2 March 2015


Chicken Ain't Nothin' But a Bird? It's a simple, romping 32-bar a - a - b - a tune.

You can find some enjoyable examples of this song on YouTube.

A source who is normally reliable gave me the information that this song was composed in 1899 by Bob Cole and J. R. Johnson. (They wrote the famous jazz number Under The Bamboo Tree.) However, I have been unable to find any evidence to substantiate the theory that they wrote Chicken Ain't Nothin' But a Bird. Reader Stan Cummins discovered that there was a 'chicken' song that Bob Cole performed at about that time, but it was a different song, so maybe that caused confusion.

Other convincing sources say the song was composed by Emmett 'Babe' Wallace (born in Brooklyn, 1909; died 2006). He was a singer, a composer, an actor and a writer. I think he must have been the composer and that he must have written the song in about 1939, in time for such performers as Cab Calloway (1940) to make a feature of it.

Cole (left) and Johnson: Not The Composers?
Babe Wallace: The True Composer?
Whatever its origins, and errors excepted, the song appears to go something like this.