Dolly Parton is undoubtedly one of the most iconic country artists of all time. While she has remained a public figure, her personal life is full of secrets. Have you noticed she NEVER fails to wear long sleeves, no matter what the temperature is? Is her marriage as good as it seems? Read on to learn these and more!
1. Rags To Riches
When you think of the life of a living legend, it's easy to imagine it to be full of glitz and glamour. However, Dolly came from rather humble beginnings. As the fourth child of twelve, she grew up in rural Tennessee. Her family was so poor that they had to cram in a one-room cabin without electricity or running water. Dolly has fought her way out of poverty to become an iconic entertainer. It’s an incredible story! But how did she make it?
2. Born To Be A Legend
At just six years old, Dolly began singing at local churches. At ten, she started performing on local TV and radio shows. At thirteen, she took a huge step in performing at the legendary country music venue, the Grand Ole Opry. After graduating from high school in 1964, she moved to the country music city, Nashville. There, she started out by writing songs for other artists alongside her uncle Bill Owens. The pair ended up composing two top ten hits.
3. She Gets A Record Deal But...
For a person as talented as Dolly, it was only a matter of time before she got a record deal. At 19 years old, Dolly signed with Monument Records. However, the studio wanted her to be a clean pop star who appealed to teenagers, rather than a country music singer. Dolly recorded several singles, but none of them were successful.
4. Transition From Pop Music To Country Music
Thankfully, the pop music world's huge loss turned out to be country music’s gigantic gain! After composing Bill Phillips’ biggest hit ever, Dolly performed some simple harmonies for him. This allowed her to switch from pop music to country music. When she came out with two country singles from her album “Hello, I’m Dolly,” they were instant hits! Dolly had finally found her true calling.
5. Big Break
With her budding career beginning to take off, Dolly got the chance to perform at The Porter Wagoner Show in the late 1960s. Initially, viewers were unhappy about Dolly’s replacement for Norma Jean, but they came to love her, after hearing her vocals. On the show, Dolly was able to perform her own music and even got a weekly spot. As time went by, she became more famous than the very popular Wagoner.
6. Going Solo
Dolly performed a number of songs with Wagoner until she left the show in 1974. She was then signed to label RCA Victor, but the first single she released, "Just Because I'm A Woman," only reached the 17th spot on the charts. She did release a number of other solo singles during the late 1960s, but none of them were as successful as the work she did with Wagoner.
7. Her Career Takes Off
Wagoner wanted to help Dolly become the soloist she dreamed of being. He recommended her to record her own version of "Mule Skinner Blues," which was originally a hit for Jimmie Rodgers. The advice proved effective, and Dolly's solo career took off when the song hit #3 on the charts! She then recorded her biggest hit ever, "Joshua," which topped the charts for several weeks.
8. Fairy-Tale Romance
Naturally, there is more to Dolly’s life than just her successful music career. She has also had an enviable love life. She has been married to her childhood sweetheart, Carl Dean, since 1966! It was love at first sight when they met at a laundromat in Nashville. We know little about Dean, as he manages to stay out of the spotlight. In a recent interview though, Dolly finally shared a few shocking revelations about her long-lasting marriage.
9. The Secret Of Her Long Marriage
Dolly said, "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. I travel a lot, but we really enjoy each other when we're together and the little things we do." But there is no perfect marriage, and she has had hard times along the way, at one point even trying to commit suicide...
10. Her Dog Saves The Day
Dolly admitted that she had an “affair of the heart” with another man in the early 1980s. During a period of deep depression after their breakup, she attempted suicide by picking up her gun she kept at home for protection. Fortunately, her Boston Terrier Popeye ran to her and helped her realize she was making a huge mistake.
11. A Family Affair
Can you believe that Dolly is the godmother of Miley Cyrus? The two have collaborated several times, and most recently, they were seen singing “Jolene” together at the 2019 Emmys. When Miley was criticized for her outrageous music and image, Dolly always had her back.
12. Living For A Wig
We all know that one part of Dolly’s iconic image is her blonde hair. Well, It’s actually a wig. Dolly admits that she has been wearing wigs since she was 19. Her natural hair is a light brunette shade, difficult to style for the image she desires, whereas wigs can give her whatever appearance she wants and a hell of a lot more quickly. She has claimed that she never leaves her home without a wig on.
13. The Story Behind Jolene
Did you know that one of Dolly’s biggest hits, “Jolene,” was actually based on a true story? The song was inspired by a redheaded teller who had an obvious crush on her husband Dean. There was even a running joke that Dean loved to visit his local bank because of her. However, the name Jolene and Dolly’s description of the woman in the song was based on a young fan who climbed on stage for Dolly’s autograph.
14. Dolly's Special 'Friend'
For years there have been rumors that Dolly and her best friend Judy Ogle have had a long running affair. As a result, many have wondered if Dolly was bi-sexual. In an interview, Dolly explained, "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."
15. A Tattooed Lady
Does anyone remember seeing Dolly’s arms? For years, there has been wild speculation that Dolly is covered with secret tattoos, and that’s why she always wears long sleeves. Well, it turned out those rumors aren’t totally wrong. In a recent interview, Dolly has admitted that she “has a few little tattoos, but they were mostly done to cover scars.” Although she isn’t planning to show her tattoos anytime soon, she described them as being pastel.
16. Dolly The Sheep
Did you know that the first mammal, a sheep, was cloned in 1995? Why should we care about this? Because the sheep, was named after Dolly Parton. The man who cloned the sheep, Ian Wilmut, 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.”
17. Songwriter First, Singer Second
When it comes to Dolly, the first things that come to your mind may be her incredible singing ability and her distinctive look. But interestingly enough, Dolly considers herself first and foremost a songwriter. That makes sense considering she has been writing songs since she was five years old and has written more than 5,000 songs in total! She has composed almost all of her albums herself. What a talent!
18. President Parton?
It remains a mystery how Dolly Parton voted in the last presidential election. There were some reports that indicated she supported the female presidential candidate, but Dolly declares her support for any elected president. She also quipped that she might run for herself as she had the hair for it! Hey, she’ll definitely get our vote if she decides to!
19. A Talented Actress
Apart from being a talented songwriter and songstress, Dolly is also an outstanding actress. She began her acting career on The Porter Wagoner Show, and her performance on the show with Wagoner helped turn Dolly into a future superstar. After leaving the show, she starred in her own show, Dolly! and got great reviews for her roles in 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. But she didn’t stop there and has continued to pursue her prolific acting career to this day.
20. The Holy Quartet Of Stardom
As one of the greatest country music legends of all time, Dolly has accumulated 41 top ten country albums, 25 RIAA certified Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum awards, and more. She's one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award and one of the few to be nominated for multiple Oscars, Grammys, Tonys, and Emmys. Is there anything that Dolly has not accomplished?
It might seem a little odd that Dolly and Dean had no kids during their long marriage. “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 even had names if we did, but it didn’t turn out that way.” Nowadays, Dolly feels that it just wasn’t meant to be. “God has a plan for everything,” She said, "I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids, so everybody's kids could be mine."
22. Forever Young
Today at 73, Dolly sure still looks amazing, doesn't she? Well, it's due to both good genes and plastic surgery. In her words, if she finds anything "sagging, bagging, or dragging," then she'll get it nipped, tucked, or sucked. She boldly stated in an interview, "My boobs are fake, my hair's fake, but what is real is my voice and my heart." And that's all that matters right?
23. Size Matters
Did you know how tall Dolly is? Turns out she is only 4 feet 9 inches. Ever wonder what her chest size is? It’s actually 40DD. If the size didn’t shock you, the cost will for sure! Dolly has her chest insured at around $300,000 each! That means a whopping $600,000 total! Wow...
24. The Lookalike Contest Fail
Dolly Parton is known for taking a risk or two. On one Halloween night, she took part in a Dolly Parton lookalike contest and surprisingly lost! I bet the audience must have gone crazy when they found who she actually was!
25. “Different, But Same Same”
Remember Dolly’s two biggest hits, “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You?” Well, she penned both songs on the same night back in 1973. Pretty crazy, right?
26. The Feud That Never Exists
Rumor had it that Dolly Parton was jealous of Whitney Houston’s success with her own rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” This could not be further from the truth! In fact, the two often spoke of how much they liked each other! Whitney personally thanked Dolly for allowing her to sing the song, and Dolly said she was honored Whitney wanted to cover it.
27. The Imagination Library
In 1995, Dolly founded a book distribution company called “The Imagination Library” which sent books to children under the age of 5. She was actually inspired by her father’s inability to read and write! How interesting! Her original goal was to encourage reading and literacy in her hometown Tennessee, but the program became so successful that it spread nationwide!
28. Nothing But A Rumor
Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus thanked Dolly for kick-starting his career. After Cyrus released his first album, Dolly invited him to open for her in a few concerts. His career has since taken off. But meanwhile, rumors started to circulate that the two were more than just friends. When Cyrus apologized for all the rumors, Dolly replied, “Honey, that sh*t sells records!”
29. Such A Humorous Lady
Apart from her iconic looks and unique voices, Dolly is also well known for her great sense of humor. It seems that she can always make people laugh! For example, 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.” She also joked, “I was the first woman to burn my bra - it took the fire department four days to put it out.” Oh, my God!
30. It Pays To Look Cheap
Some people have criticized her fashion choices, but Dolly doesn’t care about that. Guess what? She loves how she looks. She is very confident and even said, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
31. Business Savvy
Quite early in her career, Dolly started Velvet Apple Music (BMI), which allowed her to own the copyrights and publish all her own songs. Besides, in 2007, she launched her own record label, Dolly Records, and she was the only person to appear on the label. The country singer also did all the branding. Good on you, Dolly!
32. She Can Play At Least Ten Instruments
The country music superstar can play ten music instruments, including the banjo, fiddle, piano, and electric guitar. Moreover, all of the instruments were self-taught. According to Parton, it would have been strange if she hadn't picked up so many instruments. "Well, my family's very musical, and everybody played musical instruments, so we just grabbed up anything and tried to play," she said.