Dolly Rebecca Parton was born on January 19, 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee and was the fourth child out of 12. Growing up her father was a construction worker and farmer, while her mother stayed at home to look after the children.
Despite her father working hard, Parton has always been honest about how poor her family was. They all lived together in a one-room cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Parton played a huge part in church and at just six-years-old she began performing regularly. Her uncle gave her her first guitar when she was just eight.
It was from then that Dolly started singing. As she got older she performed on local TV and radio in the Eastern Tennessee area and when she was 10 she appeared on WBIR-TV and WIVK radio shows as well as The Cas Walker Show in Knoxville, Tennessee.
By the age of 13 Parton had her first ever gig at the Grand Ole Opry hotel where she met Johnny Cash. Cash gave her stage advice and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
Dolly The Songwriter
In 1964, Parton graduated from Sevier County High School and moved straight to Nashville in a bid to become a singer. However her first successes did not come from her voice, but from her songwriting skills instead. She regularly wrote songs for her uncle Bill Owens and even has two top ten hits.
“Put It Off Until Tomorrow” by Bill Phillips in 1966 and “Fuel the Flame” by Skeeter Davis both hit the top 10. Hank Williams Jr. and Kitty Wells also sang songs written by Parton, but this is not where her passions lay. She wanted to be singing the songs for herself.
Monument Records signed Parton when she was 19-years-old. The plan was for her to sing upbeat pop music designed for teenagers – however songs like this didn’t perform well in the charts. Dolly released a few, but none reached the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1966, Parton harmonised on a Bill Phillips hit which allowed her to move into the country genre. She then released a full-length album titled Hello, I’m Dolly. Two featured songs reached No.24 and No.17 in the country charts.