Dolly Parton wanted to be a famous musician ever since she was a little girl. She used to sing out to the chickens and dogs on her family’s porch into a stick with a tin can on top to act as a microphone. She wrote her first song when she was 5.
When Parton was 10, she got her “first shot.” The audition went so well that, after, she could easily picture her future as a star.
‘The Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour’
According to Parton in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, before Cas Walker had a radio or TV show, he was “an old raccoon hunter who started selling groceries door-to-door with a wheelbarrow.” And he was “a real character.”
Eventually, Walker started a chain of supermarkets. To get the word out about his business, he bought some radio time.
“So he rented this theater in Knoxville, Tennessee, and put together this radio show [on WIVK],” wrote Parton. “He hired local bands and singers to come be on it. And eventually, he went on TV.”
When Dolly Parton auditioned for Cas Walker
When Parton was 10, her Uncle Bill Owens, who was a musician, too, would take her around to audition and play for different radio shows. Walker’s show was one of their targets.
“Bill and I went down there, me with my little guitar and him with his big ol’ Gretsch guitar,” wrote Parton. “It was 1956, and I was ten years old. My two big numbers at the time were ‘I Love a Tall Man’ by Rose Maddox and the George Jones song ‘You Gotta Be My Baby,’ which was a hit that year.”
Parton took the stage and performed “You Gotta Be My Baby” and “the crowd loved [her]!”
“They just applauded and applauded,” she wrote. “I looked back at my uncle Bill, because I didn’t know what to do. He said, ‘Just sing it again!’ So I sang it two or three times.”
Dolly Parton had a feeling she was going to become a star
After the audition, Parton and her uncle were walking out of the theater when she told him: “I think they like me. I think I might could be a star.” He couldn’t help but agree.
“I was so proud,” wrote Parton.
After her audition, Parton went to Walker and told him she wanted to work for him. He told her: “Well, then you’ve got a job, because you’re the only person that ever said they would ‘work.’”
After each show, Walker would take a $5 bill out of his pocket and hand it to Parton. And so began her career as a paid musician.
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