Monday, June 9, 2014

"Go You Chicken Fat, Go!"

The year is 1961. My dad, an ad man at the time for Young & Rubicam, a large agency in New York City arrives home, his usual jubilant, animated—“just had a great day”self —opens up his brief case.
There were definite advantages to having a dad who worked in advertising. He often worked at home in the evenings, seated at his typewriter; brainstorming for a campaign just about to hit the media. We were often included in the process, listening to his ideas as he hammered them out on paper faster than anyone I had ever seen, the smoke from his Pall Mall cigarettes swirling to the ceiling above. The smoke of course was not an advantage but we were still ignorant of the real dangers—remember, my dad was in advertising.

We were living in Upper Montclair, NJ at the time, a thirty minute bus ride from NY City. Dad walked to the bus each morning and my younger brothers often rode their bikes to meet him after work and ride home alongside him.

He pulls a record out of his briefcase— but then changes his mind.
“No, I think we’ll just wait until tomorrow morning.”
Before bed that night he announces, “I want everyone down here—in the living room—at 6am—set your alarms!”

“Everyone”—dad and mom, my six brothers and I, as planned, filed down to the living room at 6am the following morning and had our very first exposure to the Chicken Fat song! The song was written by Meredith Willson and sung by Robert Preston of "Music Man" fame with full orchestral accompaniment. It was commissioned by John Kennedy for his new Youth Fitness Program. A copy of this record was sent to every school in the U.S. with the idea that it would be played over the P.A. every morning while students did calisthenics.

Since my dad had something to do with the presentation of this program (thanks dad!) we were just about to experience a preview—right in our living room.
It was brutal—not just listening to the song but the exercises; one after another—6am—this is way to early for this sort of thing!
And surprise! When we arrived at school that morning the record was played again in our classrooms and gym classes. We got to do the entire routine again! (..and every day after that for weeks)

Our family exercise program lasted about three days and to tell you the truth, I think my dad was sick of hearing the song too.
On the fourth day there were no alarms set in our house for 6am.
If you would like to hear the song and read the never ending lyrics you can listen to it here.

(WARNING..You will not be able to get the song out of your head for days!)
Let's agree to take this little 45 and store it in the archives—for a long, LONG, time!

Update...June 2014

OH's back!!  Apple I-Phone 5's new ad!

Go You Chicken Fat Go!


  1. I loved this growing up. I must have brought a copy of this record home from school, or more likely my brother or sister did. I would put it on at home and do the exercises much to my mom's chagrin! I would love to buy this record if anyone knows of someone selling...Thanks, Lynne

  2. Lynne,
    Would you believe you can buy the record/cd on E-Bay? You would have to really love it to pay the asking price though!

  3. This post will be getting more hits as the song -- not the Preston version but a sound-a-like -- is being used in the new IPHone ad. Glad to your of your father's contributions to this wonderful song! I wrote about it in 2009 for the Turner Classic Movies site "Movie Morlocks"-- we Boomers have to stick together! Thanks for the very interesting post! Also, the song is available for listening on the JFK Library website -- that's some important legacy!

  4. Thank you Lisa! I did hear the IPhone ad and it prompted me to post this story.
    Funny....some BabyBoomers do not remember it at all-but the ones who do remember it well! I sure do...
    Thanks for your comment-hope you stop back and enjoy my other stories!

  5. OMGoodness...I loved this song as a kid. I was really surprised to hear it on TV! It is amazing that my husband doesn't remember it, but it brings back memories of a wonderful time for me. I never knew the history of the song, so it was very interesting to read about it -- the sad thing is it is stuck in my head now!!! -- Darn you Apple!

    1. I was surprised to hear it too! I guess we know who Apple is targeting in their ad campaign.... they got our attention-that's for sure! : )

  6. That commercial brought me back. I recognized Robert Preston, but couldn't remember when he did it, since I only associate him with Music Man.

  7. Cant get it out of my head since the iPhone 5 add .

  8. My husband does not remember the song, nor does he like the commercial. I can't get enough of the commercial. I don't know why, because I hated to exercise to it! And you are so right, it's one of the worst earworm songs of all time.

  9. Thanks for your comment! I was surprised at how many did not remember the song at all, since it was a nationwide program. Maybe it's one of those "suppressed" memories-too painful to remember!

  10. I love this! I remember it from the second grade in 1964. The teacher played it when it was raining outside. Thank you!

  11. it is a good memory for you! You are welcome!

  12. The first time I heard this song I knew there was more to it then just a smartphone commercial. I still remember walking 50 miles for this fitness program when I was a Freshman in High School lol

  13. were really on board with the program! Never heard of anyone doing that!
    Thanks for your comment!

  14. I had to smile when I heard the iPhone ad the other day. Several months ago, I sang out "Go, you Chicken Fat, Go!!!" while working out on a treadmill with a weight loss class at the gym. All the 50-something-year-olds laughed out loud. The trainer, the 20- and 30-year-olds laughed too, but I don't think they knew what the rest of us were laughing at! In grade school, we knew exactly what was coming in gym class when we woke up to rain on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning: Chicken Fat, Hokey Pokey or the climbing those dreaded ropes. This was back when girls were required to wear dresses or skirts to public school, but we were permitted to wear shorts underneath on gym days. Looking back to all the little things in life we've fretted over, I'm starting to believe that the Hokey Pokey truly IS what it's ALL about!

  15. Thanks for your comment-and the reminder of very similar "gym" days-especially "The Hokey Pokey"! 'You put your right foot in-you put your right foot out..." : ) And...the ropes! How would you like to try that today? Hmmm...wonder if I can still do that!

  16. When I was a little girl my grandmother gave me a big case full of 45's and this song was one of them. I LOVED all those records and find that I know so many crazy songs from that period that no one has ever heard of. I was born in 1975 and my husband in 1964, yet he has never her the Chicken Fat song nor 80% of the other songs I learned from those 45's. Anyway...the Apple commercial brought back some great memories of afternoon's down in my room singing along to Chicken Fat and the Ugly Bug Ball.

  17. A case full of 45's-what a great memory; especially if you had a record player with an automatic changer-and you could listed to a stack of records at a time! Otherwise you would have to insert a little plastic "spider" into the center of each one before playing it. Either way=what a great memory! Ugly Bug Ball? I'm not familiar with that song-have to look it up and listen ti it! Thanks for your comment...

  18. Thanks for the very entertaining post. My wife remembers this vividly; she grew up
    in Peoria. I grew up in Long Beach, California and was already in junior high when JFK was elected, so maybe that's why I don't remember it.

    It struck such a familiar cord with my wife, however, I would love to have your permission to reprint this on my blog page, giving you proper credit. My blog is at

    I saw no contact info on your blog, so hope leaving this comment is okay.
    You can contact me at: or


    Bob Bro


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