Dolly Parton is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist, known primarily for her work in country music.
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1. Dolly Rebecca Parton was born January 19, 1946 in Sevier County, Tennessee.
2. She is the fourth of twelve children of Robert Lee Parton (1921–2000), a farmer and construction worker, and his wife Avie Lee (née Owens; 1923–2003).
3. Parton’s middle name comes from her maternal great-great grandmother, Rebecca (Dunn) Whitted (1861–1930).
4. She has described her family as being “dirt poor.”
5. Parton’s father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of oatmeal.
6. She outlined her family’s poverty in her early songs “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad).”
7. They lived in a rustic, one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, just north of the Greenbrier Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, a predominantly Pentecostal area.
8. Music played an important role in her early life.
9. She was brought up in the Church of God, the church her grandfather, Jake Robert Owens (1899–1992) pastored.
10. Her earliest public performances were in the church, beginning at age six.
11. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar. When she was eight years old, her uncle gave her her first real guitar.
12. Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the Eastern Tennessee area.
13. By ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee.
14. At thirteen, she was recording (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.
15. The day after she graduated from high school in 1964, she moved to Nashville.
16. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival, with her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two top ten hits: Bill Phillips’s 1966 record “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” and Skeeter Davis’ 1967 hit “Fuel to the Flame.”
17. Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr..
18. She signed with Monument Records in 1965, at 19, where she was initially pitched as a bubblegum pop singer.
19. She released a string of singles, but the only one that charted, “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby,” did not crack the Billboard Hot 100.
20. Although she expressed a desire to record country material, Monument resisted, thinking her unique voice with its strong vibrato was not suited to the genre.
21. It was only after her composition, “Put It Off Until Tomorrow,” as recorded by Bill Phillips (and with Parton, uncredited, on harmony), went to No. 6 on the country chart in 1966, that the label relented and allowed her to record country.
22. Her first country single, “Dumb Blonde” (composed by Curly Putman, one of the few songs during this era that she recorded but did not write), reached No. 24 on the country chart in 1967, followed by “Something Fishy,” which went to No. 17.
23. The two songs appeared on her first full-length album, Hello, I’m Dolly.
24. Non-musical ventures include Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and her efforts on behalf of childhood literacy, particularly her Imagination Library, as well as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.
25. With steady success during the remainder of the 1960s (both as a solo artist, and with a series of duet albums with Porter Wagoner), her sales and chart peak came during the 1970s and continuing into the 1980s.
26. Parton’s subsequent albums in the later part of the 1990s were lower in sales.
27. However, in the new millennium, Parton achieved commercial success again and has released albums on independent labels since 2000, including albums on her own label, Dolly Records.
28. Parton is the most honored female country performer of all time.
29. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts, a record for a female artist.
30. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years.
31. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, and digital downloads during her career have topped 100 million worldwide.
32. She has garnered eight Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, ten Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and is one of only seven female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award.
33. Parton has received 46 Grammy nominations.
34. In 1999, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has composed over 3,000 songs, notably “I Will Always Love You” (a two-time U.S. country chart-topper for Parton, as well as an international pop hit for Whitney Houston), “Jolene”, “Coat of Many Colors”, and “9 to 5”.
35. She is also one of the few to have received at least one nomination from the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Emmy Awards.
36. As an actress, she starred in films such as 9 to 5, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, and Steel Magnolias.
37. On May 30, 1966, Parton and Carl Thomas Dean (born July 20, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee) were married in Ringgold, Georgia.
38. Although Parton does not use Dean’s surname professionally, she has stated that her passport says “Dolly Parton Dean” and that she sometimes uses Dean when signing contracts.
39. Dean, who is retired from running an asphalt road-paving business in Nashville, has always shunned publicity and rarely accompanies his wife to any events.
40. According to Parton, he has seen her perform only once.
41. However, she has also commented in interviews that, although it appears they spend little time together, it is simply that nobody sees him publicly.
42. She has commented on Dean’s romantic side, saying that he does spontaneous things to surprise her and sometimes even writes poems for her.
43. Parton and Dean helped raise several of Parton’s younger siblings in Nashville, leading her nieces and nephews to refer to her as “Aunt Granny”, a moniker that later lent its name to one of Parton’s Dollywood restaurants.
44. The couple have no children of their own but Parton is the godmother of performer Miley Cyrus.
45. In 2011, the couple celebrated their 45th anniversary.
46. Later, Parton said, “We’re really proud of our marriage. It’s the first for both of us. And the last.”
47. On May 6, 2016, Parton announced that she and her husband would renew their vows in honor of their fiftieth wedding anniversary later in the month.
48. Parton has turned down several offers to pose for Playboy magazine, although she did appear on the cover of Playboy’s October 1978 issue wearing a Playboy bunny outfit, complete with ears (the October 1978 Playboy issue featured Lawrence Grobel’s extensive and candid interview with Parton, representing one of her earliest high profile interviews with the mainstream press).
49. The association of breasts with Parton’s public image is illustrated in the naming of Dolly the sheep after her, since the sheep was cloned from a cell taken from an adult ewe’s mammary gland.
50. In Mobile, Alabama, the General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge is commonly referred to by a nickname, “the Dolly Parton Bridge,” due to its arches resembling Parton’s chest.
51. She is also known for having undergone considerable plastic surgery.
52. She supports gay marriage. On gay marriage, Parton said, “I always say, ‘Sure — why can’t they get married? They should suffer like the rest of us do!’”
53. She once lost a Dolly Parton lookalike contest. “I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage. I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think,” she said.