Where are Dolly Parton's 11 siblings now? Country legend and husband Carl Dean raised some of them as their kids
'There were so many of us that we, each older one, had to take care of the others,' Parton once said
Legendary singer and songwriter Dolly Parton might not have had any children in her life but with a huge number of siblings and their kids, Parton's always had enough on her plate.
The 'Jolene' songstress has never shied away from referring to her childhood as a difficult one as while she grew up near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee's Sevier County, her parents Robert and Avie Lee Parton had a number of mouths to feed and little money to do so. Nevertheless, the Partons somehow made it work. In order from the eldest to the youngest, the names of Dolly's siblings are, Willadeene, David Wilburn, Coy Denver, Dolly Rebecca, Robert Lee, Stella Mae, Cassie Nan, Randel Huston “Randy,” Larry Gerald, Estel Floyd, Freida Estelle and Rachel Ann. The last two are twins.
Despite not having much financially, one thing that almost every one of Dolly's siblings had was a passion for music, instilled in them by their mother, who always encouraged them to sing at home and at church. "Singing was like breathing at home," Dolly's sister Rachel told People back in 1982. Many of them still perform with Dolly. Lets take a look at where they all ended up:
Larry and Floyd have died
Sadly, Dolly lost two of her siblings over the years. Larry died four days after he was born. “There were so many of us that we, each older one, had to take care of the others,” Parton told Home & Family. “Mom was just having one baby. There was only 18 months to two years difference in our ages. So as the kids started multiplying mom would say, ‘Well this one’s going to be your baby.’”
“The one that momma lost was going to be my baby and I was so excited,” she continued. She explained that she got to help in picking Larry's name as he was “her” baby. As a result, his death “crushed” the star, and after his demise, her mother went into a “deep depression.” Battling with the grief herself, Dolly stopped singing for some time.
Estel Floyd, Dolly's brother and longtime songwriting partner, passed away in December 2018 at the age of 61. Floyd had both penned and performed a number of songs for Dolly as well as several of the films she starred in. These include 'Rockin' Years' from the album 'Eagle When She Flies,' 'Nickels and Dimes' from 'Heartbreaker,' and 'Waltz Me to Heaven' from 'Rhinestone.'
According to his obituary page, "Floyd was a man of many talents and areas of knowledge. He was an avid outdoorsman and had an abundant knowledge of nature as well as being an incredible cook."
Just like Dolly, several of the Parton sisters delved into singing and acting and Stella Parton was one of them. Following in her older sister's footsteps, she made her country singing debut in 1967. One may remember her chart-topping 1975 song 'I Want to Hold You in My Dreams Tonight'. More recently, Stella appeared in Dolly's 2015 television movie 'Coat of Many Colors.'
Cassie and Freida Parton
Cassie Parton and Freida Parton are also talented singers who have made a name for themselves. Cassie performed in the Dollywood show, 'My People,' in 2013 with her brother Randy, according to Knoxville News. Freida has withdrawn from the stage after performing in a punk band in the 1980s. In the past, she has sung as a back-up on some of Dolly's albums. Presently, she works as an ordained minister and even opened her own wedding chapel in Sevierville.
It comes as little surprise that Dolly's brother Randy pursued music as well. Apart from performing with his band Moonlight Bandits, Randy also sang on the soundtrack of the 1984 movie, 'Rhinestone,' and performed with his sister, Rachel, in Dollywood's a capella group, Honey Creek.
Rachel Parton Dennison
Dolly's younger sister Rachel Parton Dennison is also quite famous and remembered by many of her fans till today. She starred in the ABC sitcom '9 to 5' from 1982 to 1988, and also sang in Honey Creek. In 2014, she performed with Dolly and Stella at the Red Tent Women's Conference in Tennessee.
The singing bug did not bite the eldest sibling of the lot, Willadeene Parton, as she didn't pursue the entertainment industry like Dolly and others. Instead, she chose to become a writer. She wrote a Parton family memoir, 'Smoky Mountain Memories: Stories from the Hearts of the Parton Family' in 1996, followed by her 1997 cookbook, 'All-Day Singing & Dinner on the Ground.'
Not all of Dolly's siblings are famous or well-known. Some of them like David Parton, 77, Coy Parton, 76, and Robert Lee Parton Jr, 71, never pursued show business, and tend to keep their lives private.
How Dolly and Carl helped raise many of her siblings
Parton is married to Carl Thomas Dean. The couple have been together for nearly 55 years. They are famously childless. Parton has even joked about never having children in her life, maintaining that her songs are her babies, adding that they’ll take care of her in her old age. It's not like the couple never planned on having children, but Parton’s endometriosis required her to get a partial hysterectomy. She and Dean have 14 nieces and nephews, and many of them have their own children.
Dolly and Carl have opened up about how they raised several of her younger brothers and sisters in Nashville. Many of her nieces and nephews now call her “Aunt Granny" and Carl “Uncle PeePaw.” “I grew up in a big old family with eight kids younger than me and several of my brothers and sisters came to live with me early on in my life,” she told People. “I’ve loved their kids just like they’re my grandkids, and now I’ve got great-grand-kids!”