A singer, songwriter, actress, philanthropist, entrepreneur, author, and philanthropist, she is worth over $650 million. Since over forty years ago, Dolly Parton has been writing and performing hit country songs. A total of 41 country albums and 25 number one singles have been released by her. As a solo artist, she has sold more than 100 million albums. This doesn’t take into account the hundreds of millions of albums other artists have sold with her songs.
A Tennessee native, Parton was born in Sevier County in 1946. She was the fourth child of twelve. It was her father who farmed tobacco. As a child, she recalls hearing that her father paid the doctor who helped deliver her with a bag of oatmeal when she was born. Throughout her life, music played a major role, and many of her early performances took place in the church. She made her first appearance on The Cas Walker Show at the age of nine and was later signed to the small Louisiana label Goldband Records. In 1964, the day after Dolly graduated high school, she moved to Nashville. Soon after she became a songwriter, she found success. Several charting singles were written by her and her uncle Bill Owens.
Dolly signed with Monument Records in 1965, at age 19. Initially, she was marketed as a bubble gum pop singer. Pop music wasn’t successful in her early days. In response to the #6 hit of one of her country songs sung by a country artist (Bill Phillips – with Dolly on harmony), Monument Records saw the light and decided to forget their pop dreams for Dolly.
The single did well on the country chart, reaching #24 with “Dumb Blonde.”. The song was not written by her. Dolly recorded few songs other than her own during this period. She reached #17 with her second single “Something Fishy.”.
Dolly began appearing regularly on Porter Wagoner’s syndicated show “The Porter Wagoner Show” in the same year. RCA Victor soon signed Dolly after Wagoner saw her talent and untapped potential. She also became her producer and purchased 50% of her uncle’s publishing company, Owe-Par. Consequently, Porter had a vested interest in the success of Dolly.
She sang a duet with Porter on her 1968 album, “Just Because I’m a Woman”. From 1968 to 1980, Porter and Dolly would record 13 studio albums together. In addition to their #1 single “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me”, their albums produced 21 singles on the country chart.
For several years, Dolly’s solo career struggled to gain traction. Finally, in 1973, she had a huge hit with the song “Jolene”. In February 1974, the song hit #1 on the country chart and also did well on non-country charts worldwide. Rolling Stone ranked the song 217th out of 500 on its list of the Greatest Songs of all time. From all the songs that Dolly has written, “Jolene” has been the most recorded by other artists. In April 1974, Dolly separated from Porter Wagoner, even though he produced her songs until 1975.
I Will Always Love You
“I Will Always Love You” was Dolly’s first song. As a farewell to Porter Wagoner after their seven-year partnership, she wrote the song. The song was a possibility for Elvis, but Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker insisted she turn over half the publishing rights. Dolly declined and prepared her solo version.
On March 18, 1974, the song reached #1 on the Billboard country chart. As it turned out, it reached #1 twice, again in 1982 after being re-recorded for the movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”.
As a result of Whitney’s version, Dolly earned $10 million in royalty payments in the early 1990s or roughly $20 million adjusted for inflation. The song gave her “enough money to buy Graceland” later on. Dolly still earns roughly 8 cents per radio play and $2 per album sold as the owner of the writing and publishing rights.
Pop Stardom & Acting Career
During the period 1974-1980, Dolly had eight #1 singles as a country artist. From 1976 to 1977, she hosted a variety show. The self-produced “New Harvest… First Gathering” album she produced in 1977 included pop songs. She covered “My Girl” and “Higher and Higher” for the album.
As part of the cast of 9 to 5, Dolly starred with Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin in 1980. In addition, she wrote and sang the movie’s title track. She was nominated for an Academy Award and four Grammys for the song “9 to 5”. She won two Grammy Awards, one for best country vocal performance and one for the best country song.
Dolly Dean married Carl Thomas Dean in 1966. Publicity is avoided by Dean. During his career, he ran an asphalt surfacing business in Nashville. The couple rarely attends public events together. Carl Parton admits he’s only ever seen her perform ONE time in public.
Despite having no children of her own, Parton is active in the lives of her nieces and nephews. She is also Miley Cyrus’ godmother.