DJs Thought This Dolly Parton Classic Was Too “Dirty” for the Radio in the 70s
“I thought for sure that I had written a hit song. And then the disc jockeys wouldn’t play it.”
It's hard to believe now, but Dolly Parton wasn't always America's sweetheart.
Long before she was funding lifesaving vaccines, turning down the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and passing on government statues in her likeness, Parton had a song banned from the radio for being too "suggestive."
In her book Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, the country star recalls how DJs refused to play her 1975 hit single "The Bargain Store" because they found some of the lyrics to be "dirty." Or, as Parton puts it, "too strongly worded for some conservative country music broadcasters."
"When I wrote 'The Bargain Store,' I swear on my life that I was never thinking about love in any vulgar way," Parton recalls in the book. "Somehow, this lyric is a dirty thing to a man. But I never saw it that way. Every man I know thinks it's dirty."
Parton goes on to explain that she was using the concept of a "bargain" as a metaphor for a potential relationship.
"All I was thinking of was the heart: 'If you don't mind the merchandise is slightly used, with a little mending it can be good as new.' I was saying that you'll be surprised at how good this broken heart is. Just take it. You'll never be sorry that you did. The words just meant that I've had relationships: I've been through stuff; I'm not new at this."
"I thought for sure that I had written a hit song," Parton continues. "And then the disc jockeys wouldn't play it."
Eventually, the DJs came around and "The Bargain Store" climbed to No. 1 on the charts and became a No. 35 adult contemporary success.
"At that time, they were so difficult," she writes of old-school broadcasters. "Now you can show something much stronger on TV, and people don't think a thing about it."