Dolly Parton is one of Hollywood’s humblest and kind-hearted stars and these not-so-known facts about her will make you love her even more.
1. She Plays 10 Musical Instruments
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If you’ve watched her performances, you already know that Dolly Parton can play the guitar but that is not all she can do. She can practically do a one-woman band if she wants to! The vibrant entertainer can play 10 different musical instruments!
She can play the banjo, piano, and autoharp just to name a few. Her skills are so diverse that it reflects her music – She can write a wide range of genres from country songs to pop and jazz.
2. Dolly Grew Up In a Family of Twelve Children
Fans know about Dolly’s rags to riches story but they may not be aware of this important detail. A big part of her humble beginnings is being the fourth of 12 children and her family lived under extreme poverty. She was raised in the Smoky Mountains of rural Tennessee and looking back there reminds her to always put her feet on the ground.
Dolly Parton poses for a portrait in 1955. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Her family was so short in cash that when Dolly was born, they had to pay the doctor who delivered her with nothing but oatmeal. This might come as a surprise though the country star didn’t keep her unglamorous past a secret. She once said that they didn’t have electricity in their home. They had to catch fireflies from outside and put them in a mason jar to light up their bedroom for just a bit.
3. She and Her Husband Has Been Married for Over 50 Years
Perhaps, another thing that sets Dolly Parton apart from other famous music stars is that she didn’t get in and out of marriages so carelessly. She met her husband Carl Dean when she came to Nashville after graduating high school and the two of them has been together since 1996. They vowed to always love each other and they have been going strong since then.
Source: Country Living Magazine
She said Dean is good for her because he is so different from her. Their difference didn’t drive them apart but moved them closer. The two are truly proud of their marriage and what they have accomplished together. She said it’s the first for both of them and the last. Something you rarely hear today!
4. Dolly’s Real Inspiration Behind Her Hit Song “Jolene”
One of her most famous songs “Jolene” talks about a woman with flaming locks of auburn hair. The words of the song beg for Jolene not to steal her man just because she can. While it’s hard to imagine how there can be any competition for the Queen of Country, there is a good story behind the lyrics.
Photo by David Redfern/Redferns
She said it was inspired by a bank teller who had a huge crush on her husband. Dolly didn’t say if it became a big issue but it was a running joke between the couple. She joked that he spent a whole lot of time in the bank and they didn’t even have that much money.
5. She Got Her First Big Break in Nashville
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She started performing on local radio and television when she was ten and when she moved to Nashville after high school, she started recording with a small music label. Finally at 19, Dolly got her big break on the Porter Wagoner Show.
She said she always wanted to be a star and it just seemed natural to her. Even then, Dolly wore her iconic big hair along with her big personality and she stayed on the show as Wagoner’s sidekick for a while before she successfully went solo.
6. She is Godmother to Miley Cyrus
Her fellow country star Billy Ray Cyrus had so much respect for her that he asked her to be his daughter’s godmother. Dolly Parton is one of country music’s most beloved stars and her legacy extended outside of her own career. She helped launch Cyrus’ career as well.
Miley Cyrus at the Annual Night of Stars. Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
He performed the opening acts for Parton in her music tours during the early 90’s. And when his daughter, Miley Cyrus was born, he made Parton her godmother. She even appeared as a guest on the Hannah Montana show where she told the world that she loved Miley since she was a baby.
7. She Never Once Rode the Rollercoasters at the Dollywood Theme Park
Dolly Parton rides on a truck at her Dollywood theme park. Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images
Dolly Parton owns a theme park called Dollywood but even after 30 years of ownership, she never once rode any of the 27 rides in the park. According to reports, the Smoky Mountain Songbird is too terrified to try any of the park’s attractions.
This didn’t stop witty Dolly from laughing at herself. She took the opportunity to joke about it when she said that she had too much to lose, like her hair! She said she wouldn’t risk going on the rides because other parts of her might not do well in that kind of speed, especially not her stomach!
8. The Queen of Country Turned Down the King of Rock and Roll
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One of Dolly Parton’s most iconic hits is “I Will Always Love You”, released in 1974. Little do Parton’s and Whitney Houston’s fans know that it was Elvis who wanted to record a cover of the song decades before Houston made it a Grammy-Winning hit when it became the soundtrack for The Bodyguard.
Parton considered saying yes to Elvis but she would have to surrender half of the publishing rights to the song so she ended up saying no. She later said it was the right decision because her deal with Houston left her with enough funds to to buy Graceland.
9. Her Parents Brought Her Up to Love Music
Even though they had little money at home, the Parton family had a lot of passion for music. Robert and Avie Lee Parton made sure that their 12 children grow up with a love of singing and music despite their lack of luxuries. Their parents exposed them to music at a very young age.
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The kids were encouraged to sing at home and at church. Dolly Parton’s sister said that singing was like breathing to them. 3 of their siblings pursued careers in music and their 2 brothers went to the entertainment industry. They had a musical upbringing and they became a truly talented family!
10. She Joined a Dolly Parton Lookalike Contest and Lost!
Celebrity impersonators love doing their own impressions of Dolly Parton because of her iconic big blonde hair, her hourglass frame, and colorful wardrobe. Her fans from Tinseltown were so inspired by her that they held Dolly Parton lookalike contests each year. Maybe it was out of curiosity or just Dolly’s insane sense of humor that she decided to enter one of those contests!
Other contestants had no idea they were competing against the real Dolly. She said she exaggerated her looks and made her eyes and her hair look bigger. She laughed telling the story of how she got the least applause and LOST!
11. She Has Been Composing Music Since She Was a Child
Photo by Michael Marks/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Because of her musical upbringing, Dolly Parton has been writing her own songs since childhood. In fact, she has written more than 5,000 songs since she was seven years old! Behind all the glamour and her wigs, she is just a simple artist.
This talented child grew up to record dozens of albums since she started making music from five decades ago. Because she didn’t have any formal musical training, the country star didn’t really know how to read music but said that songwriting comes naturally to her. She finds things to write about and she just goes off rhyming and making music.
12. The Song “I Will Always Love You” Was Not Written As a Romantic Song
The 1973 hit song “I Will Always Love You” was not intended for an ex-lover. You already know Parton’s one and only love so why did she write this song?
Dolly left The Porter Wagoner Show to pursue her solo career but she wasn’t thrilled about it. It wasn’t the best separation either and Parton was even sued for breach of contract when she set off on her own.
Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner perform onstage in Nashville, 1967. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
This rift inspired her to write what would become Whitney Houston’s award-winning cover for The Bodyguard. She wrote it for her mentor even though they had a falling off for a few decades. The two eventually reconciled in 2007 and remained friends until Porter’s last days.
13. The Reason Dolly Parton Always Covers Her Arms
Aside from her big wigs and big personality, the Queen of Country is known for always wearing long sleeved shirts which was a mystery for fans for many years. Do you remember seeing her in a strapless gown? Apparently, it’s because her arms are covered in secret tattoos.
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There were only a handful of people who have seen these tattoos. Comedian Jennifer Saunders is one of them. She said they are the most beautiful inkings of angels, butterflies, and flowers in pastel colors that she has ever seen. Though Parton has been pretty much open about everything, she said that the tattoos are private and most of them are really for her husband.
14. The Truth Behind Her Husband’s Lack of Public Appearance
Unlike that of other music stars, Dolly Parton’s marriage was never a hot topic on magazines and TV shows. Dolly and Carl Dean have been married since 1966 but her husband made it clear that he didn’t want to be one of those Hollywood husbands. He still gave his full support for Dolly’s big dreams.
Dean managed to appear publicly with Parton a few times but he mostly stayed off camera. In one red carpet event, he told his wife that he wants her to have everything she ever wants and that he’s happy for her but he would never go to another event like that again!
15. Dolly Parton Loves Butterflies
Dolly Parton has also been called the Iron Butterfly and there is an interesting story behind that nickname. The “Love is Like a Butterfly” singer said that she thinks of her personality like that of colorful insects. Those who have been to Dollywood may have noticed that butterflies are a strong motif in the park.
Dolly Parton poses by her tour bus. Photo by Michael Marks/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Her swimming pool in her Nashville home even has a butterfly design at the bottom. She said that it is her symbol. She used to chase them as a child even if she knew that she would get her butt whipped for walking too far.
16. She Opened Dollywood Theme Park to Create Jobs
Dollywood is not just a symbol of Dolly Parton’s stardom. It is also a reminder of her thoughtfulness and provocativeness. She flipped a dying amusement park and turned it into Dollywood and it became a massive success!
Dolly Parton at Dollywood. Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images
This family-friendly Dolly-themed park in Smoky Mountains employs the largest number of workers in Sevier County, Tennessee. This is Parton’s intention all along. She once promised herself that if she ever makes it big, she would do something great for her hometown and she did just that.
17. She Is a Record Breaker
For over half a century, the Queen of Country Music has been carrying the genre’s banner and she is not done yet. Dolly Parton is one of pop culture’s most famous superstars and there is plenty of evidence to prove that she’s definitely one of the most talented.
Gold Record Celebration for Dolly Parton’s Gold recording. Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images
She has won more awards than any other female artists in the country music genre and has 9 Grammy’s to go with those. She also has ACM awards, 24 Billboard awards, among many others. Dolly Parton is the second most nominated female the entire history of the Grammys to this day!
18. It Is Her Mission to Give Back to Tennessee
Despite being one of the biggest stars in the world, Dolly Parton always looks back to her roots and deep down, remains to be a hometown girl. Everyone knows she is a massively successful businesswoman but she is also a big philanthropist. People love her for her generous spirit.
Dolly Parton Katy Perry during the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards, 2016. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Helping people back in her hometown in Tennessee is one of the missions that is close to her heart. She always wanted to give back to the community that she came from. Parton was one of the first people who jumped to help during the wildfires in the area in 2016. Her Dollywood Foundation is also active in providing scholarships and award funds.
19. She’s Always Been Open About Her Plastic Surgeries
While many Hollywood stars try… but fail to hide their plastic surgeries, Dolly Parton has always been candid about hers. While some might think that it’s embarrassing or wrong, Dolly sees nothing wrong with admitting to it. She always responds to questions about it in a refreshingly honest and witty style.
Dolly Parton Visits ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC
The country star has always been upfront about her procedures. She once said that if something is sagging, bagging, or dragging, she is going to have it nipped, tucked, or sucked! Despite many physical enhancements, Parton noted that her voice and heart remain real.
20. She Said She Wasn’t Destined to Have Kids
Dolly Parton’s high-pitched voice and electric personality attract fans of all ages but she never had kids. She helped raise some of her siblings but she and her husband never had kids of their own.
Dolly Parton and actress Alyvia Alyn. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
She said that it was probably God’s plan for her not to have children so she could take care of others’. Dolly constantly interacts with children mostly for her charitable works. She said kids can easily relate to her because of her lively personality.
21. She Was On the Cover of Playboy But On Her Own Terms
In 1978, Dolly Parton became the first country singer to pose for Playboy. She was on the cover of the men’s magazine but she did it on her own terms. Being the iconic boss lady that sh is, she was very specific with Hugh Hefner and his crew that she would NOT do any nudity.
The country star did not want to lose her wholesome image so refused to do any dirty poses. Hugh and the Playboy crew did took the shot as she wanted it. She later said that it was just something she did for fun. It was another way to market herself at the time to get into the mainstream.
22. She Was Bullied In School
It’s hard to imagine people disliking Dolly Parton today but in her younger years, she was often the target of school bullies. Some of the students in her school were jealous that she appeared on local TV. This pushed them to lock her up in a coat closet!
Photo by Bob King/Redferns
This incident is what inspired the singer to write her 1971 hit song “Coat of Many Colors”. The song remains symbolic today and it has been used as an anthem to teach children in school about the traumatic effects of bullying. Being bullied and other similar experiences growing up also inspired Dolly to invest in many anti-bullying campaigns.
23. Johnny Cash was Her First Crush
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Her fans know that she loves her husband Carl Dean dearly. She always expresses the tenderness and devotion they share. Her song “Love is Like a Butterfly” is an expression of how happy they are. But before she became happily married to Dean, Dolly Parton was totally smitten by the then teenage star Johnny Cash.
She first saw him at his concert at the Grand Ole’ Opry in Nashville. He soon became known as the Man in Black. Parton confessed that she was attracted not just by his appearance but also by his mannerisms like the way he moved his shoulders.
24. Dolly Parton Wrote a Broadway Musical
Actresses Stephanie J. Block, Allison Janney and Megan Hilty on the opening of ‘9 to 5: The Musical’ on Broadway. Photo by Joe Kohen/WireImage
You may think this phenomenal singer has done it all but this one often surprises many. She didn’t just dominate the top music charts, she also conquered Broadway! If you’ve heard or maybe even seen “9 to 5: The Musical”, you’d be delighted to know that Dolly Parton was the one who wrote its music and lyrics. After all, the show was based on the 1980 movie of the same title where she starred.
Her Broadway musical opened in 2009 and it bagged a whole lot of nominations including 15 Drama Desk and 4 Tony’s. Parton was not very confident at first but when she got into it, it just came naturally to her and the producers liked what they saw. She said it must have been meant to be.
25. She Has Her Own Record Label
It’s only natural that a country music legend like Dolly Parton would own her own record label. She has cemented her name in the history of country music and has established her own brand. She is a platinum record maker so it’s not surprising for her to achieve such a feat.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images
She launched Dolly Records in 2008 and ventured into music production. This is proof that the singer has a long list of talents that just doesn’t seem to end. She’s the only artist in the label which could mean that we may be hearing more Dolly Parton songs in the future.
26. She Used to Wear a Disguise When She Was In Public
At the height of her career, anyone would recognize Dolly Parton if they saw her on the streets. Her iconic fashion and beauty styles really make her stand out in any crowd. It is just the natural circumstance and to cope with it, she wore different disguises in public to hide her signature look although there was one thing she always failed to hide.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Parton talked about one instance where she wore a totally different makeup with black eyebrows. She also replaced her big wigs with a short black one and clothes as ordinary as she could find. She just wanted to go Christmas shopping. But when she said something, a group of kids immediately recognized her and said she’s Dolly Parton in a black wig! They said her voice was simply one of a kind.
27. She Made a Replica of Her Childhood Home
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Dolly Parton’s rags to riches story is truly one of the most remarkable ones. She’s the kind of success story who embraces her past. Her family lived in a two-room cabin with no electricity, no decent water source or indoor plumbing. After all the years she spent getting herself out of that situation, she still made it a point to make a replica of her old home.
She said that she spent about 2 million dollars even though the home ended up looking like she only spent $50 on it! The replica is located at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Lots of visitors are drawn to the attraction because they know it’s a reminder of how far the country singer has come.
28. The Country Music Star is a Jack of All Trades
Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone receive stars on the Holywood Walk of Fame. Photo by Bill Nation/Sygma via Getty Images
The above facts show that Dolly Parton’s talents go far beyond the music industry but there is so much more that she can do! Aside from composing a Broadway musical, Dolly Parton also played some roles in the big screen. Her first appearance was in 1980 in the comedy movie “9 to 5” where she starred alongside renowned actress Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
It was a huge success immediately followed by the “Steel Magnolias” in 1989 which also became a huge commercial hit. At the same time, many of her songs were also making the top charts and she had acting gigs as well. Among many of her films is the 1984 flick Rhinestone where she worked with action star Sylvester Stallone.
29. She Is a Guinness Book of World Records Breaker
Dolly Parton during Concert at Radio City Music Hall. Photo by E. Dougherty/WireImage for Sugarhill Records
Dolly Parton is known to break word records and take home awards. She is so good at winning that she won awards for winning awards! She earned two well-deserved spots in the Guinness Book of World Records, breaking Elvis Presley’s record for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart. Other artists who used to hold that record includes Reba McEntire and George Jones.
The second record she broke was the Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist for 107 of her tracks that topped the charts. But this didn’t get to the Queen of Country’s head. She said it made her feel humbled and blessed.
30. The First Ever Cloned Mammal Was Named After Her
Dolly the sheep makes an appearance for the media. Photo by Ben Curtis – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
When scientists cloned the first ever mammal in 1995, they named it Dolly after Dolly Parton. The cloned animal was a sheep and the project’s developments made headlines all over the world. But why “Dolly”? What made these experts choose the name of the country music legend?
You’d be surprised to know that it wasn’t because of her monumental career. Dolly (the clone) was derived from a mammary gland cell. When English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed a pair of Dolly Parton’s glands, the scientists decided it was the perfect name for the cloned sheep. What a way to go down in scientific history!
31. She Always Cooks Her Own Food
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images
Although she is a phenomenal music star, one of the reasons people love dolly so much is because of her ability to stay so down-to-earth. She is known to sleep in her own tour bus even when she travels from Dollywood to Hollywood to receive big honors like the Emmy Awards.
She said that when she travels in her tour bus, she always cooks her own food. It wasn’t entirely glamorous but she liked doing it. She even washes the dishes. Her private tour bus is her favorite house in the US. There’s nothing to worry about because her legendary gypsy wagon is equipped with all the appliances you would need including a tub.
32. Dolly Parton Has a Wig for Every Day of the Year
Dolly Parton greets her fans at Peaches Records. Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage
No matter how many impersonators she has or how other people try to copy her style and attitude, there is only one Dolly Parton! The world has fallen in love with her songs, her hair, the colorful outfits and jewelry, and that unique twinkle in her eye. What makes her even more amazing is her impressive collection of wigs!
The country singer proudly said that she wears on signature platinum wig per day. She chooses them based on her mood. She said she doesn’t even know exactly how many wigs she has already but they must be more than 365.
33. She Starred In Her Own Variety Show
Dolly Parton speaks during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/WireImage
The Porter Wagoner Show where she started was not her only television gig. As her songs started topping the charts, she gave her fans the opportunity to see her in her own variety show called “Dolly”.
The program ran for about a year, boasting of about a six figure budget per episode. This made it the highest-costing production that was made outside of Nashville. Some of the stars who also appeared on the show include Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Mislap and KC and The Sunshine Band, among others.
34. There Is a Statue of Her In Her Hometown
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Dolly Parton became of the biggest pride and joy of rural Tennessee and her folks back home wanted to pay homage to her when she became an international wonder. The town of Sevierville erected a life-sized bronze statue to honor and immortalize the one and only Diamond Dolly.
This commemorative monument illustrates a young Dolly Parton who was barefoot while she played the guitar. It was designed by the artist Jim Gray and is located outside the local community’s courthouse. The statue was unveiled in Smokey Mountain in 1987 which brought it lots of visitors in the town.
35. She’s An Ally to the LGBTQ Community
Dolly Parton at The Paramount Theatre in 1977. Photo by Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images
Dolly Parton is an outright supporter of the LGBTQ. This is not surprising given her compassionate nature. She has an inclusive outlook which is why there is a thing called “Gay Day” at Dollywood! Even though she received threats for expressing her support publicly, it didn’t stop her from saying she loves everybody.
36. She’s In Many Halls of Fame
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The best-selling country artist is undoubtedly a trailblazer in the music industry. Over the past decades, she has earned plenty of well-deserved recognitions and this includes her numerous halls of fame.
She has more than a dozen halls of fame including the Germany Hall of Fame and the Songwriter Hall of Fame just to name a few.