"C, that's the way to begin; H, the next letter in; I, is the third; C, seasoning the bird; K...C-H-I-C-K-E-N, that's the way to spell chicken"


The recent version by the Red Clay Ramblers fits this chorus with an outline in which Ragtime Joe is made to spell "chicken" in school. Not having heard some of the early recordings, I don't know if this is integral to the song and Paul Stamler omitted it in his description, or if someone added it later. - RBW

The "Ragtime Chicken Joe" verse is indeed part of the original piece, published as a "coon song." - PJS


  • Arthur Collins, "Dat's De Way to Spell Chicken" (CYL: Edison 8301, 1903)
  • John & Emery McClung, "C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken" (Brunswick 135, 1927)
  • McGee Brothers "C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken" (Vocalion 5150, 1927; Conqueror 7257, 1929; I also have a listing for the latter as being by Kirk McGee & Blythe Poteet, and another as by Rogers and Puckett, which is almost certainly wrong.)
  • Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio, "Ragtime Chicken Joe" (Conqueror 8566, 1935; rec. 1933)
  • Three Tobacco Tags, "De Way to Spell Chicken" (Bluebird B-7973, 1938)


Author: Sidney Perrin & Bob Slater
Earliest date: 1902 (sheet music published)
Found in: US(SE,Ap)