Dolly Parton's 1997 Cadillac D'Elegance
Dolly Parton is one of the most honored female country performers of all time. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach number 1 on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, paid digital downloads and compilation usage during her Hall of Fame career have reportedly topped a staggering 100 million records world-wide.
Born and raised only a few miles from our Gatlinburg car museum in a rustic, dilapidated one-room cabin in Locust Ridge just north of Greenbrier in the Great Smoky Mountains, Dolly Parton learned early to escape the hardships of life through her vivid and far-ranging imagination. Before she learned to read and write, she was “making up” her own songs. She got her first guitar when she was 8 and began singing on a Knoxville, Tennessee radio station at age 11. That same year, she made her first recording on Gold Band Records, a tiny independent label. She made a name for herself locally while still in high school, but she dreamed of a bigger stage. The day after she graduated in 1964, she moved to Nashville. Dolly has gained international fame as a country music singer/songwriter, author, actress and philanthropist. She has the distinction of having performed on a top-40 country hit in each of the last five decades.
Dolly Parton has also invested locally in several business ventures, most notably the theme park Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, which has become one of the South’s leading tourist attractions, as well as Dollywood’s Splash Country and Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Through Dollywood and the non-profit Dollywood Foundation, Dolly has contributed in many ways to the area. From the local economy, to scholarship programs for high school students, to Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library”, Parton has been more than generous with her contributions. Her “Imagination Library” mails one book per month to children from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. This program began in Sevier County, Tennessee, but has now been replicated in 1,000 communities. She also supports the Dolly Parton Wellness and Rehabilitation Center of Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center, which provides women’s health services and other programs. There is now a life size statue of Parton on the lawn of the Sevier County courthouse.