossover campaign, attempting to aim her music in a more mainstream direction and increase her visibility outside of the confines of country music.

As a songwriter she gave herself the 1976 hit single “Jolene”, and the 1981 US number-one single “9 to 5” and also wrote “I Will Always Love You” a US Country number-one for her in 1974 and the worldwide chart topper for Whitney Houston in 1992.

Dolly Parton is smart. I’ve not read that anywhere – I’ve come to that conclusion myself. Most singers, songwriters are glad of a hit, top 20 would be good, top 10 even better and of course a number one would be fantastic. After a chart topper, the pressure is off, you’re successful, you’ve sold a million records, the follow-up will sell OK, even if its not as good. It’s all money in the bank.

Then you get the occasional lucky songwriter who will write a song that is massive. Lennon and McCartney did it; Jagger and Richards, Smokey Robinson, Bert Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Brian Wilson have all done it. Hang on a minute; I’ve just noticed that they’re all men? No lady songwriters amongst them? Well there is of course Carole King and Dolly Parton.

Parton wrote one of the all-time greatest ever ballads in “I Will Always Love You”, written as a farewell to her former partner and mentor of seven years, country singer Porter Wagoner, following Parton’s decision to pursue a solo career. The song became a country number-one. Dolly then re-recorded the song to be included on the soundtrack of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The song also appeared in Martin Scorsese’s film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and later in the 1996 film It’s My Party.

In 1973 Elvis Presley was said to be keen on covering the song, and Parton was interested in the idea until Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her that it was standard procedure for the songwriter to sign over half of the publishing rights to any song Elvis recorded. Parton refused. Talking about the event Parton recalled; “I said, ‘I’m really sorry,’ and I cried all night. It was like the worst thing. You know, it’s like, Oh, my God Elvis Presley.’ And other people were saying, ‘You’re nuts. It’s Elvis Presley.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that. Something in my heart says, ‘Don’t do that. And I just didn’t do it. He would have killed it. But anyway, so he didn’t. Then when Whitney’s version came out, I made enough money to buy Graceland.”

Whitney Houston recorded the song for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, her 1992 film debut after her co-star Kevin Costner played her Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 version from her album Prisoner in Disguise, (Houston was originally to record Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” but it was discovered the song was to be used for the film Fried Green Tomatoes). Houston’s version spent a record breaking 14 weeks a-top of the US chart becoming Arista Records’ biggest ever hit.

Parton isn’t just an old fashioned American entertainer, songwriter, singer who has had her own TV show, and has appeared in over a dozen films – she’s a small industry! Pay a visit to Dolly and you’re drawn into the singer’s world.

Parton is a co-owner of The Dollywood Company, which operates the theme park Dollywood a dinner theatre, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and the waterpark Dollywood’s Splash Country, all in Pigeon Forge.

Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library a part of the Dollywood Foundation, sends one book per month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten.

Parton has had 25 songs reach number-one on the Billboard country music charts, 41 career top-10 country albums, (a record for any artist), and she has composed over 3,000 songs since the age of seven.

With a career that spans nearly five decades, she is the most celebrated solo country female artist of all-time. During her appearance at the Glastonbury Music Festival in 2014, Parton was presented with a plaque, commemorating her outstanding achievements in music-making with over 100 million records sold worldwide.

Parton has been married to the same man for over 50 years. On May 30, 1966, Parton and Carl Thomas Dean tied the knot in Ringgold, Georgia. Dean, who before retirement ran an asphalt road-paving business in Nashville, has always shunned publicity and rarely accompanies his wife to any events. According to Parton, during all the time they’ve been together – he has seen her perform in concert just once!

Important Dates In The Life Of Dolly Parton:

On this day in music
4 Mar 2023
American bass player Michael Rhodes died of pancreatic cancer age 69. He was best known for his session work and touring in support of other artists including Steve Winwood, Larry Carlton, the Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, J.J. Cale, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, and Kenny Chesney. He was also an active sideman in recordings and touring of Joe Bonamassa.
3 Mar 2023
American musician David Lindley died age 78. He founded the rock band El Rayo-X and worked with many other performers including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, Curtis Mayfield and Dolly Parton. He mastered such a wide variety of instruments that Acoustic Guitar magazine referred to him as a "maxi-instrumentalist." On stage, Lindley was known for wearing garishly colored polyester shirts with clashing pants, gaining the nickname the Prince of Polyester.
30 Jan 2022
American session keyboard player Hargus "Pig" Robbins died at the age of 84. He was blind, having poked himself in the eye with a knife at age three and later learned to play piano at age seven, while attending the Nashville School for the Blind. He played his first session in 1957, with his first major recording being George Jones's 'White Lightning'. Robbins played on records for many artists, including Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Rogers, Charlie Rich, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler, Merle Haggard and Roger Miller.
23 Oct 2020
American country music singer and songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker died of throat cancer age 78. He wrote 'Mr Bojangles' a hit for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970. Since then Walker's song has been recorded by many popular artists, including Garth Brooks, Chet Atkins, Jim Croce, Jamie Cullum, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Elton John, Don McLean and Dolly Parton.
22 Jun 2019
American drummer and record producer Jerry Carrigan died age 75. He first achieved widespread recognition by being part of the first wave of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and later as a first-call session musician in Nashville for over three decades. He recorded with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Kenny Rogers Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Stevens and Dolly Parton.
1 Mar 2019
Country Music Hall of Fame member Fred Foster died age 87. He is credited as producer behind all of Roy Orbison’s biggest hits including ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’, ‘Only the Lonely’, and ‘Crying’ and also produced major hits for Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Ray Stevens and Kris Kristofferson.
13 Jun 2018
Legendary Elvis Presley drummer D.J. Fontana died peacefully at his home age 87. Before joining guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black in Presley's backing band the Blue Moon Boys, Dominic Joseph Fontana worked as the house drummer for his hometown of Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride working with the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Steve Young, Melba Montgomery, Norma Jean, Vassar Clements, Carl Butler and other country artists.
23 Feb 2017
Jay Z was set to become first rapper inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame. Previous inductees include Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson. But no rapper had ever made the cut before. Jay Z would be inducted as part of the hall's class of 2017 alongside Max Martin, who has written songs for Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande.
28 Oct 2007
Country musician Porter Wagoner died in Nashville aged 80 from lung cancer. Wagoner helped launch the career of Dolly Parton and had his own US TV show, which ran for 21 years until 1981. Wagoner signed his first record deal in 1955, and had hits including 'Carroll County Accident' and 'Green Green Grass of Home'.
22 Feb 2004
Norah Jones started a six-week run at No.1 on the US album chart with 'Feels Like Home', the singer's second US No.1. The album's lead single, won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. 'Creepin' In', featuring Dolly Parton, was also nominated for a Grammy, in the category of Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
22 Apr 2003
Songwriter Felice Bryant died of cancer. Wrote many hits with her husband Boudleaux including; The Everly Brothers, 'Bye Bye Love', 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', 'Wake Up Little Susie' and 'Raining In My Heart' a hit for Buddy Holly. Other acts to record their song include Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Simon And Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ruth Brown, Cher, R.E.M. and Ray Charles.
3 Jul 2001
American singer, songwriter Johnny Russell died aged 61. Wrote 'Act Naturally' covered by The Beatles and Buck Owens. Jim Reeves, Jerry Garcia, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt all covered his songs.
5 Dec 1992
Whitney Houston started a ten-week run at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'I Will Always Love You'. The longest ever run at No.1 for a female artist the Dolly Parton penned song was taken from the Bodyguard soundtrack.
28 Nov 1992
Whitney Houston started a record-breaking fourteen-week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'I Will Always Love You', taken from the 'Bodyguard' soundtrack. The song was written by Dolly Parton.
25 Jun 1987
Songwriter Boudleaux Bryant died. Wrote with his wife Felice, The Everly Brothers hits, 'Bye Bye Love', 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', 'Wake Up Little Susie' and 'Raining In My Heart' a hit for Buddy Holly. Other acts to record their song include Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Simon And Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, Ruth Brown, Cher, R.E.M. and Ray Charles.
29 Oct 1983
'Islands In The Stream', gave Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers a No.1 on the US singles chart. The song was written by The Bee Gees and co-produced by Barry Gibb.
2 May 1981
Scottish singer Sheena Easton started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Morning Train (9 to 5)'. The title of the song was changed to avoid any confusion with the Dolly Parton hit '9 to 5', in the same year.
21 Feb 1981
Dolly Parton started a two week run at No.1 on the US charts with '9 to 5', the singer's first No.1 hit. The track was taken from the 1980 comedy film of the same name. The song garnered Parton an Academy Award nomination and four Grammy Award nominations, winning her the awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. For a time, the song became something of an anthem for office workers in the US.
8 Jun 1974
Dolly Parton was at No.1 on the US country chart with 'I Will Always Love You'. Elvis Presley indicated that he wanted to cover the song. Parton was interested until Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her that it was standard procedure for the songwriter to sign over half of the publishing rights to any song Elvis recorded. Parton refused. 'I Will Always Love You' later became a worldwide No.1 hit for Whitney Houston in 1992 when featured in The Bodyguard.
6 Jun 1974
RCA Records released 'I Will Always Love You' by Dolly Parton, the second single from Parton's thirteenth solo studio album, Jolene. Recorded on June 13, 1973, the singer wrote the song for her one-time partner and mentor Porter Wagoner, from whom she was professionally splitting at the time.
17 Jun 1973
Dolly Parton recorded 'I Will Always Love You' in RCA's Studio "B" in Nashville. Written for her one-time partner and mentor, Porter Wagoner, (the two were splitting professionally at the time). The song was later a world-wide hit for Whitney Houston.
20 Apr 1959
Goldband Records released 'Puppy Love' by a 13-year old Dolly Parton in the US, a song that was recorded two years earlier when she was just eleven years old. The song didn't chart.


  1. Mel Chivers

    January 19, 2020 at 4:48 am

    L and my wife love your music we listen to you. ALL THE TIME we do karaoke alot i do country love songs by Kieth Whitley, Jose turner, Randy Travis,and a lot of the older country that i feel where it began

    With all our love Mel Chivers &Kristen Kok(coke)

  2. Michele Voigt

    January 19, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Happy Birthday Dolly, we Shaw this special day!!!

  3. Rhonda Alvarez

    January 19, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Happy birthday

  4. Margaret

    January 19, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    I watched all of your Netflix episodes of the Heartstrings series. I’ve listened to your music all my life. Happy Birthday, Dolly! You have been anointed, just like the Bone Lady said!

  5. Marvin Evans

    January 20, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Happy Birthday to the love of TENNESSEE. She is simply what our state is all about. Country born and raised to love all, help all in need, put your faith and trust in our LORD & SAVIOR.

  6. rachel frampton

    November 9, 2020 at 8:46 am

    My mother loves Dolly Parton so much, which is why I’m planning to bring her to a family theme park. Well, it’s just interesting to learn the Dolly made her breakthrough in the year 1967. It’s also interesting to learn that she consistently charted in the country starting from 1970 to 1980.


    January 19, 2022 at 5:59 pm


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