Whether a super fan or a road warrior, if you’re visiting Eastern Tennessee, you must take a historical journey along the lifeline of the most famous resident: Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton still considers Tennessee home and has remained true to her roots in her song lyrics, philanthropy, and overall personality. So put on your rhinestone heels and fluff your wig: It’s time to take a walk with Dolly…
Start in the Great Smoky Mountains, where Dolly was born in Sevierville in 1946, and lived in a one-room cabin in nearby Locust Ridge, Tennessee. At nearby Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, you can see replica of the cabin the Parton family of fourteen shared. No wonder Dolly needed that coat of many colors!
Sevierville proudly considers Dolly their hometown girl (most long-time residents claim to know her personally), and many places she frequented still stand, including her alma mater, the Sevier County High School. Naturally, Dolly played in the band. But even before she hit the teenage years, she was singing and entertaining at Knoxville’s WIKV Radio and WBIR-TV. She also made appearances as Cass Walker’s Grocery Store, which still stands on downtown Sevierville’s Parkway, but is now a Goodwill store.
While touring Dolly’s hometown, make sure not to miss the life-sized, bronze Dolly statue on the Sevier County Courthouse lawn, which depicts a young, barefoot Dolly strumming her guitar.
However, right after graduation, Dolly moved to Nashville to pursue her dreams. So, hope in the car, and go for a road trip (or, check out the Chasing Rainbows museum at Dollywood to get the Nashville stories)! On her first day in Nashville, Dolly met her future husband, Carl Dean, at a Wishy-Washy Laundromat. His first words to her were, ‘Y’all gonna get sunburnt out there, little lady.” The pick-up line must have worked, because on May 30, 1966, the two married and remain together to this day.
Stay in Nashville to see the former home of The Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, also nicknamed, “the Mother Church of Country Music.” It’s located on 16th and 17th Avenues South not far from downtown, and used to house recording studios and record labels. Here, the Nashville Sound was crafted, and Dolly Parton, Elvis, and other performers recorded their first chart-topping hits.
In 1986, Dolly wanted to payback her hometown and joined forces to open Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. Part amusement park, part museum, part live entertainment—Dollywood truly lives up to its namesake. Any walk in Dolly’s shoes would be incomplete without a day spent riding roller coasters, eating fried food, and enjoying Southern culture the way Dolly does.
Taking a pilgrimage to some of these places in Tennessee—Dolly’s mountain home—are must-sees for any fan. You’ll only love her more.