Chicken has been the subject of songs and humor since, at least, the advent of the blues. It’s even a funny word to say, especially when you go with a lazy, suthun pronunciation with more of a “g” sound in the middle — “chiggen!” Great New York sax player, Bob Berg, used to do a tune he called “Live at the Chicken Shack.” It was a totally groovin’ shuffle. Any song about chicken has to be a shuffle.
One of my favorite moments in chicken humor is the dinner scene in Blake Edward’s 1968 film, The Party. Peter Sellers is sitting low at the long, crowded table because they were out of chairs. As he struggles to cut into his Cornish game hen, his chin just above the table and elbows high in the air, the roasted bird slips off his plate, takes flight, and lands with a perfect perch just inside the tiara of the beehive-haired woman sitting across from him. She has no idea it is there, goes on with dinner conversation, and Sellers gazes on in horror. The first time I say that movie, and that scene, I laughed so hard you’d have thought I was choking on a chicken bone. It was the movie that ran after the evening news, back when that was common in the pre-cable and VCR days. My parents were asleep in the next room, and I laughed hysterically into a pillow so I wouldn’t wake them up.
During my college years I created a lot of silly phone answering machine messages with my brother, Doug, and good friend Paul McKee, a great jazz trombonist and Woody Herman alum. Seems we were preoccupied with chicken then as well, with half of our answering machine songs featuring chicken-inspired titles and lyrics. Rainbow Trout seemed to find its way in there a lot as well. I cannot explain this affliction, but here’s a sample.