There is one thing that makes Dolly Parton who she is, her roots. No matter what business adventure she is entering or lyric that she is penning to paper, she has never forgotten where she came from and what is most important in life.

Growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, Dolly is someone that I deeply admire and respect. Throughout my childhood, I have fond memories of frequently attending her local attractions such as Dollywood and the Dixie Stampede. I quickly realized how important she is, not only to all of East Tennessee, but the world.

Dolly began her journey humbly. She was born January 19, 1946, on a farm in Sevier County, Tennessee, and is the fourth of twelve children. Being raised in the impoverished East Tennessee hills, her parents Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton gave all for their family, but with most singer/songwriters the difficult things in life produce the best foundation for music.

Her father even spoke of Dolly singing before she could even speak. By the age of ten, Dolly was performing on local television and radio shows in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee. “I always wanted to be a star. It just seemed natural to me,” she said. “Making music is all I’ve ever known.” Dolly left for Nashville the day after her high school graduation. On her first afternoon there, she met her future husband of forty-five years, Carl Dean. “He’s good for me, ‘cause he’s so different in nature from me.”

In 1967, Dolly’s career took off when country music superstar Porter Wagoner began featuring her on his popular syndicated television show, exposing Dolly to over 45 million people in more than 100 markets. Dolly quickly blossomed into one of the best-selling country artists in music history. She has garnered seven Grammy Awards, ten Country Music Association Awards, five Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards and is one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. In 1999, Dolly was inducted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and in 2007 was named the recipient of the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. Also, Dolly has a new

movie that was released January, 2012 named “Joyful Noise” with Queen Latifah.

With all of these achievements, Dolly still makes time to give back. In 1988, she began the Dollywood Foundation to inspire children in East Tennessee to dream more, learn more, do more and care more. Currently the foundation funds the Dolly Parton Imagination Library across America and Canada, by giving every preschool child a book each month from the time he or she is born until the child reaches kindergarten. Dolly says, “My dad was prouder of me for this program than for my music career. He thought it was grand that all the kids called me the Book Lady.”

Whether you are walking through her theme park hearing blue grass music and eating kettle corn or sitting in her Christmas show hearing her sing the powerful lyrics of her faith “He’s Alive”, Dolly has truly captured the heartbeat of East Tennessee and has forever placed a piece of herself in the Smoky Mountains.

Yet with all of her national and international recognition, Dolly speaks of the bronze statue of her on the Sevierville, Tennessee courthouse lawn as her “greatest honor, because it came from the people who know me.”

For more information about Dolly and all of her endeavors, go to

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Heather Haley with Senior Directory, Knoxville.

A special thank you to Dolly Records for use of the photos in this feature story and on the cover. Activities & Entertain