From her modest beginnings in grassroots country to her current international acclaim, Grammy award-winning country superstar Dolly Parton has become an American icon, whose career spans three decades.
Parton grew up as the fourth of 12 children on a rundown farm in Locust Ridge, Tenn., near the Smoky Mountains National Forest. While the young Parton was much-riduculed for her poverty, she turned to music for comfort. After learning to play a guitar that was a gift from her uncle, she began making public music appearances. By the age of 12, she made her debut on a Knoxville television station, and by the age of 14, she had already landed a recording contract with Mercury, and was making appearances on the Grand Old Opry.
Unfortunately, Parton's debut, It's Sure Gonna Hurt, failed miserably, and Mercury dropped her. She continued, however to play her music, and by the time she had graduated from high school, she was well on her way to becoming a major country singer. In 1967 she moved to Nashville to carve out her career. On her first night in town she met Carl Dean in a Nashville laundromat and the two were married soon after.
Parton's first hit, Dumb Blonde, turned the ears of local television icon Porter Wagoner, and he hired Parton to sing on his television show. Their famed duets and frequent appearances on the Grand Old Opry made them a country favorite.
In 1970 Parton's Joshua hit no. 1 and Parton set out on her own, going completely solo in 1974. (Wagoner would later sue Parton and receive a significant part of her royalties for music produced during this era.) Between 1974 and 1980, no fewer than eight of the singer's singles reached the top of the charts. By 1980 Parton had become such a media darling that she began to land roles in motion pictures, including an Oscar-nominated performance in the 1980 hit, 9 to 5 with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Parton also performed in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982, Sylvester Stallone's Rhinestone in 1984, Steel Magnolias, and the made-for-TV melodrama, Wild Texas Wind.
In the early '80s, Parton saw 12 hits top the charts, but by the middle of the decade Parton had put recording and touring on hold to pursue her business interests with the multi-million dollar media empire, Dolly Parton Enterprises. In 1986 the corporation opened the theme park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The following year, Parton had a short-lived television variety show, "Dolly," on ABC.
Despite the trend in Nashville toward younger, more pop - oriented "contemporary country" artists, Parton held her own through the '90s, keeping up a typically prolific recording schedule, continuing her motion picture career and even publishing her autobiography, My Life And Other Unfinished Business. Her latest, the eclectic effort Little Sparrow, came out in 2001.