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The Dolly Parton Travel Guide to Tennessee: A Musical Roadtrip

American singer Dolly Parton singing with a guitar, circa 1970.(Photo by Gems/Redferns via Getty Images)

Dolly Parton's love of Tennesee is no secret. One need only listen to her many songs about her upbringing in The Volunteer State to understand just how much the Smoky Mountain region shaped her as a person and a singer-songwriter.

"My Tennessee Mountain Home," "Tennessee Homesick Blues" and "Appalachian Memories" are just a few of the country legend's songs that pay tribute to the roots of her raising.

If you're planning a Dolly-themed Tennessee getaway, you only need the country queen's discography for a guide. (But we're here to help too.) Read on for a Musical Travel Guide to Dolly Parton's Tennessee.

Sevierville

photo of Dolly Parton as a child
Country singer Dolly Parton poses for a portrait in circa 1955 in Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

 

"In my Tennessee mountain home
life is as peaceful as a baby's sigh."

-- "My Tennessee Mountain Home," From My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973

 

 

Seveierville is where it all started. Dolly Rebecca Parton, born on Jan. 19, 1946, was delivered by Dr. Robert F. Thomas in her parents' cabin in Locust Ridge. Thomas was a minister and family physician dedicated to bringing quality medical care to the residents of Sevier County, Tennessee.

"Dr. Thomas was a man the Lord must have appointed
to live among us mountain folks in eastern Tennessee
And he delivered more than half the babies in those mountains
Among those babies, he delivered me."

-- "Robert F. Thomas," My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973 

It goes without saying that Sevierville is proud to be the home of Dolly Parton. In 1987, a statue of the country legend was unveiled on the Sevier County Courthouse lawn. It's a must-stop for any Parton fan.

Dolly Parton Statue: 125 Court Ave Sevierville, TN 37862

Today, Parton still owns the one-bedroom log cabin where she was born and raised and, over the years, she's spent a couple million dollars restoring it.

"What we tried to do was make it look like it did when we lived there, but we wanted it to be functional," Parton once said. "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it."

While you can't visit Dolly's real Tennessee Mountain Home (it's on private property that's near and dear to the Parton family), the next best thing is located in her theme park up the road...

Dollywood

Dolly Parton poses in front of the Dollywood sign
PIGEON FORGE, TN - OCTOBER 24: American singer and songwriter Dolly Parton poses for a portrait at Dollywood on October 24, 1988 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images)

Dollywood is the ultimate trek for Dolly fans. In 1986, Parton and partners took over the Silver Dollar City theme park in Pigeon Forge to create Dollywood, a celebration of the country icon's beloved Smoky Mountain region.

Dollywood: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Inside Dollywood is a replica of the log cabin where Parton was raised with her siblings. The replica cabin was built by Parton's brother Bobby and the interior was recreated by her mother Avie Lee. Inside the cabin are historic Parton family treasures, so it feels like you're walking through the real thing.

Read More: Dolly Parton's Parents Inspired Her Music and Charity

American singer Dolly Parton singing with a guitar, circa 1970.
American singer Dolly Parton singing with a guitar, circa 1970.(Photo by Gems/Redferns via Getty Images)

But there's even more Parton history to be found inside Dollywood. The park's Chasing Rainbows Museum contains a replica of the Coat of Many Colors, the subject of the singer-songwriter's 1969 classic. The coat was lovingly recreated by Parton's mother.

 

"My coat of many colors that my momma made for me
Made only from ragsbut I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
my momma made for me"

-- "Coat of Many Colors,"  Coat of Many Colors, 1971

Read More: Rooted in Country: Ginger Minj on Dolly Parton's 'Coat of Many Colors'

Pigeon Forge

Singer Dolly Parton attends an RCA party after a concert in San Francisco, California
Singer Dolly Parton attends an RCA party after a concert in San Francisco, California. (Photo by © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images)

After spending a day at Dollywood, you can relax at Parton's DreamMore Resort. Inside the resort is a recording of a secret Dolly Parton song that's kept in a time capsule (the Dream Box), which won't be opened until 2045. The Dream Box is located in the lower lobby of the resort.

DreamMore Resort and Spa: 2525 DreamMore Wy, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Nashville

Photo of Dolly Parton in a car
Photo by Nigel Scot McNeil/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Nashville is only a four-hour drive from Parton's hometown of Sevierville, but it might as well have been a world away.

As parton wrote in "The Letter," one of the many personal songs from her My Tennessee Mountain Home album, Nashville wasn't exactly what she thought it was going to be. She was homesick for the Smoky Mountains and her family, but she new that Music City was where she was meant to be. (Her move to Nashville was written in the stars in more ways than one; on the day she moved to the city, she met her future husband, Carl Dean, at the Wishy Washy Laundromat.)

"I cried almost all the way to Nashville
and I wanted to turn around a few times and come back
But you know how bad I've always wanted to go to Nashville
and be a singer and songwriter
And I believe that if I try long enough and hard enough
that someday I'll make it."

-- "The Letter," My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973

As she wrote in that 1964 letter, Parton got a job singing on The Eddie Hill Show and soon garnered interest from other artists who wanted to record her songs. Just a couple years later, she'd join The Porter Wagoner Show, which helped introduce the multitalented artist to a wider audience. Eventually, Parton was ready to go out on her own. She famously wrote "I Will Always Love You" for her friend Wagoner as a "goodbye." Inspired by her newfound freedom, she also penned "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" on the car ride home from Wagoner's office.

Photo of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner
Photo of Dolly PARTON and Porter WAGONER and Dolly PARTON; L-R. Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

 

"'Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning/ I can see the light of a brand new day/ I can see the light of a clear blue morning/  Oh, and everything's gonna be all right/ It's gonna be okay."  -- "The Light of a Clear Blue Morning," From New Harvest...First Gathering, 1977

 

But Parton was no overnight success. Before she landed a spot on The Porter Wagoner Show (or gained a Top 40 hit with "Dumb Blonde"), she was a Nashville newcomer pounding the pavement on Music Row, Nashville's home to record label offices and recording studios.

"I got into Nashville early
Sleepy, hungry, tired and dirty
And on the steps of RCA
I ate a stale, sweet roll
In the fountain at the hall of fame
I washed my face and read the names
In the walkway of the stars
Down on music row." 

-- "Down on Music Row," My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973

 

 

Another Parton landmark is RCA Studio B, where Parton first recorded with Wagoner -- and had a driving mishap.

"In my rush to get to the studio that day, I forgot one basic element of driving--braking," Parton wrote in My Life and Other Unfinished Business (quote via the RCA Studio B blog). "I arrived at the old RCA studio on Music Row and plowed right into the side of the building. Bricks were still falling onto the hood of my car as I walked nonchalantly into the recording session, as if nothing bad had happened. When we took a break a little later, the men went outside to have a cigarette and noticed my car stuck in the wall. They commented on it, but I never did say anything or confess that it was my car."

Historic RCA Studio B: 1611 Roy Acuff Pl Nashville, TN

No Dolly Parton tour of Nashville is complete without a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where Parton is honored in the Hall of Fame rotunda (she was inducted in 1999) or the Grand Ole Opry, where Parton made her debut at the age of 13. Ten years later, she'd become a member of the historic institution.

Country Music Hall of Fame: 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203

Grand Ole Opry: 2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214

While you're in town, grab a bite to eat at the classic meat and three restaurant Arnold's Country Kitchen (it's said to be one of Parton's favorites) and order a drink at White Limozeen, a Dolly-themed rooftop bar.

Arnold's Country Kitchen: 605 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

White Limozeen: 101 20th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203

So I uprooted myself from my home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild
It can always survive
Wildflowers don't care where they grow

-- Wildflowers, From Trio, 1987

Planning your own Dolly Parton Tennessee road trip? Check out our playlist below.

 

 

 

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The Dolly Parton Travel Guide to Tennessee: A Musical Roadtrip