78 Years Ago: Dolly Parton Is Born in Tennessee
Happy birthday, Dolly Parton! The country music icon was born on this day, Jan. 19, in 1946, in a tiny, one-room cabin in Sevier County, Tenn.
Parton was the fourth of 12 children born to parents Robert and Avie; her father reportedly paid the doctor who oversaw her birth with a bag of oatmeal.
Parton showed an early propensity for music and began singing in church when she was just a little girl. By the time she was eight, she was writing songs and playing guitar; she made her first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry when she was only 10 years old. The future music legend began performing on the Cas Walker radio show as a child and released her first single, "Puppy Love," when she was 13 years old.
After Parton graduated from high school in 1964, she moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams of a career in country music -- and she didn't have to wait long for her dreams to come true: One year later, in 1965, Parton was signed to Combine Publishing House and Monument Records. In 1966, two songs that Parton wrote with her uncle, Bill Owens -- "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" and "The Company You Keep" -- became Top 10 hits for Bill Phillips.
It also wasn't long until Parton found success for herself as an artist: She landed a Top 30 hit in 1967 with "Dumb Blonde," from her debut album, Hello, I'm Dolly. That same year, Parton joined Porter Wagoner for his weekly TV show, The Porter Wagoner Show, as well as for his touring show. She stayed with Wagoner until 1974, when she launched out on her own, a move that inspired her to write her No. 1 hit "I Will Always Love You."
PICTURES: Dolly Parton Through the Years
Following her professional split from Wagoner, Parton launched her own variety TV show, Dolly!, which aired for one season, from 1976 to 1977. In 1980, Parton starred in her first feature film, 9 to 5. She also wrote and recorded the movie's title song, earning her two Grammy Awards and an Oscar nomination, for Best Original Song. The singer has since appeared in several other films, including The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Steel Magnolias and Joyful Noise, among others.
Parton opened her Dollywood theme park in 1986, in part to help employ those without jobs in her hometown. To date, the park remains one of the most popular and well-attended theme parks in the nation.
Parton, who continues to make music and perform, says that songwriting will always remain her first love.
"I still write the same way and for the same reasons," she tells the Dallas Observer. "I have to put things down. Everything's a song to me, and I have the gift of rhyme, so I'm just always writing stuff. The more you live, the more you have to write about, and the more you write, the more you're skilled at it."
The iconic artist, whose life was chronicled in the hit TV movie, Coat of Many Colors, in 2015, remains humble about her numerous achievements.
"I love that I've been able to make a living at something I love to do," Parton says (quote via Opry.com). "I see somebody in my family in everybody I meet. And I never think of myself as a star. I always think I'm a working girl, and I've got to put food on lots of tables. I'm like my dad in that respect."
In 1969, Parton became an official member of the Grand Ole Opry. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. In recognition of her many philanthropic endeavors, Parton was named the MusiCares Person of the Year in 2019; she was the first country artist to ever receive the honor.
WATCH: 11 Unforgettable Dolly Parton Moments
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