You’ve heard of the Dixie Chicks, but what about a Dixie Chicken?
This song by bluesy rock band Little Feat conquered the airwaves in the mid-1970s. Between the tune’s groovy rhythm and catchy piano melodies, it’s impossible not to dance to. Although the original band broke up five years after the song’s release, Dixie Chicken made serious waves.
We’re digging into the music archives to discover what makes this tune so memorable. And find out if a Dixie Chicken is a real thing.
Let’s dive in!
Who Originally Wrote Dixie Chicken?
Martin Kibbee and Lowell George wrote Dixie Chicken. Their band, Little Feat, was the first to record this classic rock track.
Lowell George was born on April 13, 1945, in Hollywood. Although he would become famous for playing guitar, his first instrument was the harmonica. At age six, Lowell and his brother performed a duet on live TV. He took up guitar in his early teens, later learning to play saxophone and sitar. George met Martin Kibbee while attending Hollywood High School.
George played in several bands during his early adult years. They included The Factory, The Standells, and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. The guitarist eventually formed Little Feat, which included former members of Zappa’s band. By the spring of 1976, Little Feat was opening for The Who.
Today Dixie Chicken is one of Little Feat’s best-known songs. George co-wrote the track with Kibbee, who became his frequent collaborator despite not being in the band. Dixie Chicken came to define the band’s New Orleans funk and R&B sound.
What Is a Dixie Chicken?
Dixie Chicken is a classic spurned-lover song. The singer sees a beautiful woman in front of the Commodore Hotel and instantly falls in love with her. If the singer will be her Dixie Chicken, she says, she promises to be his Tennesee Lamb. But once the Dixie Chicken spends all his money on her, the Tennessee Lamb leaves him for a guitar player.
Kibbee wrote the lyrics for this song. While driving in Los Angeles one day, he saw a billboard advertising a Dixie Chicken restaurant. The strange yet memorable name stuck in his head. Kibbee later claimed he had the story and most of the words written by the time he got home that day.
The band released Dixie Chicken on an album of the same name in 1973. Little Feat delivered fried chicken to Los Angeles radio stations to market the record with George in a chicken costume.
Although the song wasn’t popular initially, it eventually became a sleeper hit. Rolling Stone lists it in the top 10 best Southern rock songs, and the Dixie Chicks took their name from the title.
Where Is the Bar That Is Named After Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken?
Dixie Chicken gained popularity around the U.S., especially in the South. The song was such a hit that two Texas businessmen named their new bar after it!
Don Anz and Don Ganter opened the Dixie Chicken in College Station, Texas, in 1974. The building was a pool hall before Anz and Ganter remodeled it. The original decor was part honky-tonk, part Southern charm. It quickly gained popularity among Texas A&M students and even musicians like Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett.
The bar remains popular today among locals. The Dixie Chicken celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014. Ganter’s daughters Katy and Jennifer took over the bar’s operations after his death in 2004.
Who Has Covered Dixie Chicken?
This Southern rock hit has enjoyed its share of tributes. Dozens of solo artists and ensembles have put their own spin on Little Feat’s 1973 hit.
Let’s look at a few of the most notable renditions of this great tune.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
Little Feat must have been thrilled when this cover was released. Blues legend Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown covered Dixie Chicken on his 1975 album The Bogalusa Boogie Man. Brown first rose to fame in the late 1940s when he filled in for T-Bone Walker at a concert on the fly.
Brown’s version of the track is a little slower than the original but keeps the unique drum rhythm. The singer’s powerful voice draws listeners in, while a brass section gives the song a jaunty feel.
Eric Church with Chuck Leavell
Little Feat’s surprise hit song came out four years before Eric Church was born. But that didn’t stop the country singer from making the track his own. Church performed Dixie Chicken on tour in 2017. His cover appears on his live album, 61 Days in Church.
Church’s rendition is faithful to the original. You can hear the crowd loving this number. Famous Allman Brothers pianist Chuck Leavell lent his keyboard skills to the performance.
One of the most recent takes on Dixie Chicken was released in 2021 by Deep Purple, the iconic English rock band. Their version appears on Turning to Crime, an album composed entirely of covers.
The band’s rendition of Dixie Chicken is close to Little Feat’s. The song’s guitar melodies are layered in this version, and Ian Gillan’s vocals are clearer than George’s. Aside from these differences, this cover retains all the great groove and funk of the original.
What is Little Feat Doing Now?
Little Feat’s initial success was marked by tragedy. Lowell George, who suffered from health and addiction issues, died of a heart attack in 1979. He was only 34 years old. Although the guitarist had left the band a year earlier, Little Feat disbanded shortly after his passing.
But in 1987, the surviving members reunited while playing on Helen Watson’s album Blue Slipper. After spending time together in the studio again, the band reformed. They also added new members Craig Fuller and Fred Tackett, who they’d met on tour back in the 1970s. This new version of Little Feat released their album Let it Roll in 1988 to great acclaim.
The group has remained active off and on since then, with some members departing and new ones coming in. They’ve collaborated with musicians including Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck, and Bob Seger. Little Feat even went on tour in 2022, visiting dozens of cities across the U.S. between July and December.
Dixie Chickens and Tennessee Lambs
When Martin Kibbee saw that restaurant billboard in Los Angeles, he had no idea he was about to write a hit. But Dixie Chicken has remained popular for nearly 50 years! Newer generations can enjoy this lost-love classic thanks to the renewed Little Feat and the musicians who covered the song. With so many powerful versions, this track’s popularity will surely last for years.
Do you have a favorite Little Feat song? Tell us about it in the comments.