NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) – Pour yourself a cup of ambition and rock your rhinestones, Dolly Parton has a big birthday this week! The icon turns 75 on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
For the country queen’s birthday we’re celebrating Parton's rags to riches story with 75 fun facts you may not have known about the star.
1. On Jan. 19, 1946 while snow fell over the Smoky Mountains, Dolly Rebecca Parton was born.
2. Dr. Robert F. Thomas brought Dolly into the world. It’s said that the country doctor was paid a sack of cornmeal for delivering her.
3. Dolly grew up in Locust Ridge in the Great Smoky Mountains.
4. Dolly’s mother, Avie Lee Owens Parton, married her father, Lee Parton, in 1939 when the couple was still very young. “I get a lot of my spirituality and my music from my mom. But I’ve got my daddy’s nerve and determination and work ethic,” Dolly wrote in Songteller.
5. Dolly was born the fourth child out of the 12 kids her parents had. By the time Avie and Lee were 35 and 37 respectively, they had a dozen children.
6. Dolly was raised in shacks and cabins without heat, indoor plumbing, electricity, or running water.
7. As a child, her clothes and toys were all homemade.
8. Dolly started writing songs as a toddler.
9. Her first song was about her corncob doll named “Little Tiny Tasseltop.” Her mother wrote the lyrics down for her.
10. Dolly’s song “My Tennessee Mountain Home” describes growing up in the Smoky Mountains. A recreation of her childhood home with some of the family’s original furniture can be seen at The Chasing Rainbow Museum at Dollywood.
11. Dolly says the biggest reason she works is for her family.
12. She started entertaining small audiences at 8 and had radio and TV appearances in Knoxville at age 10.
13. At age 13, she made the trek to Nashville to appear on the Grand Ole Opry.
14. Growing up, Dolly says her family would often sit on the porch and play music together. She would learn how to play different instruments from visiting family members.
15. Dolly credits her Uncle Bill Owens for helping her get started in the music business. He took her to audition for Cas Walker, which landed her on the Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour TV and radio shows. He also coordinated her a guest appearance spot on the Grand Ole Opry.
16. Dolly’s first single “Puppy Love” was released in 1959 after a recording session in Louisiana.
17. The song is inspired by her first crush, recording executive Ed Shuler’s son Johnny.
18. Dolly became the first member of her family to graduate from high school. After graduating, she boarded a bus to Music City.
19. On her first day in Nashville, Dolly met Carl Dean. “I’d left two boyfriends back home, and I thought the last thing I wanted was a boyfriend. So the first thing I do, the first day in Nashville, I meet Carl,” Dolly wrote in Songteller. “And I fell for him, and he fell for me.”
20. Around a month after her first songwriting hit, Dolly married her husband Carl Dean in Ringgold, Georgia. Dean has chosen to stay away from the limelight.
21. Dolly and her husband never had children of their own. In an interview, she said “God didn’t let me have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine.”
22. Almost every major record company on Music Row turned Dolly away as a singer, but she eventually signed with Monument Records and later left them for RCA.
23. Dolly is also known for her style. Some of her earlier iconic stage outfits in Nashville were made by dressmakers Lucy Adams and Ruth Kemp.
24. Dolly is an EGOT: Meaning she is one of an elite group of people to receive at least one nomination from all four major American award organizations; Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony.
25. In 2004, the U.S. Library of Congress gave Dolly the distinguished Living Legend Award.
26. In 2006, Dolly received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors. In 2011, Dolly received a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award.
27. The country queen’s viral “Dolly Parton Challenge” amassed more than 17 million online followers.
28. Along with writing songs and taking the internet by storm, Dolly has also dabbled in writing books. The superstar has written the following books: “Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics”, “Coat of Many Colors”, “Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You”, “Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business”, “Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s”, “Just the Way I Am” and “I Am a Rainbow”
29. One of Dolly’s most iconic hits “I Will Always Love You” has logged at least 10 million performances, ranking it in the top 30 of BMI’s most-performed songs of all time. The following songs were also included: “Nine to Five” with 5 million performances, “Jolene” with 2 million performances and “Two Doors Down” with 2 million performances.
30. Dolly once entered a Dolly Parton lookalike contest and lost to a drag queen, she said in a 2012 interview.
31. Dolly celebrated 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry back in 2019. She graced the sacred stage with friends Dierks Bentley, Emmylou Harris, Toby Keith, Hank Williams Jr. and Margo Price.
32. Dolly launched her Imagination Library in 1995 in Sevier County, Tennessee.
33. The program mails one book a month to a child until they reach kindergarten and has since expanded all over the United States and in Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland.
34. Dolly’s Imagination Library is inspired by her own father’s inability to read or write. “My daddy just loved it when all the little kids would call me ‘The Book Lady.’ That meant more to him than the fact that I had become a star and worked my butt off.”
35. Dolly’s Imagination Library has mailed more than 120 million free books to children to help them fall in love with reading. Parents can register their children for the Imagination Library by clicking here.
36. During the coronavirus pandemic, Dolly virtually read bedtime stories to children all over the world with her “Goodnight Dolly” program.
37. The “Goodnight Dolly” program featured books from the Imagination Library and lasted for 10 weeks while some families were under shelter-in-place orders.
38. 2020 marked the 90th anniversary of “The Little Engine That Could.” It’s a book close to Dolly’s heart that all newly registered children in the U.S. and Canada receive when they sign up for Imagination Library. It also kicked off the “Goodnight Dolly” web series.
39. Also showing off her generous spirit, Dolly donated $1 million to Vanderbilt to help researchers find a cure for COVID-19.
40. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Dolly’s $1 million donation to Vanderbilt helped in the discovery of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. “When I donated the money to the Covid fund I just wanted it to do good and evidently, it is! Let’s just hope we can find a cure real soon,” she said.
41. Following global praise for helping discover the Moderna vaccine, the Tennessee Titans picked Dolly as their honorary 12th Titan for their game against the Cleveland Browns back in December.
42. Dolly’s contribution to vaccine research inspired a rewritten version of her song “Jolene.” Northeastern professor Ryan Cordell went viral for his parody called “Vaccine.”
43. Cordell’s not the only one to go viral for covering “Jolene.” Miley Cyrus’ backyard session of the song has several views as well. Dolly is Miley’s godmother.
44. What does Dolly want for her birthday? She half-jokingly said she wanted to be on the cover of Playboy for her 75th birthday. In an interview with 60 Minutes Australia, she said, “I thought it would be such a hoot if they’ll go for it. I don’t know if they will.”
45. Dolly became the first country singer on the cover of Playboy back in 1978.
46. Multiple lawmakers and political figures have tried to honor the country queen.
47. In an interview, TV host Stephen Colbert asked former President Barack Obama how has Dolly Parton not gotten a Presidential Medal of Freedom yet? He replied, “She deserves one. I’ll call Biden.”
48. Rep. John Mark Windle from Livingston, Tennessee, introduced HB135 which seeks to add a statue of Dolly Parton on the Tennessee Capitol grounds.
49. Tennessee Senator Heidi Campbell filed her first resolution, asking Biden to honor Dolly Parton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "Dolly Parton is a Tennessee treasure for the world's benefit," Campbell said. "Everyone knows her legacy as an entertainer, but she is just as important to us for her many contributions to our state and nation."
50. Dolly Parton raised more than $9 million for Gatlinburg wildfire relief after the deadly fires in 2016.
52. The album includes a song written with Kent Wells and duets with Michael Bublé, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon and Willie Nelson, plus a special tune with her brother, Randy.
53. One of Dolly’s favorite Christmas memories is when her whole family saved up to buy her mother a wedding band for Christmas. Read the heartwarming story here.
54. Dolly’s amusement park hangs millions of twinkling Christmas lights each year.
55. Dollywood officially opened in 1986, but the amusement park traces back to a small-scale attraction in 1961. Favorites like Aunt Granny’s, the Back Porch Theatre and the Smoky Mountain Rampage were added in Dollywood’s first season. The park has more than doubled in size since opening.
56. Even with all of the fun at Dollywood, Dolly herself told The New York Times she has never been on the rides at her theme park. “I don’t ride the rides. I never have,” the singer tells The New York Times. “I have a tendency to get motion sickness. Also, I’m a little bit chicken. With all my hair I got so much to lose, like my wig or my shoes. I don’t like to get messed up. I’m gonna have some handsome man mess it up, I don’t want some ride doing it.”
57. Dollywood has been named among the top theme parks in the world, according to TripAdvisor.
58. After the death of George Floyd, Dolly used her voice to speak out in support of the Black Lives matter movement. “Of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No! Everybody matters,” Parton said in an interview with Billboard.
59. After her comments, tourists flocked to Music City to take pictures of a new mural of Dolly celebrating her position on Black Lives Matter.
60. Dolly has spoken out about an array of issues. Her 1968 hit “Just Because I’m a Woman” became a feminist hit and charted in several places, including South Africa.
61. While Dolly has blessed airwaves for years, she has taken her talents to Netflix as well. She starred in a 2020 Netflix Christmas musical called “Christmas on the Square” and has an entire “Heartstrings” series inspired by her songs.
62. Dolly is a jack of all trades, but she says if she could only be one thing she would be a songwriter. “The songs are my legacy,” Dolly wrote.
63. Dolly says she doesn’t have to be in a certain place to write a song. “On my tourbus, on an airplane, in the bathtub, or just about anywhere, the writing comes all the time,” she wrote in her new book Songteller.
64. Dolly started making up her own songs and stories as a child since she says her family didn’t go to the movies.
65. When she’s able to make time for songwriting, Dolly calls it her “Godspace.” She says she feels closest to God when she writes. “A great line will come to me, and I’ll go, ‘Hey, thank You, Lord. I know I didn’t think of that,” Dolly wrote.
66. Dolly wrote the original lyrics for “Coat of Many Colors” on one of Porter Wagoner’s dry-cleaning receipts. The song later hit No. 4 on the country charts.
67. One of Dolly’s first royalty checks from her songwriting was for $1.02 from Tree Publishing.
68. In 1971, Dolly had her first No. 1 hit with the song “Joshua”
69. In 1967, Porter Wagoner hired Dolly for his singing troupe. She left the show in 1974 after writing “I Will Always Love You”
70. The song became one of the biggest hits in history with Dolly’s country version and Whitney Houston’s pop version.
71. “Jolene” is Dolly’s most recorded song. However, she didn’t win a GRAMMY for “Jolene” until 2017 through a collaboration with Pentatonix.
72. Dolly says it’s possible “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” were written on the same day.
73. According to Dolly’s latest book, she has written around 3,000 songs with 450 of them being recorded.
74. Dolly has an unheard “secret song” locked away at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort that won’t be released until 2045.
75. The worldwide icon said she doesn’t plan to hang up her heels anytime soon. In a March 2020 interview, she said she has “no plans to retire.”
If you've made it this far, you must be a true Dolly fan! Wish her a "Happy Birthday" here.