Dolly Parton Says Her Grandfather “Whipped” Her Because Of How She Dressed: “I Was Willing To Pay For It”

Dolly Parton country music
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Above all of the incredible music, hilarious jokes, stunning dresses and always perfect hair and makeup, there’s something I admire about Dolly Parton over everything else: her conviction.

Raised in a one-room cabin in east Tennessee with 11 siblings, I think we all know a decent amount about her story at this point, and it’s nothing short of an incredible and moving tale of going from rags to riches because of a helluva lot of hard work and determination and unmatched, God-given talent.

Her family was a pretty typical family from that area in that time, which lived simply and attended church every Sunday. Dolly’s grandfather, Jake Owens, was the preacher at a small church in the mountains, where she went every week growing up.

She’s said before that the people back home didn’t appreciate her look, often making comments that she would “go to Hell” for how she dressed or something to that effect, but of course, that never once stopped her from wearing exactly what she wanted.

Through it all, she’s stayed true to herself, and that’s something no amount of money can ever buy, which is what makes her a true Queen in my book.

And in a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian during a recent trip to London in promotion of her forthcoming rock album Rockstar, Dolly talked quite a bit about her childhood and how she was famously inspired by the “town tramp” in terms of how she created her own iconic look:

“She was flamboyant. She had bright red lipstick, long red fingernails.

She had high-heeled shoes, little floating plastic goldfish in the heels of them, short skirts, low-cut tops, and I just thought she was beautiful.

When people would say, ‘She ain’t nothing but trash,’ I would always say, ‘Well, that’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up.'”

Though, her preacher grandfather and sharecropper father hated the way she dressed, and Dolly says that her grandfather even “whipped” her for it.

Actually, Dolly’s noted before that he thought she was possessed by the Devil when she bleached her hair and hated that she wore so much makeup.

But again, in truly Dolly fashion, she wasn’t going to change that and “was willing to pay for it,” even though it goes without saying she shouldn’t have had to in that way:

“I was willing to pay for it. I’m very sensitive, I didn’t like being disciplined – it hurt my feelings so bad to be scolded or whipped or whatever.

But sometimes there’s just that part of you that’s willing, if you want something bad enough, to go for it.”

Of course, you have to think about the situation in the context of 1950’s and 60’s Appalachia, which is certainly no excuse, but it was obviously a very different time and things were just different back then.

Dolly explained that while it did hurt her feelings, because she’s only human after all, she’s always been true to herself with everything she does:

“I’ve always been true to myself. That was what my mama always used to say: to thine own self be true. I put a lot of stock in that.

Everything I do, whether it’s my personality, how I conduct myself and business, or whatever, if I do it my way, according to what I understand and believe, there’s a strength in that.

You can think, ‘I can stand by this, I can live by this.'”

And actually, Dolly’s look came from a very serious place (even though certain people have implied that it’s a joke), because she says that’s how she’s always thought she looks best:

“Actually, my look came from a very serious place. That’s how I thought I looked best. Sometimes that’s worked for me, sometimes it can work against you.

It took me probably years longer to be taken serious, but I wasn’t willing to change it, and I figured if I had the talent, it’d show up sooner or later.”

Like usual, she was certainly right about that.

And at 77 years young, Dolly is about to see another dream come true when she releases her very first full-blown rock album Rockstar on November 17th.

The record, inspired in large part by her husband Carl Dean and his love of the genre, features an absolutely all-star cast full of rock icons and legends on a good majority of the songs.

She’s already put out several really cool singles and collaborations with some of the biggest names in music, from “Magic Man (Carl Version) ft. Ann Wilson,” ‘“Bygones ft. Rob Halford with special guests Nikki Sixx & John 5,” and a mashup Queen’s multi-Platinum mega hits “We Are The Champions” and “We Will Rock You.”

She even got The Beatles back together… enough said.

Not to mention, Dolly is due to have several of the songs featured on upcoming Monday Night Football broadcasts, including a couple weeks ago when her duet with Chris Stapleton of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” debuted. 

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I want to be Dolly Parton when I grow up.

It only feels right to cue this up now:

“Backwoods Barbie”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock