One of 12 kids under the one roof, and a hidden tragedy: Dolly Parton's unglamorous early life.

Dolly Parton is known as country’s greatest star of all time.

Loved for both her timeless music and her endearing personality, the country icon was honoured for her music legacy at the 2019 Grammy Awards earlier this week.

But long before Dolly became the huge star she is today, her life was incredibly different.

Rising from living in poverty in rural Tennessee to dominating the charts worldwide, Dolly’s story is one of the most inspiring rags-to-riches stories around.

Her humble upbringing

Since skyrocketing to fame, Dolly hasn’t been afraid to share her tough beginnings in life.

In fact, the 9-5 singer grew up as one of 12 kids living in a one room house in Locust Ridge, Tennessee.

Born fourth in line in the family in 1946, Dolly was born to poor, tobacco-farming parents.

With so many kids sharing the small house, up to three or four children would sleep in a bed each night.

dolly parton childhood
Dolly grew up as one of 12 children. Image: Getty.

"The kids peed on me every night. We slept three and four in the bed. I would wash every night. And as soon as I go to bed, the kids would wet on me and I'd have to get up in the morning and do the same thing," Dolly said in a Playboy interview in 1978.

Weirdly enough, when the other children wet the bed, Dolly wouldn't even bother changing the sheets throughout the night.

Her reasoning as to why she did this points to just how poor the family were.

"That was the only warm thing we knew in the winter time. That was almost a pleasure to get peed on because it was so cold," she explained.

"Lord. It was as cold in the room as it was outside. We'd bundle up to go to bed."

In the interview, Dolly also shared how the children washed themselves in the river during the summer months using soap they made themselves.

On the other hand, in the winter months, bathing meant using a tiny pan of water in the house.

"We'd have a pan of water and we'd wash down as far as possible, then we'd wash up as far as possible..."

dolly parton childhood
Dolly Parton performs in September 1977 in Detroit. Image: Getty.

The tragic loss of her brother

With so many children in the growing Parton family, Dolly's mother often gave the older children greater responsibilities when it came to helping raise the younger kids.

"My mother, through the years, when we were born, since there were so many of us, used to say, 'This one's gonna be your baby'," she said.

"That just meant that you got to take extra care of it. You have got to get up with it at night and rock it back and forth."


But just four days after Dolly's "baby", her little brother Larry Parton, was born, the newborn tragically passed away.

"There is a lot of heartache and stuff that goes on with that," Dolly said.

At the time of Larry's death, Dolly was just nine years old.

dolly parton childhood
Dolly Parton performs in 1975 in Los Angeles, California. Image: Getty.

Her squeamish childhood accident

As a young child, Dolly's family couldn't afford to visit a doctor.

So when Dolly had an accident which almost resulted in the loss of three of her toes, Dolly's mother was forced to play doctor.


“So they grabbed me up and all my dad and my brothers, they had to hold me down," Dolly recalled.

"They put kerosene on it for antiseptic and Momma took her sewing needles — she used to make our quilts and stuff, and she literally had to sew my toes back on. But they worked and they healed and I’m still walking on them."

Her rise to fame

At just 10 years old, Dolly started singing and playing guitar on Tennessee TV and radio shows.

Watch Dolly Parton and Katy Perry duet at ACM Awards below.

Dolly's uncle Bill Owens saw potential in the young girl and introduced her to Cas Walker, a man who had created a radio program and a local TV show called the Cas Walker Farm and House Hour.

Before long, Dolly was performing as a regular on the show.

A few years later in 1959, Johnny Cash introduced 13-year-old Dolly to the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Her performance was so popular, the young teen earned three encores.

Once Dolly graduated high school, she was on the first bus to Nashville, Tennessee and from there her booming career in music truly began.

Do you enjoy a weekend away or a trip interstate? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.