Before she became a country music icon, a Hollywood star, the entrepreneur behind the Dollywood theme park and the benevolent force responsible for the Imagination Library, Dolly Parton was a teenage dreamer in East Tennessee.
Thanks to Knoxville-area film archivist Matthew Reeves, we can now see 14-year-old Parton perform at an outdoor event organized by Smoky Mountain celebrity and Knoxville mayor Cas Walker.
As both the footage and the accompanying studio recording of "Making Believe" establish, Parton developed at a young age into the singer-songwriter and live performer that'd go on to change popular music.
Per Reeves' YouTube description, the silent 8mm home movie footage was shot by Haroldine Worthington in Fountain City, Tennessee at the gas station parking lot at the corner of Essary Road and Broadway.
Reeves' discovery predates most things associated with Parton's early career, from her deal with Monument Records to her regular gig on the Porter Wagoner Show.
It also offers a glimpse at East Tennessee's music scene at the time. Country journeyman "Little Robert" Van Winkle's among the recognizable faces backing Parton.
Per a feature by Media College, Reeves and his wife Louisa Trott formed the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) in 2005 to preserve locally-made film, television and audio.
"This area has always been rich in music culture, so there is a wealth of amazing material out there waiting to be discovered and saved," Reeves told Media College in 2010.
Reeves appeared on local NBC affiliate WBIR to promote the footage, which can be viewed on his YouTube channel.
Other footage of young Dolly includes at least one appearance on Walker's TV show. In the 1967 appearance below, Parton performs "Dumb Blonde."
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in February of 2021.
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