Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sweet Papa Stovepipe - "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me" (example, partial lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part pancocojams series that focuses on two 1926-1927 comedic Blues songs about African Americans and chicken. This post showcases the song "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me" by Sweet Papa Stovepipe (McKinley Peebles). Some information about Sweet Papa Stovepipe and a brief note about the composition of this song are also included in this post.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases the song "Chicken You Can Roost Behind the Moon".

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thank to Sweet Papa Stovepipe (McKinley Peebles) for his musical legacy. Thanks also to those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this sound file on YouTube.

"Sweet Papa Stovepipe [was] a singer from New York City who probably got the nickname by wearing a top hat and whose "All Birds Look Like Chicken to Me" taps into the minstrel tradition of the 1890s. This individual's given name was McKinley Peebles.
Very little information about Sweet Papa Stovepipe is known besides his real name and that he recorded "All Birds Look Like Chicken to Me," and "Mama's Angel Child" (both circa 1926). However, some additional information about that singer can be gleaned from these two comments published on "New CD of Bessie Jones due out Oct 2014" by Matthew Edwards,
17 Jul 14 - 04:37 PM and Matthew Edwards, 17 Jul 14 - 07:26 PM
..."The Association for Cultural Equity website notes that he [Sweet Papa Stovepipe] was recorded with Bessie Jones in New York in 1961 singing You've Got To Reap Just What You Sow under the name of the Reverend McKinley Peebles"...

..."Google Books also turns up part of an article by Anton J Mikofsky in the Encyclopedia of the Blues, Gerard Herzhaft, 2nd edition, 1997 describing McKinley Peebles/ Sweet Papa Stovepipe as a well-known street performer in 1970's New York with a theatrical style, and also a colleague of the Rev. Gary Davis."
Sweet Papa Stovepipe shouldn't be confused with "Daddy Stovepipe (Johnny Watson), one of the earliest born blues performer to record and Stovepipe No.1 – (real name Sam Jones), who also first recorded as a one-man band in 1924.[6] Daddy Stovepipe and Stovepipe No.1 were deemed to be the first blues one-man bands ever to be recorded on disc."
"Stovetope hats" (top hats) were considered to be part of the attire for a sophisticated man, which is why they were adopted by some early Blues and medicine show singers to set them apart from the average man and other performers.

THE COMPOSITION OF "ALL BIRDS LOOK LIKE CHICKEN TO ME" "New CD of Bessie Jones due out Oct 2014" by Matthew Edwards, 17 Jul 14 - 07:26 PM
..."According to Songfacts the song ["All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me"] was written by the black songwriter Irving Jones in 1899, in response to the hit song by Ernest Hogan "All Coons Look Alike To Me"."
Note that Ernest Hogan was also African American.

That comment by Matthew Edwards continues: "So this song perhaps has some claim to being an early anti-racist song". end of quote. However, while the title of the song "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me" undoubtedly came from the "All Coons Look Alike To Me" song, its lyrics are by no means anti-racist. Instead, that song is part of the Southern plantation/minstrel and medicine show category of songs about Black people's fondness for chicken and Black people stealing chickens. Read my comments about that subject in the pancocojams post "The Story Behind The Stereotype Of Black People & Fried Chicken"

"All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me" is an African American medicine show song. Here's an excerpt from,124, an article about Black performers in "black-faced minstrel shows" and Black performers in "medicine shows":
..."As long as medicine shows have toured this country, blacks have played in them. Medical entrepreneurs, quick to exploit the increasing fascination of whites whith [sic] African-American culture, employed blacks as novelty entertainers in otherwise white shows. Jug bands, buck and eccentric dancers, harmonica players, even jubilee quartets, became standard features on the med circuit...

Playing to African-American audiences, black med [medicine show] troupers adapted the racial stereotypes of minstrelsy to their own ends and expanded their repertoires. Their medicine shows became an amalgam which included brass bands, tap dancers, ragtime guitarists, comedy teams, and classic blues shouters. Folk and vernacular elements alternated with Tin Pan Alley, burnt-cork minstrelsy with vaudeville. “Foreign” traditions were tempered by the black aesthetic to reflect the African-American experience...

At the pinnacle of the black med show business were full-fledged minstrel troupes mounting elaborate spectacles in vast tents that seated 2000 people. Most of these were headed by white pitchmen like Doc Robinson of the Silver Minstrels, Doc Byar of the World’s Minstrels, and Doc Bartok of Bardex. The closing of The Bardex Minstrel Show in 1960 marked the end of a proud tradition of black artistry in med minstrelsy."

Sweet Papa Stovepipe All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me (1926)

Randomandrare, Uploaded on Oct 18, 2009

I do not own the copyright to this recording. This video is for historical and educational purposes
Sweet Papa Stovepipe (real name unknown):Vocals & Probably Guitar
Recorded in Chicago, IL. November, 1926
Originally issued on the 1926 single (Paramount 12404) (78 RPM)
This recording taken from the 2004 4CD Box Set "The Paramount Masters"

Note: This is a beginning transcription attempt for "All Birds Look Like Chicken To Me". I'm posting it because I haven't found the lyrics for this song online. However, in spite of repeatedly listening to this recording, I'm very unsure about many of its lyrics. Additions and corrections to this transcription would be appreciated.

(as sung by Sweet Papa Stovepipe, 1926)

All birds look like chicken to me
They look like little fat hens
I fork them with my butter and fries
And eat them all one size
That chicken looks great to me
Looks like a little fat hen to me
Eat'em in an hour
All kind of power
They look like chicken to me

Me and my oldest brother
Went out at night to have a little fun
We met that pullet early
We met him about at one
Well I grabbed hold of the rooster
And swung him all round and round
I saw the other one wheezing
Gonna beat everyone in town


If there’s no roosters over yonder* [meaning heaven]
Don’t wanna go there
Take me down to the __ on the table
I’d do real good there
Here’s the only thing I crave
Wanna ___ until my grave
If there’s no roosters over yonder
I don’t wanna go there.


I had no use a for the pullet
Since one day in the spring
I ??? eat them up
All on his wings
I grabbed that other rooster
And slapped all around and round
And the next time I come around ‘he get out of the way
He __ ‘bound


One spring I was walkin
Walkin far away
There’s nothing there for me to
Eat one morn to stay
Now chicken now get ready
And let us all get right
I’m gonna take you all to see God
And see you home tonight.


Chickens, chickens
Come right here to me
Chickens, chickens
I know we can agree
Chickens, chickens
Fly right here to me
I’ma ????
Cause we can not agree


Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitors' comments are welcome.


  1. Here's some information that I just read about 19th Black men wearing top hats:
    In reference to the original 1904 "coon song" version of the song "The Preacher and The Bear":

    From Lyr Req: The Preacher and the Bear
    From: GUEST,P. Neilson
    Date: 29 Mar 06 - 01:11 AM

    ..".I own the piano player roll to this tune. The original words of the song do put it into the category of "coon song". The words of such songs and even the name of this genre are unacceptable today, but they are part of history and as such deserve to be preserved. Performances should be bracketed by careful historical explanations.

    The razor in the lyrics is one of three common tokens of the comic stereotype of blacks a hundred years ago. The other two were a watermelon, usually stolen, and a top hat. The sheet music cover shows the Preacher wearing a top hat. Why
    the hat? Presumably during slave times it was a problem for free black men in the South to avoid slave catchers, men who would pick up unowned blacks as runaway slaves. Ownership of a good hat presumably announced to all that the wearer was a free gentleman, and not a slave."
    That discussion thread contains multiple text versions of that song, including those with and without coon references.

  2. Just found out that the song was written by Irving Jones, circa 1899. Sorry, I also can't make out all the lyrics and can't find the original.

    1. Thanks for sharing that information, Anonymous.

      Would you please include your source for that information?