Born in 1946, one of twelve children, Dolly Parton grew up in several modest homes around Pigeon Forge, the most isolated of them two miles from the nearest neighbour and over four miles from the mailbox. As a child she sang every week on local radio, before leaving for Nashville on the day she finished at Sevier County High School. Her first success, duetting with Porter Wagoner, came to an acrimonious end in the early Seventies, but she scored a major country hit in 1976 with “Jolene”. She then crossed over to a poppier sound, and, with her charismatic presence, was a natural in Hollywood films like 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Her songs have been acclaimed for their readiness to address issues like rural poverty, and as a woman, a singer, and a songwriter she has always been a strong-minded and inspirational figure. Dollywood, Parton’s “homespun fun” theme park at 700 Dollywood Lane in Pigeon Forge (April–Dec; schedules vary; April–Oct $55.90, children 4–11 $44.70; cheaper in Nov & Dec; w, blends ersatz mountain heritage with the glamour of its celebrity shareholder. One section showcases Appalachian crafts; a museum looks at Dolly herself in entertaining detail; music shows are constantly on the go and the thrill rides offer plenty for adrenaline-junkies and kiddies alike. A water park, Dolly’s Splash Country (late May to mid-Sept; $45.80, children $40.25; w, is adjacent.

Read More