Dolly Parton Had A Complicated Relationship With Her Grandfather

Dolly Parton has been pretty open over the years about what her life was like as a child. Prior to Parton's stunning transformation into the country superstar we all know and love, she grew up extremely modestly in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains as one of 12 children. And she had a pretty complicated relationship with her family, particularly Patron's maternal grandfather.

The country icon is known for her gorgeous larger-than-life look, which is as famous as her voice. Parton has confirmed on multiple occasions that she modeled it on a local woman she admired growing up (someone whom The Guardian notably described as "the town tramp" after chatting to the "Jolene" hitmaker) and, despite getting advice from a fellow musician to change up her style, which Parton naturally refused to take, it's an iconic look she's stuck with for decades.

However, Parton revealed that her grandfather, Reverend Jake Owens, was so against the way she presented herself that he'd physically punish her for it. "I'm very sensitive, I didn't like being disciplined — it hurt my feelings so bad to be scolded or whipped or whatever. But sometimes there's just that part of you that's willing, if you want something bad enough, to go for it," she confessed to The Guardian. Parton put up with the abuse to prove her dedication to the look.

Dolly Parton's grandfather warned her she was going to hell

Sadly, that wasn't the only abuse that Dolly Parton endured from her grandfather when it came to her unique sense of style. In her 1994 memoir, "Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business," the Grammy winner shared how Reverend Jake Owens would tell her that she was destined for hell because of how she dressed. Parton recalled him raging "Lord, the devil must have made you wear your clothes that way and bleach your hair like that" and even describing her as a "Jezebel." But this is Queen Dolly after all, so even back then she knew how to hold her own. 

The "I Will Always Love You" hitmaker would confidently retort, "No offense, Granddaddy, but I did this all by myself. The devil had nothing to do with it." In a 1977 Rolling Stone interview, Parton — who notably still prays daily — acknowledged that she grew up a God-fearing woman largely because of Owens' teachings in the church, which is why she writes so many sad songs. 

"You kind of grew up in a horrid atmosphere about fear of religion. We thought God was a monster in the sky," she divulged. But Parton still had kind words for her maternal grandfather, explaining in her book that because Owens was extremely religious, it played a key role in his daily life. The preacher never drank alcohol or smoked and took a modest approach to everything else too. "He loved his Lord and he loved his family," she wrote simply.

Dolly Parton's grandfather also encouraged her love of music

Despite Reverend Jake Owens not exactly having the kindest take on the way Dolly Parton chose to present herself to the world, there was one very positive thing she took from the outspoken preacher — his love of music. Writing in "Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business," Parton noted her mom's side of the family lived for singing and making music. "In return, I gave him a fit when it came to my tight clothes, bleached hair, and makeup," she joked.

The country icon also discussed how her maternal grandfather encouraged her to sing in church. In her 2020 book, "Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics," Parton recalled that Owens liked playing plenty of music during worship and even urged her to sing songs she'd written herself for the congregation. "[He] allowed us to express ourselves, to make that 'Joyful Noise,' as he called it," she shared. Funnily enough, Parton later starred in a movie called "Joyful Noise."

Clearly, Parton didn't hold a grudge against her grandfather for the way he treated her, as she even touchingly gave Owens his moment in the spotlight after finding fame. Besides penning "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man" about him, back in 1987, during Parton's "A Tennessee Mountain Thanksgiving" special, the "Dumb Blonde" singer introduced the world to her grandfather before performing an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" along with the audience.