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Dolly Parton: Country Music's Backwoods Barbie, Then And Now

Icons | October 30, 2017

Left: Dolly Parton in 'The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas' (1982). Right: On the cover of her 1967 debut solo album, 'Hello, I'm Dolly.' Sources: IMDB; discogs.com

Country music star Dolly Parton has been wowing audiences for years with her unbridled music and acting abilities. A plus for her audiences was the fact that she is very easy on the eyes. This product of the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee grew up in poverty and rose to the heights of country stardom, all while remaining humble and folksy.

Throughout her career, Parton has been almost as notable for her figure and wardrobe as for her singing and musical talent. But she heads her critics off at the pass, poking fun at herself more than -- and better than -- anyone else. "I make jokes about it, but it's the truth that I kind of patterned my look after the town tramp," Parton has said. "I didn't know what she was, just this woman who was blond and piled her hair up, wore high heels and tight skirts, and, boy, she was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen. Momma used to say, 'Aw, she's just trash,' and I thought, That's what I want to be when I grow up. Trash."

Parton was one of 12 children born into a poor, Tennessee family. She was raised in the economically depressed Appalachian Mountains. Dolly was reportedly spunky from the start; all “5-foot-nothing” of her. In a brood that big, she had to be competitive to get her share whatever there was.

Being born into a family that loved to sing and play guitar, Dolly Parton was no stranger to performing. Although early on it was mostly done for her own entertainment, she also performed on local stages and in church. When Dolly was 10, she was given a guitar as a gift, which was no small gesture for someone of her economically challenged lifestyle. With her outgoing personality she found herself very comfortable on stage and she just couldn’t get enough of the spotlight. After Dolly graduated high school, she took her show on the road and moved to Nashville, Tennessee in hopes of pursuing a career in music. She was soon discovered by country music star, Porter Wagner, in the late 1960’s, giving her the exposure she needed. Before long, she began to discover her own solo career blessing the country music world with hit after hit.  

Dolly Parton was one of those starlets that could have had any man she wanted. Unlike many high-profile relationships, Dolly and her husband married in 1966, and remained true to one another for the long haul. Dolly’s husband, Carl Dean, was more than happy to let her have the spotlight all to herself; rarely being in the public eye. Make no mistake though, it wasn’t Dolly’s choice; it was Carl’s. She would have gladly shared the limelight.  

Young Dolly Parton, as small as she was, always did everything in a big way. She had a big voice, big hair, big songs -- and, of course, a big bust line. Over the years, there has been much speculation as to exactly how big they are. The size most commonly given is 40DD, although photographic evidence suggests her cup size might be quite a bit larger. Whatever the exact measurement, Dolly has always been proud of her "girls" and fully admits she's used them to her advantage in her career. She has also had them insured -- for a reported $600,000

"I don't know if I'm supporting them, or they're supporting me," she has said.

Even if you weren’t a fan of country music, chances are pretty darn good that you knew who Dolly Parton was, men and women alike. Dolly has always been comfortable with her attention-getting figure, even dubbing herself a "backwoods Barbie." (It's a title that might as well have been applied to Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach of The Dukes of Hazzard or Donna "Elly May Clampett" Douglas of The Beverly Hillbillies.)

Over the years, Dolly has enjoyed a remarkable career in both music and acting. Like many celebrities in the public eye, she was very conscious of her stage appearance. Over the years her looks have changed dramatically, as you would probably expect them to, but she has always been country music's iconic blonde bombshell.

Dolly Parton has always been energetic and creative, full of no-nonsense down-home gumption. "I wake up with new dreams every day," she told Reader's Digest in 2006. "So the more I can do to channel that into things that I love to create is healthier for me and probably for everybody around me. And the older I get, the earlier I get up. The second my feet hit the floor, I'm awake. I'm like hurry, hurry. I just love life. And I feel like we ain't got but a certain amount of time anyway. I want to make the most of all of it."

Tags: 1970s Country Music | Country Music | Dolly Parton | Ladies | Then And Now

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.