A Mother’s Love & Inspiration – Avie Lee Parton

Published October 5, 2015 / Last Updated October 8, 2015
Dolly Parton Productions

Dolly Parton Productions

Managing Editor at Dolly Parton Productions
Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Dolly Parton Productions

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.

Dolly Parton, mother, father, siblings
The Parton Family
Standing (left to right): Randy, David, Willadeene, Rachel, Dolly, Avie Lee, Robert Lee
Seated (left to right): Cassie, Stella, Denver, Frieda, Floyd, Bobby
Dolly Parton, mother, father, siblings
Reverend Jake Owens
Reverend Jake Owens, Mrs. Avie Lee's father, standing outside the House Of Prayer. Click the image of Rev. Jake to listen to rare audio of him preaching while Dolly, Avie Lee, and family sing "This Little Light Of Mind."
Reverend Jake Owens

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 coat…to 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.

Dolly Parton ProductionsA Mother’s Love & Inspiration – Avie Lee Parton

Daddy’s Dinner Bucket – Robert Lee Parton

Published June 15, 2015 / Last Updated October 17, 2015

The Lovelaces

Tim and Mary Alice Lovelace are a husband/wife writing duo who enjoy co-writing songs, news articles, and short stories.

Latest posts by The Lovelaces (see all)

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

‘Precious Memories’

Published April 17, 1999 / Last Updated August 23, 2015
Team Dolly

Team Dolly

Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Team Dolly

Dolly releases an all-gospel recording, “Precious Memories,” with sales benefiting The Dollywood Foundation

Dolly released “Precious Memories,” an exclusive album, sold only at Dollywood. The album appears on the Blue Eye Label (co-owned by Dolly and Steve Buckingham).

“Precious Memories” features traditional religious standards. All of the proceeds from album sales were donated to The Dollywood Foundation.

On April 1, 1999, Dolly performed many of the songs from the album on a TNN special of the same name. The special included performances by Dolly, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and the Cox Family.

Dolly’s brother Randy Parton and her sister Rachel Parton Dennison, members of the group Honey Creek, also appeared on the show. The special was presented as part of TNN’s 20th Century Hitmakers Week.

Dolly spoke in an interview about how close her roots in religion, family, and music are,

“Gospel was an important part of life in the Smoky Mountains where I grew up… And religion was apart of everyday life… There’s something unique about family harmony singing, ‘blood harmonies,’ we called ’em, and not surprisingly, many of our greatest groups are families who started out singing in church together… There was even a group called The Parton Family Traveling Band.”

Team Dolly‘Precious Memories’

Three New Shows – Season 12

Published April 26, 1997 / Last Updated October 17, 2015
Team Dolly

Team Dolly

Team Dolly is a collaboration of writers, editors, and publishers assembled by Dolly Parton Productions. Each member is dedicated to accurately publishing the latest news and historical archives of the living legend that is Dolly Rebecca Parton.

Managing Editor - Jacob Timmons
Creative Director - Sarah Chapman
Senior Editor - Amanda Webb
Team Dolly

Dollywood’s season 12 opens with three new shows including American Dream, Country Treasures and U Pick Nick

New entertainment offerings marked Dollywood’s season 12 with the addition of three new shows. American Dream was a country music show starring Randy Parton. Country Treasures was a dynamic production show highlighted by comedy performances by Grand Ole Opry legends, Shenani-Guns. U Pick Nick was a Nickelodeon®-themed high-energy kids show.

Imagination Station introduced one of the world’s largest LEGO® play areas. By broadening the scope of entertainment selection at the theme park, Dollywood provided quality entertainment options for everyone in the family! In the fall, an expanded Harvest Celebration and Southern Gospel Jubilee opened. It allowed families to hear the soulful sounds of some of Dolly’s favorite Southern gospel music and enjoy the splendor of fall in the Smokies.

Team DollyThree New Shows – Season 12