Dolly Parton is undoubtedly a country music legend, iconic for her big personality and even bigger hair. Despite being so well-known, she is constantly surprising us. Did you know that she has 11 siblings? They might not be as famous as their sister, but they’re certainly an interesting crowd. Get to know the rest of the Parton crew: David, Willadeene, Robert Jr., Coy Denver, Cassie, Randy, Stella, Floyd, Larry, Rachel, and Freida.
David Parton was the first boy born into the family, but little is known about him. He was raised with Dolly and the rest of the children in a one-room cabin.
Dolly explained that even though this led to a lot of fighting, it also made them all very close to each other. David decided not to go into show business and led a very private life.
Willadeene was the first Parton child born to Robert Sr. and Avie Lee on March 24, 1940. Like much of the family, she was very musical, with a brief stint in gospel music. Unlike some of the others, however, this didn’t last. Instead, she started publishing books: a memoir titled Smoky Mountain Memories: Stories from the Hearts of the Parton Family and a cookbook called All-Day Singing & Dinner on the Ground.
She stayed in Tennessee, where she was raised, and has led a quiet life out of the spotlight since then. One of Dolly’s fondest memories of her sister was her putting perfume on the younger girls before they went out. Willadeene did this partially because she had a motherly role in the family as the eldest daughter.
Robert Jr. and Coy Denver
As with David, Robert Jr. and Coy Denver Parton have also led very private lives.
They are both similar in age to Dolly, but little else is known about them. Undoubtedly they were all musical, as their entire family was raised that way, but they chose not to pursue it as a career.
Born on February 12, 1951, Cassie sang alongside Willadeene in her gospel group. This was the extent of her music career as well, although she did join Dolly on My People: Dolly’s Letter Home as one of the singers.
She married Larry Seaver, with whom she has two children, daughter Rebecca Ann and son Bryan Melvin. Although she is better known than some of the other Parton siblings, she has stepped away from the spotlight in recent years.
Randy was one of two Parton brothers who pursued a career in music. He was born on December 15, 1952, as the eighth child. He sang alongside his sister on a number of tracks, but was also known for his own works like “Shot Full of Love” and “Hold Me Like You Never Had Me.” Dolly spoke very highly of his work, saying he was “a great singer, writer, and entertainer.”
He passed away in January 2021, however, after losing his fight with cancer. He left behind him his wife Deb, daughter Heidi and son Sabyn – also a musician. Of his death, Dolly said, “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.”
Aside from Dolly, Stella Parton had the most successful music career. She was born on May 4, 1949, debuting her first album in 1975 at 26 years old. It was titled I Want to Hold You in My Dreams Tonight and was incredibly successful. As of 2023, Stella has released an impressive 36 albums, as well as her own Parton memoir, Tell It Sister, Tell It: Memories, Music and Miracles.
Perhaps inspired by Willadeene, she also wrote three cookbooks. The relationship between Stella and Dolly has supposedly been strained for much of their life, and there are even claims that the latter asked her sister to change her last name. Although they’ve collaborated together in the past, Stella once said, “I think I was always a pain in her neck. All I wanted was to be included in what she was doing. All she wanted was for me to get lost.”
Floyd is the other brother who went into the music industry. He was born into the Parton clan on June 1, 1957, twin to Frieda. He worked alongside his sisters on many occasions, including helping write songs just for Dolly. Both “Nickels and Dimes” and “Rockin’ Years” reached number one on the charts after their release.
Sadly, Floyd also died, in December 2018. This was another death that hit Dolly hard, especially since the pair were quite close. At his funeral, she performed “Rockin’ Years” alongside the rest of the family as their way of saying goodbye. She said, “He lived a short life of love and beautiful songs.”
Larry Gerald was the ninth child born into the Parton family, but he tragically died at only four days old on July 6, 1955. Although his time with his siblings was short, he was always remembered. His passing is the subject of Dolly’s 1971 song Coat of Many Colors and the 2016 movie version. The family also talked about him and included him in one of the singer’s Christmas TV specials. Dolly opened up in a 2016 interview about why this death hit so hard, even though she was only nine when it happened.
She said, “My mother, through the years, when we were born, since there were so many of us, used to say, ‘This one is gonna be you baby.’ That just meant that you got to take extra care of it. You have got to get up with it at night and rock it back and forth. This particular baby that passed away in the movie was my baby.”
Rachel Parton was the youngest in the family, born on August 31, 1959. There were rumors started in their hometown that Rachel was actually Dolly’s illegitimate daughter, whom she’d allegedly had when she was only 14. The family vehemently denied this, even though the rumor persisted. Rachel initially started her career in music as the lead singer for Honey Creek, the band she started with her brother Randy.
As it turned out, music just wasn’t what Rachel wanted to do. For a while, she thought that makeup was her calling, traveling with her sister while she was on tour to act as her makeup artist. Rachel dropped out of school when she was only in eighth grade so that she could tour full-time. This also didn’t stick. Instead, she transitioned into acting, where she was best known for her role as Doralee on the sitcom 9 to 5.
The twin of Floyd, Freida decided to stray far away from her family’s country and folk style. She spent her early years in music singing in a punk rock band, although she would still help Dolly out by singing backup for her albums. She was also featured in Playboy magazine in the 1980s. Making a drastic pivot in her career, Freida decided to become a minister in 2014. She opened her own wedding chapel soon after.
It sounds like she maintained her interest in music, as her daughter Jada Andersen shared.
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“My mom’s a songwriter, and I grew up with someone who was always writing and feeling and putting it out on paper and teaching me how to play guitar, and she was so influential in that, and she was so influenced by her big sister, so it just sort of was like this little step ladder situation,” Jada said.