December – Tennessee

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain ~ Dolly Parton, singer

The Plan: To live like Dolly Parton for a month, visiting her home town of Sevierville in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, cooking recipes from her cookbook Dolly’s Dixie Fixin’s: Love, Laughter and Lots of Good Food, visiting her theme park Dollywood, laying down a track at a recording studio in Opryland, and visiting The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

When I was five I used to spend hours listening to records on my parents’ record player. There was no such thing as CDs back then so I would sit lifting the needle carefully onto an old Kenny Rogers vinyl, which featured a duet with Dolly Parton called Islands in the Stream. I am not a massive fan of country music but this is still one of my favourite songs. To me, Dolly Parton encapsulates what people should be. I’m sure she has days when she rants and raves like the rest of us, but each time I hear her speak she displays a genuine kindness for her fellow man. We all could stand to be a bit more like Dolly Parton. I recall a story once told by Julia Roberts after working with Dolly on the film Steel Magnolias. The story goes that one swelteringly hot day on set, all the cast and crew were miserable because the electricity had gone out and there was Dolly, filing her nails poised as ever despite sweat pouring off of her. Julia asked her, “Dolly – aren’t you annoyed by this mess?” and Dolly said, “Honey, when I was a little-bitty girl, the only thing I ever wanted in the world was to be rich and famous, and now that I am, you ain’t gonna hear me complaining.” I also love that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I remember seeing Dolly interviewed by British comedian Graham Norton once and she was promoting a cookbook she had coming out. One of the recipes was baked beans on toast, with instructions along the lines of: Open can with can opener, pour beans into saucepan, turn on stove, heat for 10 minutes. Classic! When Norton quizzed her on it she basically said: “What? I’m white trailer trash.”

Fast Facts:

-Dolly Parton was born January 19, 1946 in Sevierville, Tennessee, the fourth of 12 children.

-She is best known as a country music singer. She’s had 25 number-one singles.

-Dolly is also known for her voluptuous figure and flamboyant dress sense. She has turned down several offers to pose for Playboy, although she did appear on the cover in October 1978 wearing a Playboy bunny outfit, complete with ears.

-The association with her breasts led to the naming of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal. The sheep was cloned from a cell taken from an adult ewe’s mammary gland.

-In 1974, her song, I Will Always Love You went to number one on the country-music charts. Around the same time, Elvis Presley wanted to cover the song and told Parton she would have to sign over half of the publishing rights if Presley recorded the song. Parton refused, making her many millions in royalties when Whitney Houston sung the song for the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Her ballsy nature earned her the nickname “The Iron Butterfly” in show-business circles.

-Her duet with Kenny Rogers, Islands in the Stream (written by the Bee Gees), spent two weeks at number one in 1983.

-Parton plays the autoharp, banjo, drums, dulcimer, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, pennywhistle and piano.

-She is Miley Cyrus’s Godmother.

-Dollywood is ranked the 24th-most-popular theme park in the US, with about three million visitors annually.

-In the early 90s Dolly had a signature line of wigs made by Revlon. The best-selling style, “Dolly’s Own”, is still sold by Revlon, albeit under a new name.

-Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has been rolled out across 36 US states, as well as Canada and the UK. The program mails one book a month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten. The program distributes more than 2.5 million free books to children annually.

-A bronze sculpture of Dolly sits on the courthouse lawn in Sevierville.



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