Dolly Parton’s meteoric rise to success instilled pride in her family and hometown. At first, though, one member of her family wasn’t sure that singing was the right path for her. She shared that her father didn’t love the idea of her chosen career. Parton revealed why he felt this way and how he ultimately came around to his daughter’s life.
Dolly Parton’s father worked hard to support his family
Parton and her 11 siblings grew up together in a one-bedroom home in the Smoky Mountains. Her mother, Avie Lee Owens, and father, Lee Parton, worked tirelessly to give them a good childhood.
“Daddy raised that whole family on his brains and hard work,” Parton wrote in the book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “He was such a smart person. I always thought that if Daddy had an education, there’s no telling what he could have been. Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bargain. He knew how to make everything work, and he knew how to count money. He knew exactly what everything was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobacco crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work.”
Parton was immensely proud of her father and dedicated her Imagination Library to him.
The ‘Jolene’ singer said he didn’t initially like the idea of her being a singer
From a very early age, Parton knew she wanted to be a star. She grew up writing music and never doubted that she’d find success in the performing arts. Her father wasn’t sure that she should follow this path.
“He was real dyed-in-the-wool country,” Parton said, per the book Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller. “When I was growing up, he didn’t believe in women cutting their hair, or wearing trousers, or anything like that — and he sure didn’t like the idea of me becoming a singer. He had never heard tell of someone from our poor, unknown background making it in music.”
Though he had reservations about the 10-year-old Parton traveling to Knoxville to audition for the Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour, he didn’t stop her. Parton’s impressive audition scored her the job on the spot, beginning her lengthy music career.
Dolly Parton says her father had a sweet way of showing pride in her
Though he initially resisted the idea of Parton becoming a musician, Lee Parton demonstrated his pride in his daughter. When Sevier County, Tennessee erected a statue of Parton, her father first responded to Parton’s excitement with a joke.
“Daddy said, ‘Well yeah, I heard about [the statue],’” Parton for the Apple Fitness + Time to Walk program. “And he said, ‘Now to your fans out there you might be some sort of an idol. But to them pigeons, you ain’t nothing but another outhouse.”
Despite this, Parton said he was careful to make sure the statue stayed clean. He would bring “a bucket of soapy water in the back of his pick-up truck” to scrub it at night.
“That touched me so much,” she said. “I loved my daddy and wanted him to be proud of himself, as I was proud of him.”
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