As a young child, actress and singer Rachel Dennison remembers spending days outside her family’s one-room cabin in Franklin, Tennessee, making up songs with her siblings and singing together with her family after supper. She told People,

“Singing was like breathing at home.”

If that origin story sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for that, as Dennison is the youngest sibling of the legendary Dolly Parton. In fact, their parents Lee and Avie Lee Parton, had 12 children: Willadeene, David, Denver, Dolly, Bobby, Stella Mae, Cassie, Randy, Larry, Estel Floyd (who went by his middle name Floyd), and twins Freida and Rachel.

And the Parton family story has become the stuff of showbiz legend, dramatized in numerous movies and TV specials. The family often did without conveniences many people take for granted, such as electricity and indoor plumbing, and Dolly famously said the family was so poor

“the ants used to bring back food they’d taken from us because they felt sorry for us.”

In spite of those humble beginnings, though, eight of the Partons managed to break into show business.

It started in 1967. The year Dolly released her first single, sisters Stella, Willadeene, and Cassie all went to Nashville with their mother to record a gospel album called In the Garden for an independent record label called Inspiration Records. Though the album didn’t go mainstream, it was a break for three of the sisters who went on to forge their own singing careers.

In fact, Stella Parton went on to become a hit country singer in her own right. She recorded her first hit, I Want to Hold You in My Dreams Tonight, in 1975, and starred in several television shows and touring Broadway musicals. She now speaks out against domestic violence and established a three-day event known as the Red Tent Women’s Conference to shed light on the issue.

And Cassie also became a singer, performing with big sister Dolly in her live Dollywood shows.

Willadeene, on the other hand, decided to move in a different direction, leaving music behind to become a noted author and family historian. Her books include In the Shadow of a Song: The Parton Family, Smoky Mountain Memories: Stories from the Hearts of the Parton Family, and a cookbook, All-Day Singing & Dinner on the Ground.

Twins Frieda and Rachel are the youngest of the Parton brood. According to Country Living, Frieda once played in a punk band, and she also appeared on some of Dolly’s records. Today, though, Frieda is an ordained minister and has her own wedding chapel in the Parton’s hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee.

And then there’s Rachel Dennison, who literally followed in Dolly’s footsteps.

When Dolly’s hit movie 9 to 5 was turned into a television series, the show’s executive co-producer Jane Fonda turned to Rachel to fill Dolly’s role of Doralee Rhodes. Fonda discovered Dennison while she was working on her sister’s makeup, as Dennison is also a cosmetologist in addition to being a singer and actor. Fonda told People,

“I asked Dolly’s permission to bring Rachel out to read for the part. As soon as she stepped foot on the lot [at 20th Century-Fox], everyone started calling asking who she was.”

Dennison remained on the show for its entire five season run before retiring from acting. But the Parton sisters weren’t the only ones to make a name for themselves in the music industry some of the brothers did too. Randy performed on the soundtrack for Dolly’s film Rhinestone, while Floyd was Dolly’s writing partner for many years. Their song “Rockin’ Years” hit number one on the country music charts in 1991, and he also co-wrote other popular songs including “Nickels and Dimes” and “Waltz Me to Heaven.”

Sadly, Floyd passed away in 2018, leaving Dolly and the rest of the family devastated. He was the second of Dolly’s brothers to pass away, as baby Larry tragically passed just four days after he was born. Thankfully, the rest of the brothers seem to still be going strong, though David, Denver, and Bobby all lead private lives outside the spotlight.

Which just leaves more room for Dolly to shine!

Watch the video to learn What You Don’t Know About Dolly Parton’s 11 Siblings!

#DollyParton #Siblings

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