If you’ve been around in the past decade or five, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the legendary Dolly Parton. Whether it’s her music, her witty down-to-earth character or her namesake theme park, we can basically all agree that we love the country music star/pop culture icon/Smoky Mountain mogul.
Dolly Parton’s rags-to-riches story has inspired masses as has her long-lasting marriage and philanthropic work. Her perfect combination of wholesome charm and cheeky humor add to her timeless allure as one of Nashville and Hollywood’s most humble, hardworking and kind-hearted stars. You know of her songs and her hair, but how much do you actually know about the larger-than-life superstar who, with her guitar in hand and a wig on her purdy ‘lil head, took the world by storm? Read on to find out!
1. Scientists Named the World’s First Cloned Mammal After Her
In 1995, scientists successfully cloned the first mammal from an adult cell. The cloned animal was a sheep named Dolly and the developments made headlines around the world. But what inspired the experts to name the wooly clone after the country music legend?
Hint: It wasn’t her monumental career or her altruistic nature. English embryologist Ian Wilmut explained that Dolly the sheep was created from a mammary gland cell, so it felt quite fitting to bestow the name Dolly as a tribute. Now that’s quite the explanation!
2. She Came from a Family of 12 Children
Before she became one of the biggest and most glamorous stars in showbiz, Dolly Parton came from humble beginnings. Raised in rural Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, Parton was the fourth of 12 children in a family that faced extreme poverty.
Apparently, the family was so strapped for cash back then that they had to pay the doctor who delivered baby Dolly with a bag of oatmeal. Parton has been candid about her childhood, saying: “We didn’t have any electricity … if fireflies were out, we’d catch them in a mason jar and put them in our bedroom!”
3. She’s Been Married to Her Husband for More than 50 Years
A day after graduating high school, Dolly Parton packed her bags for Nashville. The next day, she met Carl Dean. The two said “I Will Always Love You” to each other in 1966 and have been going strong ever since. Dean, who runs an asphalt road-paving business in Tennessee is known for avoiding the limelight.
“He’s good for me, because he’s so different in nature from me,” Parton has explained about her longtime spouse.”We’re really proud of our marriage. It’s the first for both of us. And the last.” Well, ain’t that just the darn sweetest thing!
4. The Real Inspiration Behind ‘Jolene’
One of Dolly Parton’s most famous songs is “Jolene,” a song that describes a woman with “flaming locks of auburn hair.” Now when you’re the buxom blonde Queen of Country, we doubt that there’s really any competition. However, there is a good story behind the song’s lyrics.
Parton told NPR that the song was inspired by a redheaded bank teller who had a “terrible crush” on her husband. “It was kinda like a running joke between us…I was saying, ‘Hell, you’re spending a lot of time at the bank. I don’t believe we’ve got that kind of money,” she quipped in her signature witty style.
5. She Got her Big Break in Nashville
At age 10 Dolly Parton was already a child performer on local radio and television. She started recording with small music label at age 13 and moved to Nashville the day after graduating high school. In 1967, at the age of 19, she got her big break on The Porter Wagoner Show.
“I always wanted to be a star. It just seemed natural to me,” she has said reflecting on her journey to fame. Sporting her iconic big hair and even bigger personality the bombshell songstress stayed on the show as Wagoner’s sidekick for eight years before she pursued her hugely successful solo career.
Keep reading for more darn tootin’ amazing facts about Dolly Parton!
6. She is Miley Cyrus’ Godmother
Cinderella didn’t even have it this good! Of course, Dolly Parton is recognized as one of country music’s most beloved stars, but it’s not only her own career that is part of her legacy. Country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus also has the Dixie diva to thank for helping launch his career.
The “Achy Breaky Heart” singer toured as the opening act for Parton in the early ‘90s and had such respect for her that he made her the godmother of his daughter, Miley Cyrus. Parton made a guest appearance on the Miley Cyrus’ show Hannah Montana and has said of her goddaughter: “I’ve always loved her since she was a little baby.”
7. She Won’t Ride the Roller Coasters at Dollywood
Although Dolly Parton has owned her namesake theme park Dollywood for more than 30 years, you won’t find her on any of the 27 rides there. We have to thank for a lot of thrills, unfortunately, the Smoky Mountain Songbird is reportedly too “terrified” to go on any of the attractions.
Never one to shy away from laughing at herself, the comical celebrity has said: “I always make jokes, but it’s the truth too. I have too much to lose, like my hair. Or other parts of me that might not do well in that kind of high speed.” Apparently, neither would her stomach…
8. Dolly Parton Turned Down Elvis
Dolly Parton’s 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You” is one of her most iconic tracks ever. However, decades before Whitney Houston’s Grammy-winning cover of the song for The Bodyguard soundtrack, it was the King himself, Elvis, who wanted to record a cover of Parton’s song.
The only catch, the Queen of Country would have to surrender half of the publishing rights to her song. Although it was one of the hardest decisions of her career, she said no. The move paid off though as Parton has said the deal with Houston left her with “enough money to buy Graceland.”
9. She Had a Musical Upbringing
Although money at home was often scarce, there was no lack of passion for music at the Parton household. Robert and Avie Lee Parton and their brood of 12 children were instilled with a love of singing and music from a young age.
The matron of the clan encouraged her children to sing at home and at church. “Singing was like breathing at home,” Dolly Parton’s performer sister Rachel said. Like Dolly, her sisters Stella, Cassie and Freida have pursued music. Her brothers Randy and Floyd have also had a go at entertainment. Now that’s one talented family!
10. She Once Entered a Dolly Parton Lookalike Contest… and Lost!
Dolly Parton’s big, blonde hair, red pout, hourglass frame and wardrobe of many colors easily makes her a favorite celebrity personality to impersonate. Her likeness is so inspiring that folks all the way in Tinseltown hold Dolly Parton look-alike contests. And once, she even entered one!
The other contestants didn’t know they were up against the real deal at a drag queen contest in Santa Monica, California. “I just over-exaggerated — made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything,” she said laughing, admitting that she got the least applause and LOST!
Read on to see if you know all these little-known facts about Dolly Parton!
11. Dolly Parton has Written Thousands of Songs Since Childhood
Behind all the glitz and the wigs, Dolly Parton is just a simple to God artist. The prolific musician has allegedly written more than 5,000 songs since the age of seven. Her hits include “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” and “I Will Always Love You.”
Since she started making music some five decades ago, the talented Parton has released dozens of albums. And although she reportedly can’t read music, songwriting comes naturally to her. “I just need a subject and I’m off and running, ’cause I know how to rhyme, and I love the music, and I just go for it,” she’s said.
12. She Didn’t Write ‘I Will Always Love You’ As a Romantic Love Song
When Dolly Parton decided to split from The Porter Wagoner Show, Porter Wagoner wasn’t too thrilled, to say the least. In fact, the iconic pompadour-rocking member of the duo sued his professional partner of the last eight years for breach of contract when she set off on her own.
The rift between them inspired Parton to write the 1973 hit “I Will Always Love You” for her former mentor. Although the two remained estranged for decades to come, they reconciled in 2007 and were able to be together during Porter’s last days.
13. Why Dolly Parton Always Covers Her Arms
Dolly Parton’s custom of constantly wearing long sleeves has piqued the interest of fans for years as the reasoning behind her sartorial selection has risen to mystical status. Apparently, we haven’t seen Parton in a strapless gown for decades because her arms are covered in secret tattoos.
Comedian Jennifer Saunders claims to be one of the few who have seen the inkings and described them as “the most beautiful angels and beautiful butterflies and baskets of flowers in pastel-colored tattoos.” Parton, who is open about much of her appearance, has said of the body art: “I have a few, but they’re mostly for my husband.”
14. Why Dolly Parton’s Husband is Rarely Seen
Dolly Parton and Carl Dean have been happily married since 1966. However, each member of the blissful union went into their nuptials with a specific goal in mind. While Dean fully supported his wife’s dreams that were as big as her fabled hair, he made it clear that he didn’t want to be a “Hollywood husband.” In fact, this is the secret their long-lasting marriage.
Although Dean has appeared with Parton in public several times, he prefers to stay clear of the cameras. After one red carpet event early in her career Dean reportedly 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!” What’s more, the couple spend a lot of time apart and lead somewhat separate lives, but it just makes them all the more closer because they appreciate one another more and the quiet moments they do have together. During an interview near their 53rd wedding anniversary Parton revealed, “I always joke and laugh when people ask me what’s the key to my long marriage and lasting love. I always say ‘Stay gone!’ and there’s a lot of truth to that.”
15. She Really Likes Butterflies
We’ve already mentioned that Dolly Parton is often referred to by the nickname the Iron Butterfly. And they don’t call her that for nothing. The colorful “Love is Like a Butterfly” singer also identifies her persona with the likes of the colorful insects. Anyone who’s visited Dollywood can attest to the fact that butterflies are a popular motif.
Apparently, Parton’s loves the flying beauties so much that the pool at her house near Nashville has a butterfly design at the bottom. “Butterflies are my symbol. As a child, I used to get lost chasing them and got my butt whipped for wandering too far off,” she has admitted. “So we have butterflies everywhere.”
You won’t believe the next tidbit about the Queen of Country Music – read on!
16. She Opened Dollywood to Make Jobs
As if her numerous awards and famous image aren’t proof enough, Dollywood alone is a symbol of Dolly Parton’s star power. It’s also a symbol of her thoughtful and proactive nature. The famed attraction came to be when she flipped a failed amusement park and turned it into a lucrative success.
The wholesome Dolly-themed site in the heart of the Smoky Mountains is the largest employer in Sevier County, Tennessee. And that was just her plan. Parton had always vowed that if she made it big, she’d return to her hometown and “do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area.”
17. She’s a Record Breaker
For more than half a century Dolly Parton has carried the banner of country music and she has no plans to stop any time soon. Not only is the dynamo artist one of pop culture’s most recognizable superstars, but she has the hardware to prove that she’s also one of the most talented.
Hands down the firebrand songbird from Sevier County has won more awards than any other female country music singer, ever. She’s the proud owner of nine Grammys, 11 ACMs, 24 Billboard awards and dozens more. She’s also the second-most nominated female artist in Grammy history. Yeehaw!
18. She Gives Back to her Tennessee Roots
Dolly Parton might be one of the world’s biggest stars, but deep down she’s a hardworking hometown gal who stays true to her roots. Along with being known as a talented artist and shrewd businesswoman, the all-American idol is a big philanthropist and has had a lot of folks saying “bless her ‘lil heart” when it comes to her generous spirit.
One of the causes that is literally close to home for her is helping the local Tennessee community that she came from. When wildfires ravaged the area in 2016 she jumped to help. Her Dollywood Foundation is also behind initiatives like the free-book-providing Imagination Library and many scholarships and award funds.
19. She’s Honest About Plastic Surgery
Part of the beauty of Dolly Parton is that where other stars adamantly stay mum on what they consider hush-hush subjects, the va-va-voom vocalist approaches them in a refreshingly honest and witty manner. And one of those topics that she doesn’t shy away from is plastic surgery.
Of her famous figure, the voluptuous star has been fearlessly upfront. “If I see something saggin’, baggin’, or draggin’, I’m gone have it nipped, tucked, or sucked!” she famously said. Although some of her outward appearances may be, ahem enhanced, Parton has made sure to note that, “what is real is my voice and my heart.”
20. She Never Had Kids
With her high-pitched voice and warm demeanor, fans of all ages are drawn to Dolly Parton. Although she helped raise a handful of her younger siblings, the Leading Lady of Country and her husband never had children of their own.
“I think it probably was [God’s] plan for me not to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine,” she said. Still, she interacts a lot with children, particularly with her charity work. “I look like Mother Goose or one of those over-exaggerated characters, and kids just relate to that,” she jokingly told Matt Lauer.
The next couple of pages about Dolly Parton will totally amaze you, scroll on!
21. She Told Playboy What to Do
In 1978, Dolly Parton was on the cover of Playboy, becoming the first country singer to pose for the infamous men’s magazine. However, being the fierce boss lady that she is, she had some VERY specific terms for Hugh and crew – specifically, no nudity.
Unwilling to completely shed her wholesome image, the country music sweetheart refused to “do the whole dirty deal.” And they did what she said. Later, she reflected that: “It was just a fun thing to do….Another way I was trying to market myself, at that time, to get in the mainstream.”
22. She Was Bullied in School
Although it’s hard to imagine any disliking her these days, he magnanimous Dolly Parton was once the target of school bullies. Her schoolmates were allegedly jealous that she had appeared on a local TV show and event so far as to lock her in a coat closet.
Her 1971 hit “Coat of Many Colors” was inspired by that episode and has been used ever since as an anthem to teach school children against the detriments of bullying. Her experience growing up also spurred her to invest a lot into her anti-bullying campaign.
23. Her First Crush Was on Johnny Cash
Dolly Parton has long gushed about the tender and devoted love she shares with her husband Carl Dean. Her song “Love is Like a Butterfly” even describes the beauty of the love they share. However, before she was a happily married lady, Parton was smitten with another tall, handsome fella.
She first laid eyes on “the Man in Black” Johnny Cash as a young teen at a concert of his at Nashville’s Grand Ole’ Opry. “He had this tick when he moved his shoulder…” she explained of what drew her to the “Walk the Line” legend.
24. She Composed a Broadway Musical
Just when we thought Dolly Parton had done it all, she went and took on Broadway. The unstoppable showbiz maven wrote the music and lyrics for 9 to 5: The Musical, based on the 1980 film of the same name that she starred in.
The musical opened in 2009 and raked in a record-breaking 15 Drama Desk Award nominations and four Tony nods. Parton admitted that she had her doubts at first, but “then when I got into it, it just seemed to fall real natural and [the producers] were liking what I was doing so it must have been meant to be.”
25. She Has Her Own Record Label
Dolly Parton has cemented her named as a country music legend, and her self-styled brand has taken her a long way. And when you’re a platinum-haired, platinum-record-making artist like her, it’s only logical that you’d own your own record label.
So that’s what Parton did when she launched Dolly Records in 2008 and added music production to her long list of endless talents. She’s the only artist on the label, so hopefully, that’s a sign that we’re in for many more Dolly Parton songs in the near future.
If you didn’t already love Dolly Parton, the next couple of slides are sure to make you a fan!
26. She Used to Disguise Herself in Public
Dolly Parton’s over-the-top fashion and beauty styles mean she’ll definitely stand out in a crowd for better or for worse. The superstar used to try to disguise her signature look when she went out in public, but there was one part of her signature self that she couldn’t hide.
She recounted one instance when she applied unrecognizable makeup with black eyebrows and wore a short black wig and atypical clothes (for her, at least) to go Christmas shopping. “I said something, and this group of kids said, ‘You’re Dolly Parton in a black wig!’” What can we say, that voice is a one-of-a-kind!
27. She Recreated Her Childhood Home
Dolly Parton is one of the biggest examples of a rags-to-riches success story, and she totally owns it. She was raised in a two-room cabin that lacked electricity, running water and indoor plumbing but that didn’t’ stop her from spending a pretty penny later in life to make a replica of it.
Parton said she spent “a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it!” The recreated structure now stands at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and is a favorite attraction among visitors, standing testament to how far the “Backwoods Barbie” singer has come.
28. She’s a Jack of All Trades
By now, y’all know that Dolly Parton’s talents expand far beyond the music industry. In addition to Broadway, the 72-year-old siren has also displayed her skills on the big screen. She made her film debut in 1980 with the comedy 9 to 5 alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Her first movie and 1989’s Steel Magnolias were huge commercial successes as were many of the tracks that she recorded to accompany her acting gigs. Her dozen or so film credits also include the 1984 flick Rhinestone, in which she starred alongside Sylvester Stallone.
29. She Broke Two Guinness World Records
Dolly Parton is used to breaking records and winning awards. She’s so good at what she does, in fact, that she’s won awards for being such a winner. In 2018, it was announced that she held two well-deserved spots in the Guinness World Records Book.
She took home the honor for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart, beating out Elvis, Reba McEntire and George Jones. Additionally, she won the title of Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist for her 107 chart-toppers. Her response: she felt “humbled and blessed.”
30. She Can Play 10 Musical Instruments
You’ve likely seen her strumming her guitar and heard her timelessly uplifting cheery voice, but did you know that Dolly Parton is basically a one-woman band? That right, the vibrant entertainer can essentially play the whole gamut of instruments – 10 to be exact.
The banjo, fiddle, piano, autoharp and electric guitar are just some of the instruments that the hit-maker can play. The diversity of her skills are obviously reflected in her music that ranges in genres from country and bluegrass to pop and jazz.
You won’t want to miss the next couple of amazing facts about Dolly Parton – keep reading!
31. She Cooks All Her Own Food
Dolly Parton might be one of the biggest stars in the world, but part of the reason she is so loved by many is that she has somehow been able to stay very down-to-earth. Even when she heads from Dollywood to Hollywood for the likes of the Emmy awards, she’ll sleep in her tour bus.
“I travel in my tour bus and I always cook my own food,” she admits. “So that was not very glamorous, but it was good.” The star also washes her own dishes and says her tour bus is her favorite house in the States. Don’t worry, the legendary “gypsy wagon” is darn-tootin’ decked out with all the appliances, lots of plush pink furnishings and a tub.
32. She Has a Wig for Every Day of the Year
No matter how hard people try to emulate her attitude, there is only one Dolly Parton. We love the songs, the hair, the jewel-embroidered outfits and the certain twinkle in her eye. What tops it all off (quite literally) is her impressive collection of wigs.
All in all, the country singer says she wears one of her signature platinum wigs every day and has one for every mood. “I don’t even know how many wigs I have – I wear one almost every day, so I must have at least 365,” she estimated. We’re sure there’s more hair and humor where that came from.
33. She Had Her Own Variety Show
Dolly Parton’s fame-boosting run on The Porter Wagoner Show was far from her last taste of television. As her songs were topping the charts, fans could also tune in to see her on her own variety show, Dolly! The program ran from 1976-77.
It boasted a nearly six-figure budget per episode, making it the highest-cost production of any show made outside of Nashville at the time. The show saw Parton and fellow country music legend Kenny Rogers work together for the first time. Other guest stars included Ronnie Milsap, KC & The Sunshine Band and Captain Kangaroo.
34. There Is a Statue In Her Honor
As the pride and joy of rural Tennessee, it’s no wonder that Dolly Parton’s hometown would want to pay homage to the hometown girl turned international wonder. Therefore the town of Sevierville put up a life-sized bronze statue immortalizing the one and only Diamond Dolly.
The commemorative statue depicts a young Dolly Parton sitting barefoot and playing the guitar. The figure designed by artist Jim Gray is located outside the small Smoky Mountain community’s courthouse. The city unveiled the statue in 1987 and has since been one of the most visited sites in town.
35. She’s an LGBT Supporter
Dolly Parton is famous for her good-natured, compassionate ways and in that vein, it comes as no surprise that she is a whole-hearted LGBT supporter. Her inclusive outlook led her to hold “Gay Day” at Dollywood. That decision didn’t sit well with some people though.
She ended up receiving threatening messages from the Ku Klux Klan. Living true to her nickname of the Iron Butterfly, she wasn’t deterred from staying true to her steadfast convictions. “I still get threats. But like I said, I’m in business,” she has stated. “I just don’t feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody.” Amen.
36. She’s in a Whole Lot of Halls of Fame
As one of the best-selling country artists in history, Dolly Parton is an undisputed trailblazer in the music industry. Her remarkable, boot-tapping career has led to a whole lot of well-deserved recognition and induction into numerous of Halls of Fame.
Her resume boasts more than 100 singles, 42 studio albums, several live albums and holiday sets, some 20 collaboration albums and nearly 200 compilation album. All that hard work has landed her on more than a dozen Halls of Fame including the Grammy Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriter Hall of Fame. Hats off to you, Dolly!
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