The Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas was a popular brothel. It was started in 1905 by a Jessie Williams in a small house along the banks of the river. In 1917 she moved the whole operation just outside of the city limits, to evade the law. The move proved successful, and after some advertising the young buys from World War I kept coming in. At its peak, the Chicken Ranch boasted 14 rooms for the girls. It looked like any Texas farmhouse, with the entrance for the brothel itself concealed.
Local law enforcement closed the eyes for it, because it proved very useful in gathering gossip. Local thugs liked to boast about their latest business. Many cases were solved because of this information. The sheriff also proved useful in keeping rowdy customers in check, with an iron prod.
During the Great Depression in the Thirties things didn’t go as well. Miss Jessie had to lower the prices. She also asked for chicken instead, as payment. By the end of the Depression, the place was swamped with chickens, and the place finally got its name.
During the Seventies, a battle was fought over the brothel. Marvin Zindler, a journalist from Houston investigated the place, and found out about that local law enforcement was a bit too close to the business for comfort. The place had to close down, by order of the Governor.
In 1978 this story was made into a book, a musical and in 1982 a movie was added. The movie was with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. This is the soundtrack.
The best known song probably is I will always love you. It was not written for the musical though. It was meant as a farewell gift for Porter Wagoner when Dolly Parton separated her professional relationship with him in 1973. Parton made a lot of money when it was covered in 1992 by Witney Houston: it became the best-selling single of all time by a female artist.