Dolly Parton's Small-Town Roots

She’s traveled the world, but she’s never forgotten her roots. Relive the extraordinary life of Dolly Parton through the places she’s been and the people she's inspired.
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Photo By: Cabin Replica - Courtesy of Dollywood

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Photo By: Dollywood

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Photo By: Tennessee Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau

Childhood Cabin

“Back through the years … I go wonderin’ once again … back to the seasons of my youth.” Dolly grew up “dirt poor,” one of 12 children. But her childhood in a one-bedroom Tennessee cabin was rich with music. Both of Dolly’s parents belonged to a Pentecostal church, and Dolly often performed spiritual songs as a kid. Relive that world in this cabin replica at Dollywood.

Ryman Auditorium

The day after she graduated high school, Dolly headed to Nashville, America’s country music capital. At the Ryman Auditorium (the Grand Ole Opry’s home at the time), Dolly got this advice from Johnny Cash: “Go where your heart takes you.” Dolly poured her heart into songs like “Love and Learn.”

Grand Ole Opry

By her early 20s, Dolly had already made two studio albums and was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry’s roster of singing legends. More than 40 years later, Dolly remains an active member and performs here several times a year.

Austin, Texas

This much fun couldn’t be legal! In 1982, Dolly headed to Austin, Texas, for movie-making magic. As "Miss Mona," Dolly won the heart of local sheriff Ed Earl (played by Burt Reynolds) in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Speaking to her crossover appeal, Dolly got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1984. By then, Dolly had already starred in the mega-hit "9 to 5" as secretary-hero Doralee Rhodes, who tells her boss, "I'm gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!” Dolly also sang the movie’s title song, which was No. 1 on the Billboard charts for two weeks.

Natchitoches, Louisiana

In 1989, Dolly starred in another smash-hit film, "Steel Magnolias," which was filmed here, in Natchitoches, Louisiana. As beauty salon owner Truvy Jones, Dolly offers tell-it-like-it-is, one-liners: “Honey, time marches on and eventually you realize it is marchin’ across your face.”

Dollywood’s Splash Country

Dolly’s pride in her east Tennessee roots has enriched her local community. In 1986, Dolly opened Dollywood, which now employs 3,000 people -- including many senior citizens. Among its attractions are Splash Country waterpark (pictured here), which opened in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in 2001.

Dolly’s Tour Bus

When this tour bus was built for Dolly in 1994, it cost an impressive $750,000. Step inside, at Dollywood, and be amazed: two bathrooms, a full bath and shower, plus three other beds -- now that’s traveling in style.

Eagle Mountain Sanctuary

The beauty of her native Tennessee has inspired many of Dolly’s songs, so it’s only fitting that Dolly is a big conservationist. Since 1994, Dollywood has been home to a 30,000-square-foot aviary, which houses America’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles.

Dixie Stampede

Mega-music star, hit-movie actor…and powerhouse business leader. Dolly has invested much of her earnings into business ventures -- with direct benefit to local communities. Here’s Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater in Branson, Missouri, which employs nearly 300 local people.

Country Music Hall of Fame

The “Queen of Country Music” officially got her crown in 1999, with her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. That night, with her brother and sister cheering her on, an emotional Dolly thanked many people, including “Mr. Grand Ole Opry,” Porter Wagoner.

Songwriters Hall of Fame

Dolly wrote her first song at the age of 5. Through the years, her songs have been covered by many other big names, from Whitney Houston (“I Will Always Love You”) to Bob Dylan (“Jolene”). Some 3,000 self-penned songs later, Dolly was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.

Kennedy Center

“Dolly has a way of making everyone feel like they’re the only one in the room.” In 2006, country singer Reba McEntire introduced her friend Dolly Parton, who was being honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her prolific songwriting…and a “voice that can bring you joy and hope when it isn’t breaking your heart.”

Broadway

These days, Dolly is Broadway-bound. The singer’s rise from backcountry girl to country music superstar is now being developed into a Broadway musical. And Dolly’s writing it. This won’t be her first foray into the big lights of Broadway. In 2009, "9 to 5: The Musical" debuted.

Pirates Voyage

Dolly loves Myrtle Beach, S.C., too. After operating as Dixie Stampede for years, Dolly’s dinner theater attraction here was renamed Pirates Voyage Fun, Feast & Adventure in June 2011. Locals showed their love of Dolly’s continued support by declaring June 3, 2011, Dolly Parton Day.

Great Smoky Mountains

“Oh, these Northern nights are dreary, and my Southern heart is weary…the Smoky Mountains memories keep me strong,” Dolly once sang. Beyond song, Dolly showed her support for the mountains she loves when she joined Tennessee leaders in rededicating the Smoky Mountains National Park, on its 75th anniversary, in 2009.

Dolly Statue

So, in a career that’s garnered her 10 Country Music Association awards, two Academy Award nominations, 45 Grammy Award nominations  and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award…what is the one honor that Dolly cherishes the most? This statue outside the Sevierville, Tennessee, courthouse. Because, she said, it came from the people who knew her best.

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