Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19: Dolly Parton is 68-years-old today.

In the four-and-a-half decades since her national-chart début, Dolly Rebecca Parton remains one of the most-successful female artists in the history of country music. She has had twenty-five number-one singles, and a record forty-one top-10 country albums.

She has the distinction of having performed on a top-five country hit in each of the last five decades and is tied with Reba McEntire as the only country artists with No. 1 singles in four consecutive decades.

Her success has earned her the title "The Queen of Country Music."

Dolly Parton was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children born to her parents. Her family was, dirt poor," which she has mentioned in her songs "Coat of Many Colors," which happens to be her favorite and "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad.)"

They lived in a rustic, dilapidated one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, a hamlet just north of the Green brier Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains of Sevier County, a predominantly Pentecostal area. Music formed a major part of her early church experience. Even today, she performs spiritual songs during her concerts.

Parton began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. By age nine, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At thirteen, she was recording on a small Louisiana label, Gold band Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

At the Opry she met Johnny Cash who encouraged her to pursue a singing career. The day after she graduated from high school in 1964, Parton moved to Nashville taking many traditional elements of folklore and popular music from East Tennessee with her.

Parton's initial success came as a songwriter, writing two top ten hits with her uncle Bill Owens, Bill Phillips's "Put it Off Until Tomorrow" and Skeeter Davis' 1967 hit "Fuel to the Flame." She also wrote a minor chart hit for Hank Williams Jr. She had signed with Monument Records in late 1965, where she was initially pitched as a bubblegum pop singer, earning only one national-chart single, "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby," which did not crack the Billboard Hot 100.

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The label agreed to have Parton sing country music after her composition, "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," as recorded by Bill Phillips - and with Parton, uncredited, on harmony - went to number six on the country-music charts in 1966.

Her first country single, "Dumb Blonde," reached number twenty-four on the country-music charts in 1967, followed the same year with "Something Fishy," which went to number seventeen. The two songs were featured on her first full-length album, Hello, I'm Dolly.

In 1967, country entertainer Porter Wagoner invited Parton to join his organization, offering her the chance to become a regular on his weekly syndicated-television program The Porter Wagoner Show, and also to become a part of his road show.
Wagoner convinced his label, RCA Victor, to sign Parton. The label decided to protect their investment by releasing her first single as a duet with Wagoner.

The duo's first single, "The Last Thing on My Mind," released in late 1967, reached the country Top Ten in January 1968, launching a six-year streak of virtually uninterrupted Top-Ten singles.

Parton's first solo single for RCA, "Just Because I'm a Woman," was released in the summer of 1968 and was a moderate chart hit, reaching number seventeen.

Parton's first solo single for RCA, "Just Because I'm a Woman," was released in the summer of 1968 and was a moderate chart hit, reaching number seventeen.

For the remainder of the decade, none of her solo efforts – even "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)," which would later become a standard – were as successful as her duets with Wagoner. The duo was named Vocal Group of the Year in 1968 by the Country Music Association, but Parton's solo records were continually ignored.

By 1970, both Parton and Wagoner had grown frustrated by her lack of solo chart success, and Porter had her record Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues," a gimmick that worked. The record shot to number three on the charts, followed closely, in February 1971, by her first number-one single, "Joshua."

For the next two years, she had a number of solo hits – including her signature song "Coat of Many Colors" in 1971 – in addition to her duets.

Though she had successful singles, none of them were blockbusters until "Jolene." Released in late 1973, the song topped the singles chart in February 1974. Parton and Wagoner performed their last duet concert in April 1974, and she ceased appearing on his TV show in mid-1974, though they remained affiliated, with him helping to produce her records through 1976. The pair continued to release duet albums, their final release being 1975's Say Forever You'll Be Mine.
In 1974, her song, "I Will Always Love You" - written about her professional break from Wagoner - was released and went to number one on the country-music charts.

Elvis Presley indicated that he wanted to cover the song. Parton was interested until Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, told her that she would have to sign over half of the publishing rights if Presley recorded the song (as was the standard procedure for songs he recorded).
Parton refused and that decision is credited with helping to make her many millions of dollars in royalties from the song over the years. It was decisions like these, in fact, that caused her to be called "The Iron Butterfly" in show-business circles.

From 1974 to 1980, she consistently charted in the country Top 10, with no fewer than eight singles reaching number one. Parton had her own syndicated-television variety show, Dolly! in 1976–1977.
It was also during this period that Parton began to embark on a high profile crossover campaign, attempting to aim her music in a more mainstream direction and increase her visibility outside of the confines of country music.

With her 1976 album All I Can Do, coproduced by herself with Porter Wagoner, Parton began taking more of an active role in production, and began specifically aiming her music in a more mainstream, pop direction.

Her first entirely self-produced effort, 1977's New Harvest ... First Gathering, highlighted Parton's pop sensibilities, both in terms of choice of songs—the album contained covers of the pop and R&B classics "My Girl" and "Higher and Higher" - and the album's production. While receiving generally favorable reviews, the album did not achieve the crossover success Parton had hoped for.

In1977's Here You Come Again, became her first million-seller, topping the country albums chart and reaching #20 on the pop albums chart; the "title track" topped the country singles chart, and became Parton's first top-ten single on the pop charts (reaching number three).

A second single, the double A-sided single "Two Doors Down"/"It's All Wrong But It's All Right" also topped the country singles chart and crossed over to the pop top twenty.

For the remainder of the 1970s and into the early '80s, many of Parton's subsequent singles charted on both pop and country charts, simultaneously.

In 1978 Parton won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her Here You Come Again album. She continued to have hits with "Heartbreaker," "Baby I'm Burning" and "You're the Only One," all of which charted in the pop singles Top 40, and all of which also topped the country-singles chart.

Parton's commercial success continued to grow during 1980, with three number-one hits in a row: the Donna Summer-written "Starting Over Again," "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You," and "9 to 5."

"9 to 5," the theme song to the feature film Nine to Five (1980) Parton starred in along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, not only reached number one on the country charts, but also, in February 1981, reached number one on the pop and the adult-contemporary charts. It also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Parton's singles continued to appear consistently in the country Top 10: between 1981 and 1985, she had 12 Top 10 hits; half of those were number-one singles. Parton continued to make inroads on the pop charts as well with a re-recorded version of "I Will Always Love You" from the feature film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. 
Also that year  she hit the Top 50 that year with her duet with Kenny Rogers, "Islands in the Stream" (written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry Gibb), spent two weeks at number one in 1983.

Dolly has received seven Grammy Awards and a total of 45 Grammy Award nominations. At the American Music Awards she has won three awards, but has received 18 nominations. At the Country Music Association, she has received 10 awards and 42 nominations.

At the Academy of Country Music, she has won seven awards and 39 nominations. She is one of only six female artists (including Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Shania Twain, Loretta Lynn, and Taylor Swift), to win the Country Music Association's highest honor, Entertainer of the Year (1978). She has also been nominated for two Academy Awards and a Tony Award.

She was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording in 1984; a star on the Nashville Star Walk for Grammy winners; and a bronze sculpture on the courthouse lawn in Sevierville. She has called that statue of herself in her hometown "the greatest honor," because it came from the people who knew her.

Parton was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1969, and in 1986 was named one of Ms. Magazine's Women of the Year. In 1986, Parton was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In 1999, Parton received country music's highest honor, an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She received an honorary doctorate degree from Carson-Newman College (Jefferson City, Tennessee) in 1990. This was followed by induction into the National Academy of Popular Music/Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001.

For more about Dolly, visit her Website at -


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