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The DC Origin Story: Chicken or the Egg?

Okay, so why the name “Dirt Cheep” for a music store?

Our founder, John Rathbone, reflects on our unique brand:


I came up with the name Dirt Cheep Music back in the early 80’s when I was starting this company. But the inspiration for it came from a summer day in 1975, when I was a traveling musician “on the road” driving through beautiful West Virginia.

I loved listening to AM radio and 8-track tapes of Jeff Beck, Yes, Hendrix, and Stanley Clarke as I drove through the scenic countryside with my wife. One day, rounding a curve on that two-lane West Virginia highway, I saw a sign nailed to a tree that read: “Eggs for sale, Dirt Cheep”.

I thought it was either a very clever pun on the sound of a baby chick and eggs, or a didn’t-know-better spelling mistake. Either way, it stuck in my mind as catchy and memorable.

In late 1983, while planning the beginnings of this company, of what it would represent, of how our mission of “saving our customers money” should never get away from us, the name I would give it became a critical decision. I wanted to impart our mission to our customers in the name and I wanted it to be easy to remember, like a musical phrase that you can whistle or hum and never forget. And so, out of the memory banks arose that sign in West Virginia.

Dirt Cheep.

Like a familiar friend, almost everyone has used the phrase at some point so everyone knows what it means, especially here in the South. And with the unusual spelling it’s also unique and different. That’s why we spell it “Cheep.”  And everyone loves the little chick that says “cheep!”.

(You could argue baby chicks say “peep,” but at this point I was rolling.)

The chick mascot was a natural fit for the name, but the sunglasses, the bass guitar (my main instrument), and the spiky hair came later. The chick knows a good deal when it sees or hears it.

Today we offer a huge selection of major brands of professional audio and recording equipment, instruments for school music, church musicians, and rock, country, blues, and metal players. Our retail store is always busy, and our web store reaches the whole country. And our customers know that when they shop with us we will save them money, because our value for the price is always…   Cheep!


Eggs For Sale Dirt Cheep