Dolly's youngest brother, Randy Parton, passed away on Thursday in Sevierville, TN. He was 67 years old.

Dolly often referred to Randy as their Christmas Baby. Randel Huston Parton was born on December 15, 1953. Dolly said,

"We've lost our baby brother, Randy and we are absolutely heartbroken. Fly high baby brother, you will always be my Christmas baby and I will always love you."

Like Dolly and many of the Parton family, Randy was a very talented singer, songwriter and musician. Back in 1980, Randy sang on Dolly's hit song, "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)." And just recently he joined her again on a song she wrote specifically about him for her holiday release, A Holly Dolly Christmas. Dolly, Randy and Randy's daughter, Heidi Parton, blended beautiful family harmonies on “You Are My Christmas.”

Of course, there are so many more good things to say about Randy Parton. How much he will be missed by those closest to him. And how his own fans will miss his soulful baritone and enchanting storytelling at Dollywood's My People Show where he performed for many years alongside other members of the Parton family. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in honor of Randy and their father Lee Parton be made to the Imagination Library.

Dolly shares a message about the loss of her baby brother, Randy Parton.

My brother Randy has lost his battle with cancer. The family and I are grieving his loss but we know he is in a better place than we are at this time. We are a family of faith and we believe that he is safe with God and that he is joined by members of the family that have gone on before and have welcomed him with joy and open arms.

Randy was a great singer, writer, and entertainer. He sang, played guitar and bass in my band for many years. He headed his own show at Dollywood since it opened in 1986. He’s had several chart records of his own, but his duet with me on “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You” will always be a highlight in my own career.

“You Are My Christmas,” our duet on my latest Christmas album, joined with his daughter Heidi, will always be a favorite. It was his last musical recording and he shined on it just like he’s shining in heaven now.

He is survived by his wife Deb, his daughter Heidi, son Sabyn, grandsons Huston and Trent.

We will always love him and he will always be in our hearts,

Dolly Parton and Family

Those wishing to pay tribute to Randy can make a donation to the Imagination Library in honor of his dad, Robert Lee Parton.

Dolly Parton shares the touching story behind writing “You Are My Christmas” about her brother Randy for A Holly Dolly Christmas.

When Dolly found herself spending time at home for the duration of the nationwide quarantine, she knew she wanted to be productive and went to work writing material for her long-awaited Christmas project. A Holly Dolly Christmas, the first holiday album from the poetic songstress in 30 years, is now available.

Dolly’s brother, Randy Parton, and his daughter, Heidi, are featured on the heartwarming song, “You Are My Christmas.” In this exclusive Front Porch interview, Dolly talks about how Randy was, in fact, the inspiration for the song. She shares about growing up with her siblings and reflects on the Christmas Randy was born.

Watch Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Front Porch interview and hear the full story about “You Are My Christmas.”

Watch more Christmas on the Front Porch Interviews

A Holly Dolly Christmas

Available now, A Holly Dolly Christmas is Dolly’s first holiday album in 30 years. This festive collection of music includes treasured Christmas songs we all know and love, as well as five original tunes written by Dolly, one she co-wrote with Kent Wells and one written by her niece, Jada Star, with co-writer Barry Jobe. The album features incredible duets with some of Dolly’s dearest friends, including Michael Bublé, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon and Willie Nelson and also spotlights a special song with her brother, Randy Parton, and niece, Heidi Parton.


Avie Lee Parton, Dolly's mother, is often credited as Dolly's first musical influence

Avie Lee Owens Parton was born on Oct. 5, 1923, in Lockhart, a small cotton farming community in South Carolina. As a preacher's daughter, she learned to make the best of what she had, a skill that would come in handy in her life as a wife and mother.

She married Lee Parton in 1939, and in the years that followed, the couple raised 12 children, six boys and six girls. In order of birth, they are: Willadeene, David Wilburn, Coy Denver, Dolly Rebecca, Bobby Lee, Stella Mae, Cassie Nan, Randel Huston “Randy,” Larry Gerald, Estel Floyd and Freida Estelle (twins) and Rachel Ann.

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As a wife and mother, she supported her family in everything she did, from canning food to caring for their medical needs. She had a way of knowing when one of her children needed a little extra attention, and she had creative ways of making them feel special. She would often announce they were having Stone Soup for supper and would send all the children out to find the perfect stone. When they returned with their treasured stones in hand, Avie Lee examined each one and commented on its merits. She would then choose one very special stone; the one brought back by the child who needed a little extra love on that day. She tended to her family's every need while bringing faith and happiness to her home.

Mrs. Avie Lee would have turned 92 today. Although she passed away in 2003 at the age of 80, her love was immortalized in the words of Dolly's song, "Coat of Many Colors." It tells the story of Avie Lee sewing her young daughter a winter coat out of small scraps of fabric when the family could afford little else. However, her gift was more than just the coat. She taught Dolly an important lesson in seeing the value of what you have no matter how little it may seem to be. This lesson would become Dolly’s life philosophy. "Coat of Many Colors" may be the most famous story of Avie Lee’s handmade gifts, however, it was not the first. In fact, the first song Dolly ever wrote was inspired by another of her mother's gifts.

"Little Tiny Tasseltop" was composed by a young Dolly even before she could read or write. The song was inspired by a corncob doll, with corn silk hair, that Avie Lee handcrafted for little Dolly. As she played with her precious doll on the front porch, she began singing. Avie Lee quickly wrote down the lyrics to what would become Dolly's very first song.

Audio of Dolly singing "Little Tiny Tasseltop."
Listen via SoundCloud.

Little tiny tasseltop,
I love you an awful lot
Corn silk hair and big brown eyes
How you make me smile

Little tiny tasseltop
You’re the only friend I’ve got
Hope you never go away
I want you to stay

You’re my tiny tasseltop
You’re my favorite-est doll
Even if you’re just a cobb
I want you to stay

Even after Dolly began to achieve career success, Avie Lee's outlook on life did not change much. In Dolly's book, "Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business," she recalls another story involving a coat.

“After the song had become a hit and had done so much for my career, I wanted to go back home and repay Mama for all the love she had sewn into my coat. I said, ‘Mama, let’s go to Knoxville. I’m going to buy you a mink coat.’ Mama is the type of person who is somewhat uncomfortable about somebody making her an offer like that. At first, she came back with a joke: ‘It’s bad enough we have to eat little varmints...I don’t want to have to start wearing them...’ Then she took on a more serious tone as she said, ‘Shoot! Where would I wear a mink a pie supper? Give me the money instead.' So I did.”

Avie Lee poured her heart and soul into raising her children. Her legacy is a profound testament of a mother's love...a legacy that will live on for generations, far beyond the hills and valleys of Locust Ridge, Tennessee.

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 page at a time...

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