The Sad Chicken is a 1970 deep funk classic so staggeringly, deliciously funky it makes Bootsy Collins sound like Coldplay.
Legend has it that Cincinnati show band Leroy & the Drivers, having booked a studio to record their single Rainy Night In Georgia didn’t have anything prepared as a flipside and created The Sad Chicken as an impromptu jam. It all fell into place there and then and was complete within an hour.
The track opens with a guitar gently strumming a snippet of Chopin’s Funeral March, perhaps indicating that the chicken in the title was sad due to bereavement. I hope the chicken was able to take some comfort in the knowledge that its loss was the catalyst for the creation of a ridiculously, funky instrumental.
After the maudlin intro, bass player Mike Chappell kicks in with his astonishing, staccato trip around the fret board. Jimmy Welch then gets his guitar involved, cautiously at first, bending a note around Chappel’s killer bassline, before delivering a burst of chords to really establish the rhythm. With a roll of his drums, Reggie Cavinaugh enters the fray giving Butch Yates the cue to get to work with his saxophone. Yates remembers “I wanted it to be avante garde, you know, out there”. And it really is. Yates’s sax riffs over the rhythm section for a glorious 150 seconds of cool, including a psychedelic middle section and a reprise of Chopin. It’s so good it’s virtually impossible to listen to it just once in one sitting.
The Sad Chicken is a heavy funk classic, an example of the magic that can take place between musicians when they get in the zone and possibly the funkiest piece of music to take inspiration from poultry death in the past 50 years.