Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Anyone with even a passing interest in music knows how earlier musicians were big influences on modern songwriters. Without Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly, we may have never had The Beatles. Woody Guthrie served as a major influence for Bob Dylan, who later served as an inspiration for Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps most importantly, the brilliant Pat Boone was instrumental in creating the edgy genius of Donny and Marie Osmond.

Johnny Cash was another monumental figure in modern music. However, few people know about a folk singer who was a mentor for The Man in Black. He was the legendary “Chicken Lips” Paycock.

“Lips” had a hard life. He escaped from a KFC factory as a young cluck, only to make his way from barn to barn, plucking his guitar for chicken feed wherever he could, living the vagabond life of a free-range rooster.

He was not a saint though. He plucked many a hen during his travels, resulting in numerous paternity suits. Failure to pay peep support landed him in jail, and his experiences were reflected in perhaps his most famous song, “Foster Farm Blues,” which Johnny Cash later reinterpreted in his “Folsom Prison Blues.” The melody is strikingly similar, as are the lyrics. Judge for yourself…

Foster Farm Blues
By “Chicken Lips” Paycock

I hear that chicken cluckin,
It’s cluckin' like a hen
And I ain’t seen it lay an egg
Since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Foster Farms,
Just cock a doodlin’ do,
And when it’s feedin’ time,
I’ll be peckin' at my food.

When I was just a peep,
My nana clucked all night,
She told me, “Keep on crowin’, boy
Until you get it right,”
But I pecked an egg at Foster’s,
Just to watch it crack,
And after I plucked its mama,
I just ain’t been back.

“The Lost Scratches of ‘Chicken Lips’ Paycock” will be released on Hen House Records in time for Christmas. A special limited, individually numbered, slip-cased director’s cut edition on CD/DVD/CD-ROM/MP3/JPEG/Blu-Ray/Vinyl will also be available, but supplies are limited.

1 comment:

  1. I can see how I have been influenced by the more popular Cash. As I read the chicken version, I realized that my brain was singing it in Johnny's voice no less!