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Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris

It's difficult to find a country performer who has moved from her country roots to international fame more successfully than Dolly Parton. Her autobiographical single "Coat of Many Colors" shows the poverty of growing up one of 12 children on a rundown farm in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. At 12 years old, she was appearing on Knoxville television; at 13 she was recording on a small label and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. Her 1967 hit "Dumb Blonde" (which she's not) caught Porter Wagoner's ear, and he hired Parton to appear on his television show, where their duet numbers became famous. By the time her "Joshua" reached number one in 1970, Parton's fame had overshadowed her boss', and she had struck out on her own, though she still recorded duets with him. During the mid-'70s, she established herself as a country superstar, crossing over into the pop mainstream in the early '80s, when she smoothed out the rough edges in her music and began singing pop as well as country. In the early '80s, she also began appearing in movies, most notably the hit 9 to 5. Though her savvy marketing, image manipulation (her big dumb blond stage persona is an act), extracurricular forays into film, and flirtations with country-pop have occasionally overshadowed her music, at her core Parton is a country gal and a tremendously gifted singer/songwriter. Among her classics are "Coat of Many Colors," "Jolene," "Kentucky Gambler," "I Will Always Love You," "But You Know I Love You," and "Tennessee Homesick Blues," and they give a hint as to why her contribution to bringing country music to a wide audience, not only in America but throughout the world, cannot be overestimated.

The fourth of 12 children, Parton was born and raised in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, just next to the Smoky Mountains National Forest. Parton's family struggled to survive throughout her childhood, and she was often ridiculed for her poverty, yet music soothed their worries. Though her farming father did not play, her half-Cherokee mother played guitar and her grandfather, Rev. Jake Owens, was a fiddler and songwriter (his "Singing His Praise" was recorded by Kitty Wells). When she was seven, her uncle Bill Owens gave her a guitar, and within three years, she became a regular on WIVK Knoxville's The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour. Over the next two years, her career steadily increased, and in 1959 she made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry; the following year, she recorded her first single, "Puppy Love," for Goldband.

When she was 14 years old, Parton signed to Mercury Records, but her 1962 debut for the label, "It's Sure Gonna Hurt," was a bomb, and the label immediately dropped her. Over the next five years, she shopped for a new contract and did indeed record a number of songs, which were later reissued through budget-line records. She continued to attend high school, playing snare drum in the marching band. After she graduated, she moved to Nashville, where she stayed with Bill Owens. Both songwriters pitched songs across Nashville with no success, and Parton began singing on demos. Early in 1965, both Parton and Owens finally found work when Fred Foster signed them to his publishing house, Combine Music; Foster subsequently signed her to Monument Records. Parton's first records for Monument were marketed to pop audiences, and her second record, "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby," nearly made the charts. In 1966, Bill Phillips took two of Parton's and Owens' songs -- "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" and "The Company You Keep" -- to the Top Ten, setting the stage for Parton's breakthrough single, "Dumb Blonde." Released early in 1967, the record climbed to number 24, followed shortly afterward by the number 17 "Something Fishy."

The two hit Monument singles attracted the attention of country star Porter Wagoner, who was looking to hire a new female singer for his syndicated television show. Parton accepted the offer and began appearing on the show on September 5, 1967. Initially, Wagoner's audience was reluctant to warm to Parton and chanted for Norma Jean, the singer she replaced, but with Wagoner's assistance, she was accepted. Wagoner also convinced his label, RCA, to sign Parton. Since female performers were not particularly popular in the late '60s, the label decided to protect their investment by releasing her first single as a duet with Wagoner. Their first single, "The Last Thing on My Mind," reached the country Top Ten early in 1968, launching a six-year streak of virtually uninterrupted Top Ten singles. Parton's first solo single, "Just Because I'm a Woman," was released in the summer of 1968 and was a moderate hit, reaching number 17. For the remainder of the decade, none of her solo efforts -- even "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)," which would later become a standard -- were as successful as her duets. The duo was named Vocal Group of the Year in 1968 by the Country Music Association, but Parton's solo records were continually ignored. Wagoner and Parton were both frustrated by her lack of solo success, because he had a significant financial stake in her future; as of 1969, he was her co-producer and owned nearly half of the publishing company Owepar.

By 1970, Porter had her sing Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues (Blue Yodel No. 8)," a gimmick that worked. The record shot to number three on the charts, followed closely by her first number one single, "Joshua." For the next two years, she had a number of solo hits -- including her signature song "Coat of Many Colors" (number four, 1971) -- in addition to her duets. Though she had successful singles, none of them were blockbusters until "Jolene" reached number one in early 1974. Parton stopped traveling with Wagoner after its release, yet she continued to appear on television and sing duets with him until 1976.

Once she left Wagoner, Parton's records became more eclectic and diverse, ranging from the ballad "I Will Always Love You" (number one, 1974) and the racy "The Bargain Store" (number one, 1975) to the crossover pop of "Here You Come Again" (number one, 1977) and the disco experiments of "Baby I'm Burning" (number 25 pop, 1978). From 1974 to 1980, she consistently charted in the country Top Ten, with no less than eight singles reaching number one. Parton had her own syndicated television show, Dolly, in 1976, and by the next year had gained the right to produce her own albums, which immediately resulted in diverse efforts like 1977's New Harvest...First Gathering. In addition to her own hits during the late '70s, many artists, from Rose Maddox and Kitty Wells to Olivia Newton-John, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, covered her songs, and her siblings Randy and Stella received recording contracts of their own.

Though she was quite popular, Parton became a genuine superstar in 1977, when the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil song "Here You Come Again" became a huge crossover hit, reaching number three on the pop charts, spending five weeks at the top of the country charts, and going gold. Its accompanying album went platinum and the follow-up, Heartbreaker, went gold. Soon, she was on the cover of country and mainstream publications alike. With the new financial windfall, a lawsuit against Wagoner -- who had received a significant portion of her royalties -- ensued. By the time it was settled, she regained her copyrights while Wagoner was given a nominal fee and the studio the duo shared. In the wake of the lawsuit, a delayed duet album, Making Plans, appeared in 1980; its title track hit number two on the country charts.

Parton's commercial success continued to grow during 1980, as she had three number one hits in a row: the Donna Summer-written "Starting Over Again," "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)," and "9 to 5." The latter was the theme song to Parton's acting debut, 9 to 5. Also starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the movie became a huge success, establishing Parton as a movie star. The song became her first number one pop single as well. 9 to 5 gave Parton's career momentum that lasted throughout the early '80s. She began appearing in more films, including the Burt Reynolds musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and the Sylvester Stallone comedy Rhinestone (1984). Parton's singles continued to appear consistently in the country Top Ten: between 1981 and 1985, she had 12 Top Ten hits and half of those were number one singles. Parton continued to make inroads on the pop charts as well with a re-recorded version of "I Will Always Love You" from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas scraping the Top 50 and her Kenny Rogers duet "Islands in the Stream" (which was written by the Bee Gees and produced by Barry Gibb) spending two weeks at number one.

However, by 1985 many old-time fans had felt that Parton was spending too much time courting the mainstream. Most of her albums were dominated by the adult contemporary pop of songs like "Islands in the Stream," and it had been years since she had sung straightforward country. She also continued to explore new business and entertainment ventures such as her Dollywood theme park, which opened in 1985. Despite these misgivings, she had continued to chart well until 1986, when none of her singles reached the Top Ten. RCA Records didn't renew her contract after it expired that year, and she signed with Columbia in 1987.

Before she released her Columbia debut, Parton joined forces with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris to record the rootsy Trio album. Trio became a huge hit, earning both critical and popular acclaim, selling over a million copies, and peaking at number six on the pop charts; it also spawned three Top Ten country singles: "To Know Him Is to Love Him," "Telling Me Lies," and "Those Memories of You." Following the success of the album, she had a weekly variety television show, Dolly, on ABC that lasted only one season. Trio also provided a perfect launching pad for her first Columbia album, 1989's White Limozeen, which produced two number one hits in "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin' Like That" and "Yellow Roses."

Though it looked like Parton's career had been revived, it was actually just a brief revival before contemporary country came along in the early '90s and pushed all veteran artists out of the charts. Parton had a number one duet with Ricky Van Shelton, "Rockin' Years," in 1991, but after that single, she slowly crept out of the Top Ten and later the Top 40. Parton was one of the most outspoken critics of radio's treatment of older stars. While her sales had declined, she didn't disappear. Despite her lack of sales, Parton remained an iconic figure in country music, appearing in films (the 1991 TV movie Wild Texas Wind, 1992's Straight Talk), selling out concerts, and releasing a series of acclaimed albums -- including 1993's Honky Tonk Angels, a collaboration with Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn -- that all sold respectably. Furthermore, "I Will Always Love You" was covered in 1992 by Whitney Houston, who took it to number one on the pop charts; the single spent 14 weeks at number one, becoming the biggest pop hit of the rock & roll era (it was unseated four years later by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day").

In 1994, Parton published her autobiography, My Life and Other Unfinished Business. Treasures, her 1996 album, was a praised collection of unusual covers, ranging from Merle Haggard to Neil Young. Hungry Again followed in 1998, and early the following year she reunited with Ronstadt and Harris for a second Trio collection in addition to releasing the solo The Grass Is Blue. A rootsy effort, it was well received and prompted the release of more recordings like it on Little Sparrow in 2001 and Halos & Horns in 2002. The patriotic For God and Country appeared in 2003 and was followed by the CD and DVD Live and Well a year later. Those Were the Days from 2005 found Parton covering her favorite pop songs from the '60s and '70s. Backwoods Barbie, Parton's first mainstream country album in nearly 20 years, arrived on her own Dolly Records imprint in 2008. Live from London followed in 2009. An album of all Parton-written material, Better Day, appeared from Dolly Records in 2011, the 41st studio release of her long career. Three years later, Blue Smoke was released, appearing first in Australia and New Zealand in January, then in other territories, including America, in May.

In 2015, Parton's classic song "Coat of Many Colors" was adapted into a made-for-TV movie, which featured Alyvia Alyn Lind as the young Dolly Parton and Jennifer Nettles (from the group Sugarland) as her mother. Parton was a producer on the film, which became a major success in the ratings, and a Christmas-themed sequel was put into production for the 2016 holiday season. In the summer of 2016, Parton announced that she was headlining a 60-date North American concert tour, her most extensive run of shows in 25 years. The jaunt was being billed as the Pure & Simple Tour, and not coincidentally, Parton also revealed she was releasing a new album in August 2016, a set of ten original love songs also called Pure & Simple. ~ David Vinopal
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Complete Trio Collection (Deluxe)

Disc 1

1. The Pain Of Loving You (Remastered)

2. Making Plans (Remastered)

3. To Know Him Is To Love Him (Remastered)

4. Hobo's Meditation (Remastered)

5. Wildflowers (Remastered)

7. My Dear Companion (Remastered)

8. Those Memories Of You (Remastered)

9. I've Had Enough (Remastered)

10. Rosewood Casket (Remastered)

11. Farther Along (Remastered)

Disc 2

1. Lover's Return (Remastered)

2. High Sierra (Remastered)

3. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Remastered)

4. After The Gold Rush (Remastered)

5. The Blue Train (Remastered)

6. I Feel The Blues Movin' In (Remastered)

7. You'll Never Be The Sun (Remastered)

8. He Rode All The Way To Texas (Remastered)

9. Feels Like Home (Remastered)

10. When We're Gone, Long Gone (Remastered)

Disc 3

1. Wildflowers (Alternate Take 1986)

2. Waltz Across Texas Tonight (Unreleased 1994)

3. Lover's Return (Linda Solo - Unreleased 1994)

4. Softly And Tenderly (Unreleased 1994)

5. Pleasant As May (Unreleased 1986)

6. My Dear Companion (Alternate Take 1986)

7. My Blue Tears (Unreleased 1998)

8. Making Plans (Alternate Take 1986)

9. I've Had Enough (Alternate Mix 1986)

10. Grey Funnel Line (Unreleased 1986)

11. You Don't Knock (Unreleased 1986)

12. Where Will The Words Come From (Unreleased 1985)

13. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Dolly Lead - Alternate Take 1994)

14. Are You Tired Of Me (Unreleased 1986)

15. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

16. Mr. Sandman

17. Handful Of Dust (Unreleased 1993)

18. Calling My Children Home (Unreleased Acapella Version 1986)

19. In A Deep Sleep (Unreleased 1986)

20. Farther Along (Alternate Mix 1986)


Track List: Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Single)

1. Do I Ever Cross Your Mind (Dolly Lead - Alternate Take 1994)


Track List: Trio II

1. Lover's Return

4. After The Gold Rush

5. The Blue Train

7. You'll Never Be The Sun

10. When We're Gone, Long Gone


Track List: Trio

1. The Pain Of Loving You

3. To Know Him Is To Love Him

6. Telling Me Lies

7. My Dear Companion

11. Farther Along


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I love you dolly
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I love Dolly Partons
She really a cool person I heard her on
TV a lot I really love Kenny Rogers
His a also my favorite and I Like the
Movie of Coat of many colors I saw the
Movie couple of time good movie Where
She had a dream about becoming a star
everyone loves her singing��
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I love all of your songs
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She is a good singer
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I love your coat of many colors
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She is the awesome singer ever in the word she is the beautiful lady country
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Good bad good girl gone!
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Absolutely looooooooooo o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o l y
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I love it
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Beautiful all angelic voices love to hear them
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Have your young children listen to her. Amazing music and voice. I want my children to emulate these iconic singers. Best wishes Dolly!
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My favorite Dolly Story: A new agent in the company that repressents her is introduced to Dolly. She brings him (perfect stranger) into her arms and CRUSHES his head into her 2 ha has. Then says. Now, after we got that over n done with, we can do business !!!
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Dolly,Linda and Emmylou 3great ladies . All bring much to music and always give there all. If anyone listen's they become fan's. Great job ladies❗
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Our song radio ver
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Waylon Jennings
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I love two of them dolly and emmylou
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Dlly is great j
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the 80's look !
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Cant none of the new girls can sing like that
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What mellifluous magic
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darcie29tudo r
Lovely. Simply lovely
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This is

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three of the most telanted women ever to be born . Dolly is up there as one of the greatest all timers. love to meet her one day.
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This song is great
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Love both the Trio albums.
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Who would have though three such big personalitie s would not only get on so well, but combine their voices really well?
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sgreen1563: they are't dead....?? get your butt of the computer and go see them in concert!
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A beautiful blend of harmony. We need more artists like this.
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I love the way Dolly and Emmylou sound when they sing! They sound like angels, can't wait to meet 'em in Heaven. :)
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This song...and this sound will never get old.
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These r true artist coz they sing t the soul.hw i wish to see them n join them in heaven for eternal music treats
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Trio is my favorite album of all time. The harmonies, the stories, the beauty of the music is unmatched, I'm still playing it regularly after all these years. Play it on road trips, and the road gets shorter and your ride more memorable every time.
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Love The Trio......I want more!!!
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johnny russell
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who wrote this song?
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In my veiw, Dolly is more important a figure than Elvis EVER was and there is not a song out there that Dolly sings that can't bring a tear to my eye. She sings like its that last thing she is ever going to do, with every ounce of her soul and being.

May she be with us until I am dead and gone, and I'm only 40 this year (2012)
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Absolutely Wonderful... .
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The three best female voices of my generation. What a joy to hear them together.
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I have never met Emmylou or Linda but have met Dolly in person and she is truly an incredible and beautiful lady. Her Imagination Library brings much joy to those who receive her books. Love you Dolly! May you, your music and everything you stand for live forever. You are truly an Angel in disguise.
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these ladies are awsome!
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No question I love these ladies' music, separately & together, but I really think the Trio albums were seriously over-produce d .
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Dolly is a very classy lady who is increadably talented and such a giving person I could listen to her forever not much out there that can top this womans gifted abilites.... . . . . .
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