Butch the Chicken and Sun Studio


If you have never got around to visiting sun Studio, I can thoroughly recommend taking the tour. This small, dirty looking building on the corner of Union and Marshall has borne witness to some of the greatest names (and characters) in Memphis musical history.

Unlike the super glossy Graceland experience, the Sun Studio tour is earthy, very matter of fact and probably as close to a time warp back to the 50s as you are going to get. The tour is conducted by local musicians who talk knowledgeably about the music, history and personalities associated with the studio.

Sun Studio is everything I love about Memphis. It has a fascinating history and is wonderfully understated to the point where I can't imagine how somebody has failed to exploit it's tourist potential even further (anybody for launching a Sun themed bar on Beale Street?).

Now everybody knows about Sun's associations with superstars such as Elvis and Johnny Cash but one of my favorite stories about the place concerns a guy called Roscoe Gordon. Roscoe was a native Memphian and a piano player who found fame on Beale Street playing alongside legends such as Rufus Thomas and BB King. First recording at Sun in 1951, Roscoe worked with the Studio for a number of years and in the mid 50's recorded a song called 'The Chicken'.

The Chicken" not only started a dance craze but also made famous a rooster named "Butch", who, decked out in miniature suits to match his owner, gyrated on top of the piano and drank scotch from a shot glass during live performances, to the delight of audiences. However, Butch succumbed to his excesses at an early age, and Rosco could never find an equal talent among the hen houses of the South.

Only in Memphis could a man score big with a drunken dancing chicken. this is the stuff of legends!