5 Things Dolly Parton Revealed on First Episode of ‘What Would Dolly Do? Radio’ Broadcast

In the first episode of Dolly Parton‘s What Would Dolly Do? Radio broadcast on Wednesday (October 25), the country legend broke the ice in the four-part series on Apple Music 1 by talking about the criticism she has received over her appearance early on in her career and other secrets behind her fashions throughout the decades.

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Through each installment of What Would Dolly Do? Radio Parton will share more about her life and career with co-host Kelleigh Bannen. The second episode will cover Parton’s personal experiences within the business side of the music industry, and as an actress, while the third part will cover her philanthropic work. Parton will close the series by discussing the latest chapter in her career, and her forthcoming album Rockstar, out November 17.

Here’s a look at five stories Parton shared in the first episode.

1. Chet Atkins Told Her to “Tone Down” Her Look

Even in her younger years, Parton was criticized for her big hair and makeup. “I was [teasing] my hair, my family’s hair because I had a knack for that,” said Parton. “But I was wearing too much makeup, and a lot of the mothers in school thought that I was a bad influence on some of their girls, thinking I was too cheap, a little too this, too that. And their daughters were the ones that were making all the trouble, running with the boys and all that. And I was actually pretty innocent in that respect.”

Once Parton broke into the business and was working under RCA Records, her overdone appearance was naturally part of her look, and something Chet Atkins suggested she “tone down” earlier on in her career.

[RELATED: 3 of Dolly Parton’s Favorite Songs]

“One of my dear friends and one of the most beloved people in the whole business was Chet Atkins,” said Parton. “He was running RCA at the time, and he pulled me over to the side because he really liked me. He said, ‘Dolly, I really don’t believe that people are going to take you [seriously] as a singer and songwriter unless you tone down your look. You’re a right pretty girl. You don’t need all that.'”

In response to Atkins, Parton said, “‘Well, okay, I’ll take that to heart, Mr. Atkins. Thank you for your advice.’ And of course, I just got worse with it. And years later, after I became a star, he sidled up beside me and said, ‘Now, ain’t you glad you listened to my good advice?'”

2. Her Husband Refers to Her Wardrobe as “Doll Clothes”

“I’m tiny,” shared Parton. “I’m only like 5’1, but yeah, there’s an arc to that because when I’m in [my stage clothes], I’m larger than life, so to speak—my personality and all. I remember Carl [husband Carl Dean] said one time ‘Sometimes I go out in the closet when you’re gone, and I think those look like doll clothes. They look like a little girl’s clothes.’ I said, ‘Well, they do till I get in them.'”

3. Playing Guitar Helped Her Break Out of Her Shell

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton (Photo: Will Russell/Getty Images)

Early on, Parton noticed she was getting attention for playing guitar and writing songs, so it inspired her even more. “I don’t know that it’s true that everybody wants to be seen,” shared Parton. “I think everybody wears a sign around their neck that says, ‘I want to be important,’ but a lot of people are basically shy. But I wanted the attention. I can’t explain it, but it’s pretty obvious. I guess I felt what I was going to be maybe—because I have a shy side, believe it or not.”

Parton continued, “In my early days, till I learned what all I could do, what all I could get away with, that side of me was kind of always there. But the more I felt my own power and my own importance, so to speak, the more I was free to get to be more of what I have become.”

4. The Secret Behind the ‘Jolene’ Album Cover

Parton’s white and blue striped jumpsuit on the cover of her 1974 album Jolene was actually something she randomly found on a clothing rack.

“Now that was something I bought off the rack,” revealed Parton. “Usually, I buy a lot of stuff off the rack, but usually we do what we call ‘Dollyize’ them—add some stones or add a collar or whatever. But I just remember I loved that little dress.”

She also credits her longtime stylist Steve Summers, who has worked with Parton since 1991, with helping her with her look for more than three decades.

“His title is creative director,” said Parton. “Though, he can direct anybody in what [we need] to do, whether it be on the set … But then he got to where he would be buying clothes off the rack and then ‘Dollyizing’ it. And we still do that a lot today. He knows all my strengths and all my weaknesses, knows what not to put me in, or knows what I will not wear.”

She added, “And I’m little, I’m short, and then I’ve got all these other things going. So you’ve got to really put a lot of thought into how you dress me and to make it not be overwhelming because most people, a lot of people, designers if you’re not careful, they’re designing for the big women or for themselves.”

5. What She’ll Say to Anyone Who Tells Her to “Tone Down” Her Look Now

When Bannon asked her “What would Dolly do if somebody told her she should tone down her look?” now, Parton responded “I’d say, ‘Go to hell. I ain’t doing it.'”

She added, “My true belief with most things, you’ve got to really find out who you are, what makes you happy, what you’re comfortable in, and if you feel like you look your best, according to your rules, then you are going to do your best. I really believe that. And I think everybody has their own little things they love. To me, that is what fashion is.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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