2003 BMI Country Awards: Dolly Parton Bio

Posted in News on November 3, 2003

Throughout a four-decade career that has encompassed widely varied film, television, concert and recording work, Dolly Parton has become an internationally renowned superstar grounded by a deep-seated and humbly rooted sense of tradition and place.

At the 1970 BMI Country Awards: BMI's Ed Cramer, Dolly Parton, Bill Earl Owens

Dolly Parton's remarkable life began very humbly. Born January 19, 1946 on a farm in Sevier County, Tennessee, she is the fourth of 12 children born to Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton. By age six she was singing in her grandfather's church and at seven, she started playing guitar (fashioning her first guitar from an old mandolin and two bass guitar strings). At age nine, she appeared on Sevierville station WSEV and by 10 was performing professionally in nearby Knoxville, on both television and radio.

At BMI Nashville, late 1960s: (seated) Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Bill Earl Owens, and BMI's Frances Preston

The day after she graduated from high school, Dolly moved to Nashville to pursue her country music dream. On her first afternoon there, she met Carl Dean, whom she married two years later. Shortly after arriving in Nashville, she signed a contract with Fred Foster and Monument Records, who helped her find her first big hit - "Dumb Blonde." By 1967, at age 21, she was on her way to stardom when Porter Wagoner hired her to join the cast of his popular syndicated television show. Porter and Dolly were twice the Country Music Association's Vocal Duo of the Year, and together they had 14 Top Ten hits between 1967 and 1980. Duets with Wagoner led to a long and successful recording relationship with RCA Records and Dolly quickly blossomed into one of the best-selling country artists in music history.

BMI's Frances Preston and Dolly Parton

On the cover of BMI: The Many Worlds of Music in 1982

In 1974 Dolly ended her working relationship with Wagoner and began a solo career. In 1975 she posted four #1 hits (which she also wrote): "Love Is Like A Butterfly," "Kentucky Gambler," "Please Don't Stop Loving Me" and "I Will Always Love You," inspired by her parting with Wagoner. She was named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1975 and 1976 and Entertainer of the Year in 1978.

As her musical horizons expanded to encompass both traditional country ("My Tennessee Mountain Home," "The Seeker") and the contemporary sounds of progressive country ("Light Of a Clear Blue Morning"), Dolly's audience expanded as well. With 1977's breakthrough hit "Here You Come Again" - soon followed by "Baby I'm Burning" and "Two Doors Down" - she successfully erased the line between country and pop music without noticeably altering either her music or her image.

In 1980, Dolly began another phase in her growing career by making her film debut in 9 to 5, starring with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin and earning an Academy Award nomination for the theme song. Other notable film credits include The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, Rhinestone, Steel Magnolias, and Straight Talk. She has twice starred in her own network series, and appeared in numerous holiday specials and television movies.

In 1986, Dolly saw another of her dreams become a reality: the opening of Dollywood, an entertainment theme park to preserve her Smoky Mountain heritage and East Tennessee lifestyle. The park has grown to be the state's #1 attraction and ranks among the nation's top 30 theme parks. Among her many charitable ventures is the Dollywood Foundation, founded to support education and improve the quality of life for all children in Sevier County.

Easily one of BMI's most honored affiliates, Dolly has collected 37 Pop and Country Awards for her songwriting. "9 to 5" was the Country and the Pop song of the year in 1981; and "I Will Always Love You" was Pop song of the year in 1993.

Nine times she has been the artist on BMI's Most Performed Song of the Year: Country winners "To Know Him Is to Love Him" (1988, with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris); "Don't Call It Love" (1986); "Islands In the Stream" (1984, with Kenny Rogers); "9 to 5";"Here You Come Again" (1978) and Pop winners "9 to 5" and "Islands In the Stream" (1983).

Dolly holds the record for the most top 10 country albums for any artist with a total of 40. Among her gold and platinum albums are Slow Dancing With The Moon; Eagle When She Flies; Trio and Trio II (with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris), Greatest Hits; Here You Come Again; Home For Christmas; Once Upon A Christmas (with Kenny Rogers); Honky Tonk Angels (with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette); White Limozeen; 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs; Great Balls Of Fire; Heartbreaker; Best of Dolly Parton,

In 1999 Dolly signed with Sugar Hill Records and released her first bluegrass album, The Grass Is Blue (Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association album winner); other acoustic style projects have included Little Sparrow (2001), Halos and Horns (2002). Her songwriting is the subject of the recent tribute CD Just Because I'm a Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton, and she will release her 73rd album, For God and Country, on November 11.

A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 1999, she is a four-time Grammy winner and eight-time CMA winner, as well as a multiple Academy of Country Music, People's Choice and TNN/Music City News honoree.


ALL I CAN DO - 1977 Country Award

BABY I'M BURNIN' - 1979 Country Award / 1979 Pop Award

THE BARGAIN STORE -- 1976 Country Award


EVERYTHING'S BEAUTIFUL (IN ITS OWN WAY) -- 1983 Country Award / 1983 Pop Award

HEARTBREAK EXPRESS - 1983 Country Award / 1982 Pop Award

IT'S ALL WRONG, BUT IT'S ALL RIGHT - 1979 Country Award

I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU -- 1975, 1983 Country Award / 1982 , 1993, 1994, 1995 Pop Award / Million-Air [6 million] / 1993 Pop Song of the Year

JOLENE -- 1974 Country Award/ 1974 Pop Award / Million-Air

JOSHUA -- 1971 Country Award

KENTUCKY GAMBLER -- 1975 Country Award

THE LAST ONE TO TOUCH ME -- 1972 Country Award


LOVE IS LIKE A BUTTERFLY -- 1975 Country Award

9 TO 5 - 1981, 1982 Country Award / 1981 Pop Award / Million-Air [3 million] / 1981 Pop and Country Song of the Year

PLEASE DON'T STOP LOVING ME -- 1975 Country Award

PUT IT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW -- 1966 Country Award

SAY FOREVER YOU'LL BE MINE -- 1976 Country Award

THE SEEKER - 1976 Country Award


TO DADDY - 1978 Country Award

TRAVELING MAN -- 1974 Country Award

TWO DOORS DOWN - 1978, 1979 Country Award / 1978 Pop Award / Million-Air

YELLOW ROSES -- 1990 Country Award / Million-Air



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