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Dolly Parton Opens Up About Remarkable Journey to Fame

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Country music star Dolly Parton is a legend around the world. The actress, entrepreneur, singer and songwriter has written some 3,000 songs. Her favorite is "Coat of Many Colors," which is also the inspiration for her made-for-television movie, available on DVD May 3, 2016. 

The song and film share the humble beginnings of the woman, who has grown to be the most honored female country music artist of all time. Parton may also be the only one with her own amusement park and roller coaster.

Humble Beginnings

Parton's real life has been a bit of a remarkable, rising roller coaster. She is the fourth of 12 children. And her parents, Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton, struggled to make ends meet in the poor hills of East Tennessee, not too far from where her Dollywood theme park now stands.

Of those humble beginnings, Dolly said, "Well, that is one of the reasons I wanted to do the show, because people like me have got to come from somewhere."

"I have always been really proud of my family, my mom and my dad," she told CBN News. "I really wanted to pay them the respect that they deserve. I wanted it to be more about them than it was about me."

"My momma never loved anybody else but my daddy in her whole life. I don't think he loved anybody else but her. They married when momma was just 15 and daddy was 17," she said.

"You know my daddy, he was handsome man, and my momma was always a little bit jealous -- just like we showed in the movie," Parton revealed. "But she was a beautiful woman. Momma had a very good heart."

"They were good parents -- but their love story was beautiful," she continued. "Momma never looked anywhere besides. She'd choose daddy over us and she loved us better than anything if that will give you any truth."

Parton: My Husband's a 'God-Send'

The love story now continues with Parton, who is celebrating 50 years of marriage to her husband Carl Dean.  

"I think my husband and my relationship was just really a God-send," Parton said. "God knew I was going to need somebody like him if I was going to be doing all this crazy stuff."

"But He knew he (Carl) was going to need somebody like me because Carl is pretty much a loner and he really doesn't want to be with anybody but me," she added.

Nosey entertainment reports have counted only about 20 public photographs of Carl and Dolly together since they snuck across the state line in 1966 and tied the knot in Georgia to keep the announcement out of the Tennessee papers. Parton's record label had advised her not to get married for another year.

"We have been together 52 years in May. But we have been married 50," Parton shared.

"He has always been for me. He has always been supportive, but he doesn't try to get into the business," she said. "He always said, 'Just leave me out of that. I am not going to any of these shindigs. I am not doing any of that.'"

No Sign of Slowing Down

At 70, Dolly's shindigs aren't slowing down. She recently picked up the Tex Ritter Award at the Academy of Country Music Awards® for her film "Coat of Many Colors." She also performed with pop star Katie Perry on the show.

The next adventure is a 60-city tour.

"I am ready. I am all for it. Actually, I love touring," she revealed. "I live on my bus. I don't stay in hotels. I don't have to fly, so I don't wear myself out with that. I got all my things on the bus."

"I love to travel. I am a gypsy. I never got over that. I have always loved going," she added.

Fire and Brimstone Roots

Parton started singing in her grandfather's church. He was a minister. And those childhood memories are still vivid for her today.

"I keep all that stuff very close to my heart. I grew up knowing that Jesus loves me. And I knew that through God all things were possible. I grew up with those things that we just heard all the time. My grandfather was a really good preacher," she said.

"He use to scare me a little bit," she admitted. "I wrote a song years ago called, 'Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man.' It was about him, about my grandpa. One of the lines is he preached hell so hot, you could feel the heat." 

Parton isn't shy about her relationship with God.

"People say, 'Well, I am surprised that you talk about your faith,' and I say, 'Why not? That's who I am. That's what keeps me going,'" she said.

Faith is what inspires Parton to write hit songs. She's written more than 3,000 songs, including the wildly popular "I Will Always Love You."

"Any time I write something that is just a line that I know didn't come from me, I just sort of say, 'Hey, give me a high five, Lord. Give me a thumbs up,'" she said.

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About The Author

Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist who came to CBN News from the ABC-owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio. His most recent honor came as co-anchor of the newscast that earned the station’s morning news program its first Emmy Award. Efrem was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, but his formal television and journalism career was born across the Hudson River in New York City. He began as an NBC Page and quickly landed opportunities to work behind-the-scenes in local news, network news, entertainment, and the network’s Corporate Communications Department. His work earned him the NBC