Larry De Rieux

Northwest rocker from Oregon cut cult rockabilly classic "Chicken Session" - first show in over 40 years.

Ever since rock 'n' roll's earliest storm clouds began gathering, few subjects have garnered the lofty attention that's been reserved for that fabulously feathered flying food, the chicken. Memorialized in song by everyone from West Virginia wild man Hasil Adkins to R&B screamer Pico Pete, Memphis blues pianist Rosco Gordon took it all one step further by traveling with a rooster who perched upon his keyboard while be belted out "Chicken In The Rough." But there are few fowl numbers that have been raved about like Larry De Rieux's primitive rockabilly opus, "Chicken Session," which fractured the Pacific Northwest in 1959. De Rieux got his start in the music biz at age nine when his older sister gave him a Montgomery Ward guitar and taught him two chords, C and G. (To this day, he states proudly, they're still the only two that he knows: "Give me a capo and I can do anything!") He then commenced appearing at fairs and minstrel shows doing impersonations of country singers. At the time he didn't really like country that much, so he often made fun of artists like Ernest Tubb and Little Jimmy Dickens as much as he imitated them. "As I got older and rock 'n' roll came in," Larry details, "country wasn't really cool anymore." So, he did what many an aspiring rocker certainly wished that they'd had the rhythmic know-how to do: "I established my own thump beat." He didn't have to wait long to put said beat to very good use; it's what gives "Chicken Session" its unique sound.

As Larry recounts, he and his band had worked hard on the A-side of his lone 45, "Darlene Darlene," and with 45 minutes of studio time remaining, realized they needed a B-side. But most of the musicians had already gone home, leaving it up to Larry and his guitarist, bassist and drummer to whip something together.

"I wrote that song in fifteen minutes," he says today, "I got hundreds of 'em like that! I wrote it to make fun of all the animal songs that were coming out back then like 'Elephant Walk.'

Most of the drums had gone out the door with the rest of the musicians and Larry's guitar player didn't understand what he wanted so the drummer used some brushes for background while Larry stuck a microphone through the F-hole of the upright bass. Then he grabbed the guitar and played the inimitable lead part himself. "We did two takes on that thing and then they cut it," he says. "I told the engineer, 'Give me all the reverb you've got! Well, it sounded like barbed wire at first so he backed it off a little bit and that was it."

While the record was still at the pressing plant, Larry and his road manager stopped by a club in downtown Tacoma where the recently-formed Ventures were holding court and Larry wound up sitting in with them. The future instrumental kings liked what they heard and invited him back, resulting in a two week engagement. At the end of the two weeks, drummer Howie Johnson told Larry, "We've been talking and we've got this record coming out ('Walk, Don't Run'). We're about to go on a tour to the far East to promote it and we could use a vocalist…"

"I leaned back in my chair," Larry remembers, "and said, 'Boys, it sounds like a ball but I've got a record of my own coming out.' Of course, I said this as if I was just coming off of my first million seller! Well, the next thing I know, 'Walk, Don't Run' went straight to number one!"

"Chicken Session" didn't fare quite as well, but still made the charts in the Northwest and when rediscovered by record fanatics years later, gave Larry his much deserved cult following. It recently earned the accolades of being the lead track on Norton Records' second volume of their Northwest Rockers and Instrumentals series. The name of the album? "Chicken Session," of course.

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