15: D-I-V-O-R-C-E

15: D-I-V-O-R-C-E

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music


Story by Bobby Braddock

Song written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman

Recorded by Tammy Wynette

I had written a song called “I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U, Do I have to spell it out for you?” and I kind of laid it aside. That inspired “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” It’s interesting because I eventually did finish the first song and Tammy Wynette recorded it on an album years later.

I finished “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” but there were no takers. I asked Curly Putman one day why he thought nobody had wanted to record it. He said, “Well, there’s that one line in the chorus, ‘I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.’ That melody is too happy for such a sad song.”

I said, “Well, what would you do?” He grabbed a guitar and started playing it and sang a new melody for that line. He changed the melody around and made it a lot sadder and a lot darker sounding. That’s about all Curly did, but it made the difference, I think, between being recorded and not being recorded.

I think that really closed the deal. My melody sounded more like a detergent commercial than a song about divorce. I wanted to give him half the song, but he didn’t want any of it. We compromised and he took a fourth of it. When we sat down to do the demo, Curly was playing guitar and I was playing piano, and I came up with that deep piano lick at the beginning of the song — “Bom-bom-bom-bom-dumda-dum.” Billy Sherrill later decided to keep it on the record.

They used to have a local Grammy banquet here in town and I saw Billy Sherrill there and told him about the song. He said, “Well, bring it over tomorrow.” So I did. He later told me he was looking for one more song for Tammy and said when he heard it he threw all the other stuff he had for her in the garbage can. He instinctively knew that was going to be a big hit for her and it was. It went to #1 in 1968.

There were other songs of mine that were inspired by divorce, but I don’t think this one was. I had a daughter who was about a year old then and I always thought it was cute the way parents spell things out for their children when they don’t want them to know what they’re talking about, so I just wrote it. There may have been other reasons or inspiration behind it at the time, but if there were, they escape me now. I think I just wrote it for the money. But Tammy had a lot of heartache in her life, so it seemed she really related to the lyrics.

By today’s standards, it almost seems like a corny song to me. But Tammy just sang the hell out of it and Billy Sherrill did a great job producing it. They made a great record.


Our little boy is four years old and quite a little man

So we spell out the words we don’t want him to understand

Like T-O-Y or maybe S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E

But the words we’re hiding from him now

Tear the heart right out of me.


Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today

Me and little J-O-E will be goin’ away

I love you both and it will be pure H-E double ‘L’ for me

Oh, I wish that we could stop this D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

Watch him smile, he thinks it’s Christmas

Or his fifth birthday

And he thinks C-U-S-T-O-D-Y spells fun or play

I spell out all the hurting words

And turn my head when I speak

’Cause I can’t spell away this hurt

That’s dripping down my cheek.


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