Dolly Parton’s Parents Weren’t ‘Too Excited’ About Her Country Music Dreams

Dolly Parton’s parents didn’t always support their daughter’s dreams. Although she’s now one of the biggest names in country music with a net worth of $600 million and a career spanning decades, Parton wasn’t always a country music icon or philanthropist. Years before reaching icon status Parton’s parents weren’t thrilled with her choice to pursue a career in music. In fact, the now-75-year-old once said her dreams had one of her parents “scared to death.” 

Dolly Parton had ‘no fear’ when it came to pursuing her dreams

Dolly Parton smiles as she wears a white outfit and holds a guitar
Dolly Parton | Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Parton discussed her life in a 2000 radio interview on WWNO’s American Routes. She recalled growing up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and wanting to strike out on her own to make money, pursue her dreams, and travel. 

“I loved my home in the Smoky Mountains. We were very poor, and I had no fear of going out in the world because I figured, ‘Well, you know, I couldn’t be any poorer than I had been growing up there in the Smokies,’” she said. (Parton grew up in a one-bedroom cabin and oatmeal paid for her birth.)

“Plus I had a pretty outgoing personality, and I just really thought that I could actually make a living doing it,” she added, noting that most of the people she knew did music as a hobby. “They did other jobs and would sing on weekends or wherever they could, or sing in church, but I just really thought that I might make a living out of it and make a career out of it.” 

Dolly Parton’s parents felt differently about her dream of being a country music star

So how did her parents, Avie Lee Owns Parton and Robert Lee Parton, feel about it? As Parton explained on the radio show they weren’t initially very supportive of her big dreams. 

“No, they weren’t too excited about that,” Parton replied when asked if her parents supported her aspirations of going “off into the big world.”

“My mother, she trusted me a great deal but my daddy was scared to death that I’d get out in the world, especially being a girl, and something bad would happen to me,” Parton said. “It wasn’t that he didn’t trust me; he didn’t trust the world or the people in it.” 

“I’m sure they worried a lot,” she added. “But, like I said, they also trusted me and prayed a lot I’m sure. But I can only imagine what it would be like to see a child head out like that.”

It took years for the parents of the ‘9 to 5’ singer to see she’d ‘made the right decision’

Dolly Parton sings into a microphone wearing a hot pink outfit
Dolly Parton | Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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Slowly, as Parton’s music career took off her parents began to realize being a singer was the right choice for her. She left home to sing on the radio and eventually perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Along the way, Parton’s parents would hear from her.

As the 75-year-old said in the 2000 interview, “We didn’t have a phone back then so I didn’t make many phone calls back home.” Instead, she’d “write a lot of postcards” so her parents would know she was OK. After years of this Parton’s parents slowly came around to the idea of her being a music star. “They saw that I had made a right decision for me, and they were very proud of me, and I’m proud of the fact that they are proud of me,” she said. 

Parton’s parents didn’t have much in common but stayed together. Parton’s mom died in 2003 while her father died in 2000.