Dolly Parton Recalls Sleeping in Car Early in Career

Dolly Parton might be one of the most successful artists, of any genre, but her beginnings were far from promising. The 72-year-old, who grew up with 11 siblings in a one-room cabin in the Smoky Mountains, recalls the challenges she faced when she first embarked on her career.

“Daddy didn’t want me getting out in the world,” Parton admits to Reese Witherspoon on the DirecTV series, Shine On With Reese (quote via Fox News). “He didn’t even want me to go to school — but that wasn’t in a bad way he was just afraid something bad was gonna happen to his girls.”

It was Parton's mother who gave the singer the push she needed, encouraging Parton to move to Nashville right after she graduated from high school.

“But Momma knew that I had a strength," Parton continues. "She knew I knew what I wanted and who I was so she would fight for me a lot when I’d wanted to go places Daddy didn’t want me to go to sing, like to Nashville with my Uncle Bill.”

Parton's Uncle Bill did travel with Parton to Music City, where the Country Music Hall of Fame member struggled to make ends meet.

“We’d sleep in the car. That was our room. My bedroom was the backseat and [Bill’s] was the front seat," recounts Parton. "I’d wash my hair in the filling station bathrooms and put makeup on in the side mirror of the car, and that was just how you did it."

Parton might have struggled early on, but it didn't take long for her to make a name for herself in country music. Her first album, Hello, I'm Dolly, was released in 1967, kicking off a career that has spanned more than half a century, and is still going strong. In addition to her numerous records and chart-topping singles, Parton has starred in several movies, including the blockbuster hits 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. She also created the theme park, Dollywood, and created the Imagination Library, which has given away more than one million books.

But the country music icon, who earned two spots in the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records (for most decades with a Top 20 hit on the US Hot Country Songs chart and most hits on the US Hot Country Songs chart by a female artist), insists the secret to her success really isn't a secret.

"Hard work, I think people attribute their success to, because you're not going to do it without hard work," explains Parton. "It certainly helps to have a talent, and it certainly helps to have a lot of people helping you out. I've been blessed with good people all through the years. I always pray that God will bring all the good and right people into my life, and take all the wrong ones out ... I don't think anybody becomes a great success without being willing to work for it."


Parton is the subject of an upcoming Netflix series, inspired by her music. An air date has yet to be announced.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Jason LaVeris