From Dirt Poor to Country Music Icon

Dolly Parton is more than a country music icon. With a career spanning over 50 years, Dolly Parton is part of the foundation of pop culture. Parton released her first album in 1967 and earned continued success as a country artist for the next two decades.  In the 1990s, she struggled in sales but was able to turn lemons into lemonade and return to mainstream commercial success in the 2000s. This is emblematic of Dolly’s early life and her early struggles, which she overcame to rise to the top.

A Life in Rural Tennessee

Dolly Parton was born in rural Tennessee just after World War II. She was the fourth of twelve children. Her father was a subsistence farmer and construction worker. The family lived in a one-room cabin and were, as Parton describes, “dirt poor.”  Apparently, her father paid for her delivery with a bag of oatmeal.

Early Exposure to Music

Her first exposure to music was in the church as her grandfather was the pastor. Parton first performed in the church at age 6. She then started playing a homemade guitar, which she later replaced with a real guitar. By the age of ten, she was performing on local radio shows. Dolly recorded her first single at age 13 and performed at the Grand Ole Opry. She continued quiet practice and determination until she graduated from high school in 1964 and moved to Nashville.

Present Day

Now in her 70s, Dolly Parton is considered the most decorated female country performer of all time. Twenty-five of her songs reached Number 1 on the Billboard country music chart. She has 41 top 10 country albums. She has received 47 Grammy nominations and has composed over 3,000 songs. Most recently, her show Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love received a nomination for Outstanding Television Movie at the 69th Emmy Awards. The movie is based on Dolly Parton’s upbringing.