Dolly Rebecca Parton's success is a true rags-to-riches story. The kind movies are made of -- just look at the TV biopic Coat of Many Colors for proof of that. The fourth of twelve siblings and daughter to a poor farmer and construction worker who grew up in Sevier County in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Parton has inspired countless others in their quests to follow their dreams. Who would have thought that young Dolly pursuing singing in Nashville would one day take the world by storm? The powerhouse is far from a "dumb blonde".
She's also a pretty good role model and incredibly generous with what she's been given. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is part of her non-profit, the Dollywood Foundation, which provides free books to children from the time they are born until they are 5. I love how openly generous the country singer is and how she has used the voice she was given to benefit those in need.
In a video for Billboard, the "Jolene" singer shared the first Christmas gifts she ever bought her parents Robert and Avie Lee Parton, as soon as she hit it big in country music, first as a songwriter and then as an artist. "It was always my wish to do something great for my family," says Parton. "My daddy always drove a truck. I bought my daddy a big blue truck, and he was always so proud of that. He never would trade it in. He kept it. The truck is still very much in the family today. Daddy's gone now, but I still have the truck. It's on some of the property that I bought that daddy used to own."
It doesn't get much driving time anymore, but all the nieces and nephews get to play on it.
As for her mom, "I bought my mama a Cadillac," says Parton. Dolly would trade in the car every few years for her mom, with the final model being a big gold one. "That went back to me when Mama passed on," says Parton. "I wouldn't take nothing for it. My husband (Carl Dean Thomas) drives it a lot. Because it was Mama's car, and I still drive it some, I call it the 'Dolly Mama.' Everybody knows not to mess with the "Dolly Mama" because that was such a precious thing. I was always proud that I could do for my family when I started making some money."
Though her parents have passed on, Parton remains close to her siblings. Stella and Randy have also had careers in country music while younger sister Rachel pursued an acting career, best known for 9 to 5. Her brother Floyd, and longtime songwriting partner passed away in December 2018.
The childhood home that raised all of the Parton children still stands today on Locust Ridge Rd. in Sevierville, TN. There's even a replica of it at the Dollywood theme park, located outside of Knoxville in Pigeon Forge.