Dolly Parton has been around for so long that most of us feel like we know her in and out. Country music’s most honored female artist has been dazzling audiences with her strong vibrato for years. And on top of that, her list of accolades is at least a mile long. But even though we think we know this country legend, there is still so much to learn about the Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum award winner extraordinaire. Click through and see just what you can uncover about the 72 year old starlet.
So, About The Wigs
If there’s one thing anyone knows about Dolly Parton, it’s her obsession with wigs. Even if you’re not a country fan, you know this to be true. Parton loves having her super blonde and super teased. It’s her trademark. But it’s not all for show, nope. The truth is, Dolly Parton just can’t style her real, natural hair. She told People magazine, “I used to try to keep my own hair teased as big as I like it, and having the bleach and all of that, it just broke off.” Her solution? Fake hair. Go on, Queen.
For 51 years, Dolly Parton has called Carl Thomas Dean her husband. Yes, go ahead and cue the AWWs! 51 years is pretty darn extraordinary and some of us can only be so lucky to share in her good fortune in our own love lives. When Parton and Dean celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, they chose to renew their vows. Parton said of the decision, “We’re really proud of our marriage. It’s the first for both of us. And the last.” Granted, for years there has been so much speculation about this duo having an open marriage and questions about Parton’s fidelity has come up numerous times, but it seems as though these crazy kids are leaving the rumors in the past.
When you’re married to a star as big as Dolly Parton, you think you’d jump at the opportunity to enjoy free backstage passes, front row seats to the best shows and unlimited autographs with other famous stars. But get this, Carl (Parton’s husband) doesn’t do any of those things. Additionally, he has only attended ONE of Parton’s own performances. Crazy.
Two Can Play
It’s not surprising that Dolly Parton, an incredibly talented songwriter, has creative energy flowing through at all times. Whether it’s songs or poems, she’s always writing something. But she’s not the only one in the family to do so. Turns out Carl can be quite the romantic and many times, he’s the one writing poems for her!
Forget Cinderella’s fairy godmother because, believe it or not, Dolly Parton is the godmother to singer-songwriter superstar Miley Cyrus. Cyrus has often called Parton her “role model” and not just when it comes to music, but personally as well.
Miley And Dolly
When you’ve got a godmother as cool as Dolly Parton, you experience certain “perks”. Like when Parton made a guest appearance on the Hannah Montana Show! But that’s not all. Parton and Cyrus have collaborated together numerous times to produce some of country music’s most powerful covers. Just listen to these two sing “Jolene” together and you’ll be more than blown away.
After graduating from high school, Parton packed her bags and headed to Nashville where she successfully worked as a songwriter. 1967 is when her big break came – Porter Wagoner, the musician and country music entertainer, invited her onto his show, The Porter Wagoner Show. At first fans were outraged that Parton would appear on the show as the replacement for Norma Jean. However fans quickly changed their minds when Parton dazzled them with her extraordinary talent. Thanks to the show, Parton’s fanbase and success only grew.
Thanks to The Porter Wagoner Show, Dolly Parton wrote one of her most iconic songs, ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Since then, this song has been covered dozens of times by some of the biggest artists around, such as Whitney Houston. In fact, many people are more familiar with Houston’s version of the song that they believe she was the first to release it!
Once upon a time, on a whim, our girl decided to try her hand at none other than a Dolly Parton lookalike contest on Santa Monica. And guys, she didn’t win. Nope, you read that right. She lost her own lookalike contest. Apparently she had overexaggerated her look by making her hair even bigger and her beauty mark bigger too. No one was able to recognize her!
Inspiration can come from some of the most unlikely places and that’s no different when it comes to Parton’s look. Turns out that the vibrant make-up, wild outfits, and massive hair were all inspired by, ahem, “ladies of the night” from her hometown. “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.'” To each their own!
No Place Like Home
As the fourth our of 12 children, Parton and her family grew up “dirt poor.” They faced numerous obstacles in their childhood but her parents always did the best they could. Some of her earlier songs outline her family’s poverty, such as “Coat of Many Colors” and “In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)”. After Parton’s fame skyrocketed, she decided to restore her family home alongside her brother Bobby. This time, they actually added electricity and plumbing.
A Bag Of Grain
When it came to providing for his children, Parton’s dad whatever he had to. A clear example of this was when the great Dolly was born. Her dad traded a bag of grain with the doctor – this was to ensure that the fine doctor would indeed deliver his daughter. What different times.
Too Afraid To Ride
“Dollywood” is Parton’s very own amusement park. With tons of employees and visitors, Parton herself is actually too frightened to ride the rides in her own park! Although she did put on a brace face and ride a small Ferris wheel for a publicity stunt.
Death Threats? No Problem
First of all, Dolly Parton has never held her tongue when it comes to supporting the gay community. Throughout the years, she has been more than generous, making contributions to help LGBT families in the blink of eye. In fact, at Dollywood she chose to make a ‘Gay Day’ so that all LGBT families, and anyone else who wanted to join, could celebrate together. However the KKK was not about to let that happen. They began to send death threats to Parton against her ‘Gay Day’. Instead of canceling the event, Parton ignored the threats and celebrated the event regardless.
As we’ve already said, she is a huge supporter of gay marriage. And in typical Parton style, she had to make a little joke while she was at it, “I always say, ‘Sure — why can’t they get married? They should suffer like the rest of us do!’”
If you’re ever in Dolly’s hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, there is something you just have to see. Her little town is so proud of the success she’s earned that they decided to show their support, pride, and love in the only way they knew how. The town created a 28 foot bronze statue of the star! Plus they have also created a walking tour.
Meh, No Thanks
When her song “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1974 and skyrocketed to the top of the charts, the King of Rock and Roll reached out. Elvis Presley wanted to cover the song and Parton was obviously incredibly honored. However Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s sly manager, stepped in and explained it was procedure for a songwriter to sign over half of their publishing rights to a Presley records. As a result, Dolly Parton outright refused and has gone on to earn millions in royalties.
His Last Day
After spending eight years performing together, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner created a special relationship. So much so that Dolly was there on the day he passed away, she was the last one to see him alive. She recalls the day vividly, “I held his hand, and we prayed… Porter’s soul was already with God. All that was left was a shell.”
No Shame Here
If there’s one more thing Parton is known for, apart from her voice and wigs, it’s her numerous cosmetic surgeries. Ones she has openly admitted to having. She has even said, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” In an interview with The Guardian, Parton explained, “This is just who I am! I may look fake, but I’m real where it counts.” From nips and tucks, Parton has undergone breast implants, a brow lift, eyelid surgery, a face lift, chin augmentation, and rhinoplasty (a nose job).
Oh, Hey, Playboy
Numerous times Playboy magazine approached the country music star to pose nude, however she rejected each offer they gave her. Finally in October 1978, she accepted but under one condition, she would not pose nude. They agreed and Parton featured wearing a bunny costume making her the first ever country singer to pose for Playboy‘s cover. Years later, she spoke of the whole experience, “It was just a fun thing to do…Another way I was trying to market myself, at that time, to get in the mainstream.”
Looking back at Dolly’s roots is quite humbling. Robert, her father was a father while Avie, her mother worked as a hymn singer. Dolly was the fourth kid from 12! Even though the family was large and poor, they had faith and love to keep them going. In an interview with Parade magazine, Dolly said, “It was a hard life, a family with no money. But we had a lot of the important stuff that money don’t buy you anyway.” She added, “Daddy loved Mama and he loved his kids. Mama never loved anybody but my daddy. She married him when she was in the eighth grade. They stayed together and did the best they could.”
Southern Living sat down for an interview with Parton where they asked her about a time capsule she created which is to be opened in 2045. “Oh there’s several things we’re going to be putting in that box! Wood from the porch, and I guess I’m going to be writing a song that’s going to be dragged out way down the road. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give up a song like that!”
Remember how Parton mentioned she added wood from the porch to the time capsule? There’s a beautiful reason behind it. “It just makes me think of Mama and Daddy and my childhood. It’s not just [about] being a star, but [about] who I was then—and who I still am—and the way [my parents] helped mold and shape [my brothers and sisters and me] into the kind of people that we’ve become. It says a lot about that family unit, about the people and the mountains.”
Bullied As A Kid
As a child, Dolly Parton was heavily bullied. The other children were jealous of all the attention she received, Parton had sang in numerous local TV and radio stations causing the bullying to escalate. Once, some of the kids locked her in a coat closet. Nowadays, Parton is dedicated in promoting anti-bullying campaigns.
Makin Fun Ain’t Funny
Back in 2017, Dolly Parton released a new album that was solely aimed to raise awareness surrounding bullying. “The message of the album is for little kids, and it’s for adults too,” she explained. We told you she was amazing!
Talent Runs In The Family
With 12 siblings, we’re not surprised that Dolly isn’t the only Parton with talent. All of the kids sang in the church and over the years, their love for music has only grown. Granted Dolly is the most famous out of the Parton bunch, but others have tasted success. Stella, Freida and Rachel, Dolly’s sisters, have singing careers of their own. Plus, Stella has appeared in the series, The Dukes of Hazzard.
If you have a talent, you must let it shine. But what do you do when don’t have the tools required? When Parton first started out, she played music on a homemade guitar. It wasn’t until her uncle saw her sing when she was eight that he knew she’d be a star someday. So he went out and bought her first ever real guitar – man, what a life-changing decision that turned out to be!
Southern Living inquired if Dolly had a particular memory that she always carried with her. “I’ve always been proud of who I was and of my people. I was proud of where I was from. Some people want to get away, to move and get out and don’t even want to be reminded, but that’s not me. And the older I get, the more sappy I get about my childhood.”
In her interview with Southern Living, Parton was asked whether she thinks the term “hillbilly” is an insult or compliment? As she’s been called one many times in her career. “Well, it’s a compliment to me. I mean we were really Hill. Billies. To me that’s not an insult. We were just mountain people. We were really redneck, roughneck, hillbilly people. And I’m proud of it.” Glad to see that Dolly has remained so humble in her lifetime, it’s refreshing.
On the other hand, some people have referred to her as “White trash!” Her response? “I am. People always say ‘Aren’t you insulted when people call you white trash?’ I say, ‘Well it depends on who’s calling me white trash and how they mean it.’ But we really were to some degree. Because when you’re that poor and you’re not educated, you fall in those categories. But I’m proud of my hillbilly, white trash background. To me that keeps you humble; that keeps you good. And it doesn’t matter how hard you try to outrun it—if that’s who you are, that’s who you are. It’ll show up once in a while.”
The Truth Behind Jolene
If you have never listened to “Jolene” then you need to so immediately. Good? Great, let’s carry on. Here’s the truth about that oh-so famous hit song of hers, it’s inspired by a real-life event. Early on in her and Carl’s marriage, there was a a redheaded bank teller who had a “terrible crush” on Carl. The crush then became a running joke between the duo. Amazing to think that that’s all it took to inspire one of the greatest songs around.
We won’t list all of Dolly Parton’s accolades, but only because we’d be chatting for hours She has seriously earned so much in her life. Here’s a special few: nine Grammy Awards (47 nominations), 10 Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy Country Music Awards, and three American Music Awards. Moreover she’s just one of seven female artists to have won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award.
Bit of A Butterfly Obsession
Now here’s a special fact, Parton is obsessed with butterflies! Heck, it was her love for butterflies that inspired her 1974 album, ‘Love Is Like A Butterfly’. Moreover she featured the winged beauties on her album covers too. Did we mention this is about her husband? She does sing, “Love is like a butterfly, as soft and gentle as a sigh. The multicolored moods of love are like it’s satin wings. Love makes your heart feel strange inside. It flutters like soft wings in flight.”
First, I’m A Songwriter
We’ve hinted on it before, but Parton always considers herself a songwriter first. So just how many songs has she written to date? Oh yah, just over 3,000! Yeah, let that settle in. Her most popular songs include “I Will Always Love You”, “Jolene”, “Coat of Many Colors”, and “9 to 5”. Plus she’s just one of few artists to have been nominated for Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, and Emmy Awards. Slay girl, slay.
Stormzy, who is an English grime and hip hop artist, recently reviewed Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” on Twitter and the results are just hilarious. “Nah Dolly Parton was spitting some real real pain on Jolene,” he said. “And Jolene sounds like she’s the baddest b to ever walk this planet.” He’s got that right!
From singing in the church as a kid to featuring on local radio and TV stations, Dolly Parton knew she’d be a star one day. She just knew. At age 13(!), she recorded her first single, “Puppy Love,” on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records. Shortly after and Dolly was appearing on country’s most coveted stage, the Grand Ole Opry. This was where she first met the legendary Johnny Cash and he was the one to encourage her to follow her instincts and carry on pursuing her dreams of becoming an incredible singer and songwriter.
Speaking of Johnny Cash, he left a lasting impression on the star. Apart from pushing her to pursue her dreams, Cash was also Parton’s first crush. She spoke of the first time she ever saw him play, “I was sitting in the audience and that’s when I first knew about sex appeal… he had this tick when he moved his shoulder… and it was still sexy. It still got to me.”
You’d be wrong if you thought Dolly was just a singer and songwriter (a talented one at that). Parton is super business savvy, early on in her life, she created Velvet Apple Music (BMI), which allowed her to own the copyrights and publishing of her songs. Additionally, she started her own record label, Dolly Records, in 2007.
The Imagination Library
In 1995, she began the book distribution project “The Imagination Library”. Dolly was inspired to start this project because of her own father’s inability to read and write. Therefore she started a drive which donates books to children under age 5, with the sole intention of getting them to love with books and reading. Not long after and the initiative was in Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
At one point, Dolly felt it was necessary to walk around in public completely disguised. Just like most celebrities, she wanted to be able to walk the streets without anyone recognizing her. She would use different wigs and makeup but it just didn’t always work. Someone always recognized her. ‘A’ for effort, though.
It’s no secret that kids can often see more than adults can. “Once I was going Christmas shopping. I did my makeup completely different with dark eyebrows, and wore a short black wig, and wore different clothes than I would normally wear,” Parton said. “I said something, and this group of kids said, ‘You’re Dolly Parton in a black wig!'” That voice of hers is a dead giveaway.
Just like her wigs and outfits, makeup is another Dolly Parton trademark. Although she tends to do most of it all on her own. “[When asked if she does her own makeup] Um, too much of it. Sometimes if I’m doing photo shoots or movies or such, they’ll use some other people. But I usually sneak off in the dressing room and re-do it. [laughs] ‘Cause I have a certain way I like to look. And if I don’t have my eyes a certain way or my lips a certain way, I’m just not comfortable, so I go play in it.”
That Famous Bust
Okay, there’s no easy way to say this so let’s not beat around the bust. Dolly Parton is well known for her bust! And she isn’t ashamed by it at all either. “My boobs are fake, my hair’s fake but what is real is my voice and my heart.”
4 feet and 9 inches, that’s how tall she is! We know, she’s shorter than you thought. Crazy. This tiny frame of hers only makes her chest larger than life. Speaking of the twins, they reach a size of 40DD. GULP. Moreover her bosom is insured for a staggering $300,000…each. Dang, that’s all we gotta say.
For 30 years, Dolly has been strutting her rather large chest but she did make a decision to tone it down. According to Contact Music, she was suffering from intense back pain for many years because of the size of her breasts. “My boobs are killing me – and I don’t know if I can stand the pain any longer. My boobs have been a trademark for me – but I’ve paid one hell of a price.”
Heart of the Matter
For years, there has been much speculation about Dolly’s loyalty to her husband, Carl. Okay, more than just a little speculation. Rumors fly around like crazy that she is not faithful. The Daily Mail said that Parton once said, “I love to flirt, and I’ve never met a man I didn’t like. Men are my weakness. Short, fat, bald or skinny – I’ve had crushes on some very unusual men but Carl knows I’ll always come home and I’m not having sex with these people – I’m just flirtin’ and having fun.”
Besties For Life
There were even rumors floating around about Dolly and her best friend, Judy Ogle. People kept raising the question if Dolly and Judy were more than friends or if maybe, just maybe, Parton was bisexual. Dolly responded to the allegations by saying, “Judy and I have been best friends since we were like in the third and fourth grade. I mean, I love her as much as I love anybody in the whole world, but we’re not romantically involved.” Was that enough to squash the rumors? NO.
The rumor mill just keeps on spinning. A story once broke that Dolly Parton, Judy Ogle (her best friend), and Sylvester Stallone (her co-star from the film Rhinestone) had a very passionate threesome. None of the three ever confirmed nor denied the rumors.
For a while, Dolly has stated that she should feel regret for not having children. In an interview with ABC News, Dolly says, “I used to think I should regret it. Early on, when my husband and I were dating, and then when we got married, we just assumed we would have kids. We weren’t doing anything to stop it. In fact, we thought maybe we would. We even had names if we did, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
Let’s stick to that last fact for a minute. Why doesn’t Dolly want children? “I was starting my menopause and feeling guilty about my success. Maybe I was thinking that I’d been selfish not to have had children.” Additionally she that it was not in God’s plan for her to have children. Parton also told ABS News that “God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine. My younger brothers and sisters lived with me and Carl for many years — and we’re very close to our nieces and nephews.”
When it comes to Dolly’s style, many people poke fun. But she doesn’t care, she loves how she looks. Parton feels confident in her looks and even if it comes off as silly, she knows her fans also love how she looks. Say what you want about the country music star but she is made of thick skin.
For years, Dolly has wanted to look just as pretty as Barbie does. Especially coming from a poor family, this was always a dream of hers. She even wrote ‘Backwards Barbie’ because of this desire. The lyrics read, “I wanted to be pretty more than anything in the world, like Barbie. From rags to wishes in my dreams I could have it all. I’m just a backwoods Barbie, too much makeup, too much hair. Don’t be fooled by thinkin’ that the goods are not there.”
There are a few rumors floating that Dolly Parton is secretly covered in tattoos and that’s why she always covers her arms. Yeah, we know how that sounds. In an interview, she confirmed that does “have a few little tattoos, but they were mostly done to cover scars because I’m so fair.” Let’s hope that puts this rumor to bed already.
Long before Dolly knew how to write, she was writing music! Her mom would help her write all of the lyrics as they came pouring out of young Dolly. The very first song she ever wrote is called “Little Tiny Tasseltop.” A few lyrics go, “Little tiny tasseltop, I love you an awful lot. Corn silk hair and big brown eyes, How you make me smile.”
To date, Dolly claims to have written more than 5,000 songs. Although not all have been released. (Guys, I can barely write a shopping list!) Oh, Dolly even takes her birthday off just so she can write new music! In fact, she tries to write a new song every two or three days. Wild.
Undoubtedly “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” are Dolly Partons’s biggest hits. Although we’re sure you knew that already. But did you know she wrote BOTH songs on the EXACT same night in 1973? That just blows my mind.
Islands in the Stream
Back when Dolly Parton and Kenny rogers first released their duet, “Islands in the Stream”, it didn’t take long for it to rank as the #1 duet of all time on the CMT 100 greatest country duets! Although neither Parton or Rogers wrote the song. Nope. The Bee Gees did!
With 11 siblings, you’d thing tensions would run high in the family. However that’s not the case, all of the Parton’s are very close! Although we have to say that Dolly’s fame caused some tension with her sister Stella. Heck, Stella even wrote about their iffy relationship in her tell all book. As Dolly was getting more famous, Stella felt pushed aside, she said “Dolly found every reason in the world to keep me as far away as possible and over the years I finally gave up and let her have it.”
Nothing But A Rumor
Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus’s dad and the singer of ‘Achy Breaky Heart’, credits none other than Dolly Parton for kick-starting his career! After he released his first studio album, he was chosen to open for a few of Parton’s concerts. And BAM. The rumor mill went into overdrive, claiming that Parton and Cyrus were more than just friends. I mean, the two hadn’t even met face to face! When they did eventually meet, Cyrus began to apologize for all the rumors and Dolly replied, “Honey, that sh*t sells records!”
Not Far Off
Many say that Dolly and her sister Stella look very much alike! And we have to agree. Turns out that Stella is also a singer who recently released a new album, ‘Mountain Songbird’. This album was actually inspired by Dolly! During an interview, Stella explained, “I did do this for her, it’s 11 of her songs and then one that I wrote with her, and that’s the new song out right now, called ‘More Power to ‘Ya’.”
Back in 1998, actress Drew Barrymore spoke about her film, Home Fries before it was released. She revealed that her character was a massive fan of Dolly Parton. Moreover Barrymore mentioned that many of Parton’s songs would appear in the film, they did after all spend a two-day shoot at Dollywood. However when the film was released, the Dolly Parton references were slim – only some posters and pictures on Drew’s bedroom wall.
Having A Laugh
Dolly has been known to have a n incredible sense of humor. She’s always making people laugh. Like when she said, “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde.” Oh, and what about, “I was the first woman to burn my bra – it took the fire department four days to put it out.” Oh my.
In 1995, the first mammal was successfully cloned! Scientists cloned a domestic sheep while they used nuclear transfer – whatever that means. But why should we care? Because they named the sheep after Dolly! Ian Wilmut, the man who cloned the sheep, explained, “Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn’t think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton’s.”
When Dolly learned how the sheep got its name, she was flattered. Saying the following, “she was called after me because she had big mammary glands. She gave me a lot of competition… but I always said there’s no such thing as baaad publicity.”
A Bridge Too
A sheep being named after your bosom is, uhh, nice and all but that’s not the only thing that was named after Dolly Parton and her bust. Turns out a bridge was too! The General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge, or the Dolly Parton Bridge, is located in Mobile, Alabama. The picture is self explanatory.
Dolly Parton has a ton of nicknames. Tons. Including The Smoky Mountain Songbird, The Iron Butterfly, The Queen of Country, The Backwoods Barbie, The Queen of Nashville, The Book Lady, The Leading Lady of Country, and Aunt Granny. Yeah, that’s quite a few nicknames!
Thick And Thin Skin
Let’s be real, there’s a lot we can learn from Dolly Parton. Especially when it comes to life, love and everything in between. She has taught us that having a thick skin keeps bad words and bad vibes out of your reach. She has taught us that we can love whoever we want and that it’s the most rewarding thing we can do. Parton has previously said, “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” That’s so true.
During an interview, Parton revealed, “My music is what took me everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I will go. It’s my greatest love. I can’t abandon it. I’ll always keep making records”. She really so passionate about what she does.