Sunday, 16 August 2009

Doin' The Funky Chicken - I Feel So Un-Necessary

We have a guest post today, from the frontline of Funk, it's Tommy Wallnuts in all his glory ............

Having recently raced through Charlie Connelly's excellent In Search of Elvis - A Journey to Find the Man Beneath the Jumpsuit like an excited schoolboy, I realised soon enough that what had struck a chord were not the many (excellent) anecdotes relating to the King himself, but rather the references to some of the other colourful characters who could be found strutting
their stuff on Memphis's eclectic music scene in the late 1960s....none more so than the late, great Rufus Thomas..

Rufus Thomas (or RT as he was known) was one of Memphis's musical oddballs, not quite to the degree of say Screamin' Jay Hawkins (actually from Cleveland, but you get the idea.) nevertheless, when looking at his songs, it was really never the same bite twice. It seems certain
that the rather laid back attitude at Stax to what would sell or not definitely suited the man who referred to himself as 'The World's Oldest Teenager'.

Anyway in 1970 he released 'Do the Funky Chicken' which followed in the wake of a stream of other soul/funk "Do the..(fill space)" dance crazes at that time. So what made the Funky Chicken just head and shoulders better than the others? Well I think it's lines like " Oooooo I feel so unnecessary" and " I wanna do somethin' naaasty, like wave some chicken gravy down my white shirt" that really swing it for me.

But don't take my word for it... the link below features RT himself performing the song at the legendary Wattstax festival in 1973 in all his 'galline' glory, and marvel as I do at the sight of the squat, balding genius resplendant in his his pink shorts and boots and large ram's head medallion as he whips the near ectastic crowd into a frenzy with white foam clearly visible at the corners of his mouth.......

Jump forward 36 years to my rather gloomy and and cold living room on a wet Santiago Saturday morning.....

As I plug my i-pod into the stereo my 3 year-old son Nico enters stage left...

"Nico, Daddy's got a special surprise for you now" I tell him enigmatically

"Is it Incy, Wincey Spider?" comes the hopeful response

"No, it's......something else son, something special"

I hit 'play' and prepare myself by half-heartedly rolling my head about a bit....and as the first bars of stomping bass and stacatto horns and the deranged man-rooster cackle pierce the winter chill, I begin to follow RT's instructions by flapping, clucking, kicking and strutting around the parquet for all I'm worth. Needless to say I didn't take long for Nico to join in the fun, and some 20 minutes and 8 repeat back-to-back playings later we both collapse on the sofa in a sweaty heap having lost all control of both reason and voluntary muscle control, much to the bemusement of my heavily pregnant wife Daniela, who stands there hands on hips taking in the scene looking frankly concerned at what she's just witnessed.

"Don't worry", I gasp fighting for breath and trying to remove Nico's left foot from under my chin "Just drop a chicken stock cube in a mug and put the kettle on will you." I wheeze looking down the front of my sweaty, crumpled but otherwise spotlessly clean white T-shirt............

Charlie Connelly (no relation) says of the epitaph on Rufus Thomas's memorial (see photo)"When I go, I want a memorial stating that I too am 'the funkiest chicken of the South', even if the south in this case, is south London"

I know what he means, but to be honest I'd settle for a ram's head medallion.......

1 comment:

  1. Very good, I know very little about Rufus Thomas, possibly only that he appeared in Mystery Train, a good article.