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Dolly Parton Pinball Machine in the Appalachian Collections

A virtual exhibit about the 1979 Dolly Parton pinball machine and its backstory—one Appalachian woman's wrestling with fame, her image, and her mountain identity.

Dolly Parton Pinball, More than Just a Game

The development of Bally's Dolly Parton themed pinball machine during 1978-79 presents an interesting case study in Appalachian and rural identity.

Artifact 2013.10.1 Dolly Parton Pinball Machine

This Dolly Parton themed pinball machine is artifact number 2013.10.1 in the Appalachian Studies Teaching Collection of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center in Berea, Kentucky.


Provenance - This machine, serial number EDP5414, was built on September 25, 1979 at the Bally factory in Chicago. During its commercial life, it was owned by the Venco Amusement Company of Bland, Virginia. Venco probably placed it in bars, convenience stores, gas stations, or arcades. When its commercial life was over, it was sold into home use. It had at least two home-use owners. The last owner lived in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. He bought it for his family because his wife was from Dolly Parton’s hometown, Sevierville, Tennessee.  The machine was purchased by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College in June 2013.  It was placed in service in the Gallery in August 2013.


*Provenance is the literal history of one specific artifact, such as who owned it, when it was made, and where it came from.*

Bally Pinball Signs up Dolly Parton




Bally, a leading pinball machine maker, had a successful series of machines based on celebrities including singer Elton John, daredevil Evil Knievel, hockey star Bobby Orr, and the rock group KISS. Bally Executive Tom Nieman wanted a machine he could sell to country/western-themed bars.  In 1978, Bally approached Appalachian-born country music star Dolly Parton to license her persona for a new pinball machine.  Parton agreed, a contract was signed, and design work began.  This began an interesting process of determining how Parton would be portrayed in the artwork on the machine.  Click the "Story" tab above to learn more.  


Log of Maintenance and Repairs

2013.10.1 is a living artifact. We have elected to maintain this artifact in playable condition, which requires some regular maintenance and repairs. This is unusual because we generally try to freeze an artifact in time, not doing any repairs or restoration. Once each semester we clean the playfield, reset the statistics, and replace the ball.

2013: At acquisition machine was in playable condition, but many lights were burned out, three drop targets were broken, one was badly damaged, rectifier board connectors were in very poor condition with evidence that there had been a fire there.  The playfield and box were very dirty.  A doorbell button had been attached near the coin door and wired to simulate a coin drop and add credits. Replaced all playfield rubbers, including: flippers bands, upper playfield stop, all rubber post caps holding plastics in place, and shooter tip. Removed all old No.47 light bulbs and replaced with No.44. Cleaned some sockets. Three bulbs still did not work and showed no power at the socket. Component failures on the lamp board suspected. Removed old, dead, leaking ni-cad battery from MPU board.

2014: Replaced rectifier board with modern replacement. Identified some bad capacitors on playfield switches and replaced. 2,400 Games played that year.

2015: Replaced logic board, solenoid board, and lighting board with modern replacements. 2,500 games played that year.

2016: Began conversion to all LED light bulbs starting with bulbs behind the backglass.  2,500 games played that year.

2018: Replaced sound board with a modern replacement.

2019: Replaced all rubbers, did deep cleaning and heavy waxing of playfield.  

2020: The machine has remained working and playable for several years!  I receives cleaning, ball replacement, and other maintenance every semester.