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Dolly Parton had dreams of being a famous musician ever since she was a little girl. She started writing songs at the age of five and spent much of her childhood performing “concerts” on the front porch of her family’s one-bedroom cabin, singing into a tin can on a stick to act as a microphone. If you ask Parton, she’ll say she doesn’t think she’s “a great singer.” Here’s how the Queen of Country thinks she became a star.

Dolly Parton accepts the Hitmaker Award during the Billboard Women In Music 2020 event on December 10, 2020.
Dolly Parton | 2020 Billboard Women In Music/Getty Images for Billboard

Dolly Parton started pursuing her dreams early

Parton is considered a child prodigy. She accomplished many big steps in her career at an incredibly young age. The Queen of Country started singing on the radio when she was 10 years old.

“They said they’d pay me $20 a week,” Parton told Playboy Magazine in 1978, as recorded in the book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton. “My aunt in Knoxville said she would take me up to the radio stations and the TV shows if Momma and Daddy would let me stay, and she did. I worked there in the summers until I was 18. I went from $20 a week to $60 when I left.”

The “9 to 5” singer made her first record when she was 12. When she was 13, she sang at The Grand Ole Opry, where Johnny Cash introduced her.

People told Dolly Parton not to get ‘carried away’ with her dreams

Parton had big dreams for her small mountain community. It was highly unusual for people to leave home, let alone pursue fame.

“Where I came from, people never dreamed of venturing out,” she told the magazine. “They just lived and died there. Grew up with families and a few of them went to Detroit and Ohio to work in the graveyards and the car factories. But I’m talkin’ about venturing out into areas that we didn’t understand.”

People would often tell Parton not to get too excited over the thought of becoming a star because it just didn’t happen.

“To me, a little kid coming from where I did and having that ambition and sayin’ I wanted to be a star, people would say, ‘Well, it’s good to daydream, but don’t get carried away,'” she said. “People would say you can’t do this or you can’t become this. Well, if you don’t think you will do it, nobody else will think it.”

The ‘Jolene’ singer said she has ‘more confidence’ than she does ‘talent’

Parton is one of the most famous musicians in the world. She attributes her success to her confidence.

“I’ve got more confidence than I do talent, I think,” she said. “I think confidence is the main achiever of success, I really do. Just believin’ you can do it. You can imagine it to the point where it can become reality.”


How Dolly Parton Was Disciplined as a Child: ‘He Whipped Us With His Belt’

At the time of the interview, Parton was incorporating new sounds into her repertoire. A lot of people told her it was a bad idea, but she listened to her own gut instincts.

“When I made my change to do what I’m doin’ now to appeal to a broader audience, people said, ‘You can’t do that, because you are goin’ to wreck your whole career; you are goin’ to lose your country fans and you’re not goin’ to win the others, and then you’re goin’ to have nothin’. You just better think about that, girl,'” she said. “That didn’t matter to me, because I knew I had to do it and I knew I could do it.”