Life was rough for Dolly Parton while she was growing up. Even though her mother didn’t approve, her dad had to sell moonshine to keep the family afloat. But that’s what life was like in rural Tennessee. Sometimes you had to do things that you didn’t necessarily want to, for the sake of family.
Due to her religious beliefs, Dolly’s mom didn’t drink or approve of alcohol. For the area, that’s both understandable and pretty common. Even more so, people in the area would publicly disapprove of alcohol, but secretly enjoy a drink or two in private. The Parton family had a little bit of both – with a mom that didn’t like drinking and a dad that both created and drank alcohol. “My daddy made moonshine for a while, and Mama didn’t like that,” Parton said in her book, Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics. “He didn’t really want to do it, but people make moonshine in the mountains because they need the income. So Daddy did that for a time, and so did a lot of my relatives.”
In addition to making and selling moonshine, Dolly Parton’s dad kept whiskey in the house for himself. Parton’s mom, Avie Lee, made sure that the kids knew how she felt about moonshine and drinking. She told them that drinking alcohol was a sin, and due to that, their father “was going straight to hell.”
Both of her parents passed away in the early 2000s. For Father’s Day a few years ago, Dolly Parton shared a picture of herself with her late mom and dad:
Dolly Parton’s Mom Hated Alcohol – But That Pushed Her To Try It
Of course, all of the commotion about her father’s drinking habits only made the Parton kids curious about alcohol. Dolly and her 11 siblings stole some of their dad’s whiskey to try for themselves. On a Sunday, right before church, no less. To be such strict parents, it’s a little surprising that neither of them ever found out about their kids drinking.
Some of the Parton kids took it a step further, though. A few of Dolly Parton’s brothers decided to try their hand at making alcohol. With the help of a friend, they set up their own still and got to work. They even stored their homemade alcohol in their mom’s fruit jars. Her dad might not have known that the kids tried some of his whiskey, but he definitely found out that they started making their own. As you might imagine, he immediately put a stop to their undercover operation.
Needless to say, this is just one of the many childhood experiences Dolly Parton had that influenced her music later on. She even has a song about her dad’s moonshining days, called “Daddy’s Moonshine Still.” It was featured on her 1971 album, Joshua. Currently, the country music star is getting ready to release a new album.