Dolly Parton Biography

Dolly Parton photo courtesy of Dolly Records.

"I've always been a writer. My songs are the door to every dream I've ever had and every success I've ever achieved," says Dolly Parton of her incredible career, which has spanned nearly five decades and is showing no signs of slowing down.

An internationally renowned superstar, the iconic and irrepressible Parton has contributed countless treasures to the world of music entertainment, penning classic songs such as "Jolene," "Coat of Many Colors," and her mega-hit "I Will Always Love You." With 1977's crossover hit "Here You Come Again," she successfully erased the line between country and pop music without noticeably altering either her music or her image. "I'm not leaving country," she said at the time, "I'm just taking it with me."

Making her film debut in the 1980 hit comedy "9 to 5," Dolly earned rave reviews for her performance and an Oscar nomination for writing the title tune, along with her second and third Grammy Awards. Roles in "Steel Magnolias," "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Rhinestone" and "Straight Talk" followed, along with two network television series, made for television movies, network and HBO specials, and guest-starring roles in series television. In 2006, Dolly earned her second Oscar nomination for "Travelin' Thru," which she wrote for the film "Transamerica."

Dolly Parton's remarkable life began very humbly. Born January 19, 1946 on a farm in Sevier County, Tennessee, Dolly is the fourth of twelve children. Her parents, Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton struggled to make ends meet in the impoverished East Tennessee hills. This hard rural life was the foundation of Dolly's career, as she began singing almost before she could talk, according to her father. By age 10, Dolly was performing on local television and radio shows in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee. "I always wanted to be a star. It just seemed natural to me," she said. "Making music is all I've ever known."

Dolly left for Nashville the day after her high school graduation. On her first afternoon there, she met a young man, Carl Dean, who would become her husband. Two years later, in May 1966, they were married. "He's good for me, cause he's so different in nature from me," she smiles.

In 1967, Dolly's career took off when country music superstar Porter Wagoner began featuring her on his popular syndicated television show, exposing Dolly to over 45 million people in more than 100 markets and attracting the attention of record executives at RCA. Dolly and Porter had 14 Top Ten hits together, and Dolly quickly blossomed into one of the best-selling country artists in music history. By 1974, Dolly ended her working relationship with Wagoner. She was voted the Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year two years in a row, and in 1978, Dolly was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year.

In 1974, "I Will Always Love You" topped the charts and did so again in 1982 when it was revived in the movie "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," making Dolly the first artist to earn a number one record twice with the same song. In 1992, the song was recorded by Whitney Houston for the movie "The Bodyguard" and went on to sell in excess of 4 million copies, topping the charts once again. "I Will Always Love You" was named BMI's Most Performed Song of the Year in 1993.

Dolly saw a cherished dream become a reality in 1986 with the opening of her own theme park called Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The state's number one tourist attraction, Dollywood was selected by the theme park industry as one of the top three theme parks in the world in 2006.

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