Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” – The Beginning

Published November 23, 2015 / Last Updated October 15, 2020
Tim and Mary Alice Lovelace are a husband/wife writing duo who enjoy co-writing songs, news articles, and short stories.

The history and meaning behind Dolly Parton’s “Coat Of Many Colors”

When Dolly’s mother took a box of rags that someone had given her and sewed them into a patchwork coat of love for her daughter, she didn’t know she was setting her on a path that would become one of the most beautifully woven tapestries in the history of American music.

Dolly began songwriting at the tender age of five and has been on a magical journey of melody and rhyme ever since. Songwriting is part of the fabric of who Dolly is. For songwriters, some songs can take years to write, while others can be crafted in just a few hours. However, there are those special few that are woven in what seems to be a moment’s time. Dolly’s beloved “Coat of Many Colors” is one such song.

The year was 1969, and she was on tour with country music legend Porter Wagoner, who was widely known for his iconic rhinestone-clad stage clothes. She was riding on the tour bus when the inspiration for “Coat of Many Colors” overcame her. Ironically, the only paper available to her was Porter’s dry cleaning receipts from his designer, one-of-a-kind coats, so she grabbed a pen and started writing! The song that poured out of her soul that day was about her own one-of-a-kind coat; a coat that gave her determination and wrapped her with confidence in the riches of a mother’s love.

As the song says, Dolly’s mother told her the Old Testament story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Just like Joseph rose above the cruelty of others in his youth and went on to achieve his purpose in life, Dolly rose above the scoffers in the schoolyard and lives her life to encourage others to rise above their circumstances and to dream more…and it all started with a box of rags and a mother’s love.

Dolly Parton, Avie Lee Parton
Dolly Parton's "Coat Of Many Colors" replica displayed in her Chasing Rainbows museum at Dollywood theme park.
Dolly Parton, Avie Lee Parton
Original dry cleaning receipts used by Dolly Parton to write her now-famous song, "Coat Of Many Colors." The receipts were donated to the Chasing Rainbows museum by Porter Wagoner.
Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner, known for his iconic rhinestone clad stage clothes, chooses his outfit for "The Porter Wagoner Show."
Porter Wagoner
NBC: Coat of Many Colors
 
NBC: Coat of Many Colors

RAW Video: Emotional Dolly Parton performing “Coat Of Many Colors”

Footage courtesy of Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum Nashville

Dolly Parton performs “Coat Of Many Colors” after her induction to the “Country Music Hall Of Fame.” Alison Krauss & Union Station were on hand during the ceremony to lend their beautiful talents to the performance.

Artist illustration by Lacinda Smith.

The LovelacesDolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” – The Beginning

Dolly’s Tin Can And Tobacco Stick Microphone

Published October 25, 2015 / Last Updated October 15, 2020
Tim and Mary Alice Lovelace are a husband/wife writing duo who enjoy co-writing songs, news articles, and short stories.

Dolly takes center stage with her microphone made from an old tin can and a tobacco stick wedged between the boards of her Front Porch.

If you had gone from cabin to cabin across the mountains of Appalachia in the 1940s and 50s, you would have observed a wide variety of activities. You might have caught a glimpse of a young boy watching his grandfather whittle a slingshot handle from a piece of white oak. On down the dirt road, you may have seen a mother lovingly teaching her children how to churn butter. Up the mountain on Locust Ridge, however, something extra special was happening at the Parton’s Tennessee Mountain Home…

In the Smoky Mountain morning light, there was a little girl with great big dreams of becoming a star. Her stage, the front porch, had been there all along, but she needed a microphone. She knew it would require a little more creativity —she’d have to make one. She searched through a pile of tobacco sticks, trying to find just the right one to use as her microphone stand. She tried three or four and finally found one she could wedge between the weathered wooden slats. With her stand securely in place, it was time to find her microphone. She loved all things shiny and knew just what she would use. She removed the label from a recently discarded tin can and smiled at her reflection as she held her first microphone in her little hands. In a crowning moment, she balanced it atop the tobacco stick. She paused to take a deep breath, and that’s when the magic began.

If you had been there, you may have simply seen a little girl in her favorite cotton dress singing her heart out to her younger siblings and throwing some extra feed to the ducks and chickens to ensure a captive audience. If you could have seen it through little Dolly’s sparkling eyes, though, it would have taken your breath away! The wings of her imagination carried her to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. She swayed to the rhythm of her heartbeat in a beautiful shimmering dress and sang into the famed WSM microphone to a sold-out crowd at the Ryman auditorium.

Dolly shares,

“I just pictured myself out there in the big world singing songs I’d written, performing to people and getting out of the mountains and just traveling around.”

It was a window to her dreams. Singing meant the world to her, and she was determined to take her music beyond the hills of her home.

Dolly's Tin Can And Tobacco Stick Microphone
Dolly Parton's Tin Can and Tobacco Stick Microphone
Dolly's Tin Can And Tobacco Stick Microphone
Dolly Parton, mother, father, siblings
Dolly Parton Tin Can and Tobacco Stick Microphone
Dolly Parton, mother, father, siblings
Rare photo of Dolly Parton
Rare photo of a young Dolly Parton performing in East Tennessee in front of a McCarter Auction truck.
Rare photo of Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton at the Ryman Photo by Curtis Hilbun / AFF-USA.COM
Dolly Parton returns to the Ryman Auditorium August 1, 2015.
Photo courtesy of Curtis Hilbun.
Dolly Parton at the Ryman Photo by Curtis Hilbun / AFF-USA.COM

With that same cadence of determination, that’s exactly what she did! Now an American music icon and longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry, the spirit that fueled her front-porch-dreams has propelled her from the beloved stage of her childhood to untold numbers of sold-out performances in venues all over the world.

Dolly says,

“That little tobacco stick and tin can have carried me far.”

Everything she envisioned on that front porch has become a reality, and though she may use many different microphones during her performances today, none could ever compare to the one of her youth…a tin can and a tobacco stick.

Dolly's Tin Can And Tobacco Stick Microphone

The LovelacesDolly’s Tin Can And Tobacco Stick Microphone

Daddy’s Dinner Bucket – Robert Lee Parton

Published June 15, 2015 / Last Updated October 15, 2020
Tim and Mary Alice Lovelace are a husband/wife writing duo who enjoy co-writing songs, news articles, and short stories.

A Testament Of One Father’s Love

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Dolly’s most beloved accomplishment, her Imagination Library, a book gifting program that has mailed more than 70 million free books to children all around the world. Dolly is quick to tell you that although her father, Lee Parton, was one of the most intelligent men she’s ever known, his inability to read was her inspiration for Imagination Library. The program was started in Sevier County, Tennessee, where Dolly was born and raised, and continues to touch the lives of children around the globe.

Her father may have been unable to read the words “determination and generosity,” but his life certainly defined them. Each morning, he left for a hard day’s work in the mountains of East Tennessee carrying with him a green lunchbox that his children affectionately referred to as “Daddy’s dinner bucket.” When his weather-beaten hands opened up that box, his kind heart compelled him to save a portion of his lunch to share with his young children. When he returned home in the evenings, they were eager to greet him and see what he had saved for them. Oftentimes, it was part of a bologna sandwich or a piece of pie. To most people, a fragment of a sandwich and a stale piece of pie may not seem like much, but the children would take those tasty treats to a hideaway under a blackberry bush and have a picnic fit for a king.

When remembering her beloved father and the story of his dinner bucket, Dolly said,

“Our sweet Daddy worked so hard for all of us.  At night we used to take turns rubbing Daddy’s cracked, hard-working hands with corn silk lotion and we soaked and washed his tired old feet.  My sister Willadeene sweetly (and jokingly) dried them with her long beautiful hair. If Jesus could wash the feet of his disciples, at least we could do it for Daddy.  If you’re lucky enough to have great parents, it’s truly one of God’s greatest gifts. Happy Father’s Day to all the good daddies out there…and to the bad ones, too. Maybe they weren’t lucky enough to have a Daddy as good as mine.”

For years, that routine continued, day in and day out, as he worked tirelessly to provide for his wife and twelve children. On the day he finally retired, and with that same spirit of generosity, he gave his lunchbox away to another hardworking man, Oscar Dunn.


Dolly’s younger brother, Randy, dropped by the studio and shared this wonderful memory with us for Father’s Day and sang a little bit of the “Dinner Bucket Song,” a song that Dolly had actually written about Mr. Lee’s dinner bucket.

Many years later, with the dinner bucket being little more than a memory, the Parton family said goodbye to their beloved daddy who passed away just a few weeks before Christmas in 2000. He was laid to rest in the beautiful mountains he loved so dearly.

It was a difficult Christmas for all of the kids after saying their final goodbyes to their daddy. Randy, Dolly’s younger brother, was in for a special surprise on that Christmas Eve. On that cold night in December, Randy’s wife Deb handed him a brown paper bag. He opened it and discovered one of the greatest gifts he had ever received…his daddy’s dinner bucket! He was overwhelmed with emotion. Unbeknownst to Randy, Deb had made arrangements with Oscar’s sweet wife Faye and son Grant to bring Mr. Lee’s lunchbox back home to the Parton family. Memories flooded his mind as he examined it closely. What he found, a surprise much sweeter than any piece of pie, was that his father had learned to write his name and had scratched it into the green paint on that old dinner bucket.

That priceless green dinner bucket represents the immeasurable determination and generosity of a hardworking man whose legacy is not only etched into the hearts of his children, but also into the hearts of countless children around the world…and the story goes on…one page at a time…

Daddy's Dinner Bucket
Photo of Lee Parton's "Dinner Bucket." Special thanks to Randy Parton for sharing this story and allowing us to share a photo of this treasure with the world.
Photo of Dolly Parton and family
Parton Family Photo
Back from Right - Willadeen, Robert Lee, Avie Lee
Front from right - Denver, Bobby, Randy, Dolly, Stella, Cassie, David
Daddy's Dinner Bucket - Lee
Photo of Lee Parton's "Dinner Bucket" shows where he had scratched his name in the green paint.
The LovelacesDaddy’s Dinner Bucket – Robert Lee Parton