UKULELE MUSINGS, 4 September 2021: Chickens and Chick- Chick- Chickens!

Well fellow strummers, it’s September and—to my wonderment—I just learned that this is “National Chicken Month!”  Just the theme for another ukulele musing! Well, why not?  There are some fun old tunes out there to explore and—believe it or not—quite a few ukulele renditions.  Who knew?

Let’s start with one of the most often played (only two chords!) old, old fiddle tunes: “Cluck Old Hen.”  Click or tap on the next image or link for a lively ukulele/clawhammer banjo rendition of this oldie.

Moving on, it is said that chicken, as well as onions, are part of nearly every ethnic cuisine—Kosher, Halal, Asian, Hispanic, as well as good old American Country. 

I remember those homey fried chicken restaurants in the Midwest,

Beer can chicken on the grill,

even a rare bucket from Colonel Sanders in my impecunious student days! 

My favorite treat, however, was my grandmother’s chicken and noodles served (how else?) over mashed potatoes—about 400 calories per forkful! 

But, oh so good!  But, alas, I digress .  .  .  

Now, to begin our journey through the musicological chicken yard, I would be remiss, however, not to point out a few potential pedological pitfalls of what some might call the teaching of  “critical musical theory.”  

For example, in my scholarly explorations on the web, there seem to be three major themes relative to today’s theme of “chicken music.”  First, of course, are sweet songs about the good old days of raising chickens back on the farm, and those simple but savory Sunday (or church basement) dishes served by our mothers and grandmothers. 

Then there are bouncy and (ever so slightly) bawdy tunes using the ubiquitous Tin Pan Alley slang of the day when “chick” and “chicken” referred to all those pretty young girls out there capturing the attention of a flirting “rooster” or two. 

Alas, last but not least, are all those songs of chicken chasing, eating, stealing and whatnot tainted by the graphic and lyrical racial caricatures way too common at the time. 

That said, I’ll only focus on the first two categories and let the third remain buried in the depths of the internet.

Moving on, here are just a couple of sweet and homey “chicken” tunes: “The Chicken Reel” and “Chicken Fried.”  Click or tap on the next couple of images or links to hear some good strumming and singing on these two oldies.

So much for chickens in the coop or on the plate; now the bouncy, Tin Pan Alley stuff.  Here is a use of “chicken” slang that Eddie “Banjo Eyes” Cantor performed way back in the days of World War One. 

Click or tap on the next image or link and listen carefully to the vaudevillian lyrics of “Would You Rather be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Collar or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?  Whew!

Now, click or tap on the next image or link for another of this genre with as convoluted a title: “There’s a Trick in Pickin’ a Chick Chick Chicken,” another slangy Tin Pan Alley fox trot take on today’s theme.

Ah yes, one more in the cinematic “country comic” mode . . .

Click or tap on the next image or link to listen to a ukulele version of this one!

If your brain isn’t, um, fried, you can click or tap on the next image or link for for the wind up—how to make a chicken sound on your very own ukulele!  This YouTube tutorial is a bit long, but it is a must-have skill for any stage performing uker!  Perhaps not. You decide and report back!

And, let’s not forget the poultrified ukuleles out there!

So, remember the theme of the month and, hopefully, have a taste soon  of healthy broiled chicken or deep fat fried—your choice!  And, yes, stay masked unless munching away

and, of course, STAY TUNED! And listen to the chick, chick, chicken . . .  

Or, an alternate opinion . . .


Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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