I’m taking a short break in normal service to recognize a musical hero and personal friend who passed away in Houston, TX on Friday, May 10th, 2024. I encourage you to read on and, if nothing else, enjoy this mixtape just one of dozens that Jeff did. Jeff has to be the only guy I’ve ever known who could close a set with Louis Armstrong, Satchmo’s cover of “La Vie en Rose”.

This post contains one of Jeff’s Jazztronica mixes to listen to while reading. At the end is an outstanding interview with Jeff done by Bak Zoumanigui in 2014 on his podcast, “The Feedbak”. It is really outstanding. The podcast was for me an emotional rollercoaster listening to Jeff for just shy of almost 2-hours.

Table of Contents

    Jeff was a fan all things jazz, not just R&B and hip-hop. As a former music promo’ guy, he always knew a good track. Here in a first for ctproduced is a link to a facebook post [1]Normally I avoid Facebook posts as their cookies are loaded to your browser when the post is displayed. They then use that cookie inside Facebook and Instagram to show you posts and adverts that … Continue reading. Jeff was Henry Jeffrey on facebook.

    Friend vs Fan

    I’d always considered Jeff as a friend. While writing this post, it occurred to me that really I was just a massive fan who was lucky enough to actually know the man. I never asked, Jeff never said. I know almost nothing about him. I’m sure a lot of people will realize the same about the man with a huge smile and a warm heart combined with a never-ending work ethic, and a master of self-branding before it was de rigueur.

    In the early ‘aughts, I’d been to Austin a number of times in my then guise as an IBM software engineer. Sometime around 2004, bored with the usual diet of American soft rock, and country and oldies dominating the radio stations, I went one evening to the Parish. Back in that period it was in E. Sixth St., which was, and I guess still is, a tourist trap. I don’t remember much about the evening except how good DJ Chicken George’s set was. I vowed to look him up every time I came to Austin.

    In early 2005, IBM gave me the chance to move to Austin, after some back and forth trips, I moved from New York City to Austin, TX in late 2006. It was my second major move in 2-years, I was looking forward to a break from the city that never sleeps but didn’t quite understand what I’d let myself in for. The first 3-months were a whirlwind, initially while living out of a storage locker on Braker Lane and the Embassy Suites on South Congress, while waiting to close on my new home. I managed to catch DJ Chicken George in sets a few times in this period, including his weekly sets at the Red Fez, and I think, the Apple Bar(?) – No, not that Apple.

    Jeff aka DJ Chicken George and Leticia Arriving For Our October, Outdoor Wedding Ceremony in 2017!

    It was only when I sat down to compile a timeline of Jeff that I realized I wasn’t a friend, simply a fan. While Kate and I were lucky enough to have Jeff and Leticia attend our wedding, and Jeff do the music set in the evening, I realized that so much of my life in Austin had been going to venues because Jeff was performing. From the Blanton Art Museum’s B-Scene circa 2008; to his regular sets at Malverde, upstairs at La Condesa on Second Street; The Chili Cook-outs at Jo’s on South Congress, I’d been to them all because Jeff was there. It wasn’t until we talked at our wedding that I learned, among other things, Jeff was a twin, and an avid hiker.

    The Blanton Museum B-Scene with my friend Sounthaly aka “Tune” in 2008.

    By February 2007 I was settled in and starting to spread my wings in Austin. I got an invite from furniture store “Design Within Reach” to attend a 2nd Street block party. I wandered in, alone, there was this delicious understated music being played using turntables and vinyl records by none other than DJ Chicken George.

    I casually strolled over and introduced myself, anyone who met Jeff knew that smile. It’s captured here in an advert from 2005 in the Austin American Statesman.

    We talked briefly, exchanged phone numbers and agreed to get together to talk jazz.

    Jeff Henry died (age 50) Friday 10th of May from T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), a very rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, statistically affecting six in one million people. Sadly, Jeff was mis-diagnosed initially, something that seems all too common for an African American, especially inflicted with a rare skin condition.

    Taking Jeff at face value as a DJ, a spinner, completely misses the point of the man. Jeff, at his core, was a community builder. His music, his riffs, would draw you in and get you involved.

    In the times Jeff would come to my then Austin house off S 1st Street, we’d talk music, I would infrequently loan him records. I recall how enthusiastic Jeff was to borrow my 12-inch Motown of Stevie Wonder’s “MASTER BLASTER” for a something he was putting together for a “Hotter than July” event.

    I’d lament that I’d never got my vinyl collection back together and Jeff would encourage me to do it. I’ve finally done it, sadly Jeff isn’t here to see it. I would also go record buying for Jeff when I was back in London. He’d give me a short list of records to get, almost always from Sounds of the Universe in SOHO. He would finally get there himself in 2013, celebrating on twitter.

    It’s hard to sum up Jeff’s musical career and journey. There were his “SWED.U.S.H Connection” of vinyl releases put out by Swedish Brandy Productions [2]https://web.archive.org/web/20070718225343/http://swedishbrandy.com/artists/index.php?artist=djcg around the time I met Jeff; his “Chicken Soup” mixtape CDs he put out unofficially; the “Black Coconut Jazztronica” series he did for the early days of the now Brooklyn Radio, or his later Jazztronica in the early days of streaming podcasts on properlychilled.com. They all had that DJ Chicken George stamp of humility and just oozed style.

    His later collaborations were an extension of his music. As much as I liked Grupo Fantasma, and I did, I really went to see how DJ Chicken George would adapt his music as the opener. His DJing came with a great appreciation of the music itself, they were not just tracks he played. He would fuse many styles of music together and incorporate them with subtle scratching techniques. Add in his own promos “You’re listening to radio Jazztronica” plus his telltale track rundown that made it sound like the turntable had failed, It was no surprise he made many appearances at cultural arts and music events in Mexico, Sweden, and across the U.S. including music venues throughout Los Angeles.

    Whatever he did, it was with community, Third Root, the Austin Boogie Crew and his friends, Adrian, Marco, Charles (easy lee), Danny, and so many more.

    That Name?

    I watched Alex Haley’s Roots in the UK when it was originally broadcast, it had a big impact on me. When I met Jeff, I always felt very awkward referring to him as “Chicken George,” and can see how others would default to calling him CG.

    Jeff’s explanation for what was otherwise a pretty unusual name:

    My parents were from the West Indies, they’d kept chickens and when we moved from Boston to Houston and had a bigger yard they decided to do so again. At school after the first episode of Roots had been on TV, one of the kids at school called me Chicken George after the Ben Vareen character in Roots, “Chicken” George Moore [3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Vereen. He knew that my parents also kept chickens. Before I knew it, other kids were calling me it as well. It was easier to go with it that fight against it. Long term I think it has been good for me.

    I do know of another DJ Chicken, from the New Orleans area.

    26th June 2014 • The FeedBak Podcast • Bak – Episode 028

    Indeed, DJ Chicken (not George) was widely quoted and toured in the UK post-Hurricane Katrina. He was one of the prime movers in the New Orleans bounce music scene, an infectious variant of Dirty South hip-hop [4]The Independent, Sunday, Aug 20, 2006 ·Page-85.

    The Other DJ Chicken George

    By the mid-1980s, the price of broadcasting equipment had fallen considerably with the arrival of transistors. In the UK there was a significant “pirate” radio movement with unlicensed stations popping up all across the country. The radio waves in the UK were controlled by the government, and licenses had been typically very restrictive.

    For many years, there had been BBC Radio, including the perennial Radio 1, and not much else except a few regional stations. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher’s government finally deregulated radio broadcasting, and many new stations were created, leading to the end of most pirate radio stations.

    Surprisingly and confusing for me was that there had indeed been another “DJ Chicken George.” Leading the fight for legitimacy in the Midlands area of England was “DJ Chicken George” of Radio PCRL 103.FM in Birmingham, UK. In interviews and reporting in the “Black Country Evening Mail [5]Black in this context doesn’t refer race but to the areas industrial past and the coal soot from chimneys describe PCRL as a community radio station, encouraging listeners to register as British Citizens etc.

    The confusion arose not just from the name, but that the UK DJ Chicken George was also of African and/or Caribbean descent. The UK DJ Chicken George had a big afro and wore large dark sunglasses in the pictures. Once I learned that Jeff was born in 1973, it made it impossible for the two to be the same DJ Chicken George, since Jeff wouldn’t have been much than 14 and the man in the pictures was clearly older. I reached out to Austin Boogie Crew via social media, and they were good enough to confirm it wasn’t Jeff [6]If anyone is interested in these UK DJ Chicken George press clippings, please get in touch by leaving a comment below or using the form on the about page..

    In The Press

    I started this as I would any music research project, make a spreadsheet of all the activities I could track down in the newspaper archives. For DJ Chicken George, this soon ground to a halt. Over the years Jeff had so many different weekly gigs and residencies, he would get listed as frequently as four or five times per issue.

    I was able to find digital copies of most of the press cuttings, except the earliest. In its July 12th 2001 issue, the Houston Press published a long list of its annual awards. Newsbank(available via most US public libraries) has a text reproduction.

    Best Dance/DJ

    It looks like there’s a little conflict in the Best Dance/DJ category this year. But first, the facts: DJ Chicken George has spun in such clubs as Spy, the now-defunct Lava Lounge and most recently, the Friday-night “Rebirth of Cool” over at the recently shuttered Current Nightclub. But his stylings can mostly be heard across the airwaves, when he spins records alongside DJ Sun on his Soular Grooves radio show every week. That’s right, fellow Best Dance/DJ nominee and past winner DJ Sun! But neither party is sweating about winning the award. George, who has been a show regular since 1995 and a co-host since 1999 when DJ Theory left town, is just looking to provide the same jazzy-groove aesthetic he shares with his friend and on-air partner. — C.D.L.

    DJ Chicken George spins at 5 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).

    The Houston Press, July 12th, 2001

    Other older and most frequent were the weekly listings of hip-hop air play tracks by DJ Chicken George at KPFT radio in Houston, TX 90.1 FM. They were printed weekly in the CMJ  “New Music Report” in the early 2000’s. The issues of CMJ New Music can be found on Google Books. The Gale research database(available via your local library) listed two events, in April, 27-29 2007 Diesel DJ Series taking place at Diesel stores in select U.S. cities across the country, Jeff “represented” in Austin [7]“April 27-29: 2007 Diesel DJ Series in Diesel Stores Nationwide.” Remix, 24 Apr. 2007, p. NA. Gale OneFile: Business, … Continue reading;

    As I came across articles, listings and other print media with DJ Chicken George, I decided to create a scrapbook style PDF. Most of the reporting comes curtesy of the Austin American Statesman, which was a big cheerleader for Jeff. A copy of the scrapbook can be downloaded here [8]https://www.ctproduced.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/DJ-Chicken-George-Press-Cuttings.pdf. Pages remain copyright of their original publishers.

    Fresh Crates?

    Jeff was a master of branding, his CG logo and designs are printed on at least 5x t-shirts I have, I have pins, and of course records and CD’s, especially the “Chicken Soup” series and digital copies of the Jazztronica podcasts. I also have a couple of his soup mugs!

    Just a few of my CG merch’ items and I think the two oldest vinyl records.

    He used to sell the merch at events and through website “The Giant Peach” and I checked with them and they don’t have anything currently available. He also sold through his and the Austin Boogie Crew websites, later through Bandcamp. I have no idea if his family or friends plan to do anything to celebrate Jeff’s memory, but right now most of the traditional merch links are not working. Sadly, while Jeff was hugely popular, no one plans for their life to end so soon.

    His GOFUNDME, set-up by Danny Spence, never quite reached it’s goal while Jeff was still with us, it is not too late to help it along [9]https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-chicken-george-kick-cancer.

    If you are looking for Jeff’s music, apart from buying used, which doesn’t help his family at all, you can:

    1. Buy the 2020 Third Root “Passion Of The Poets” album $9.99 [via bandcamp]
    2. Buy the complete Third Root digital catalogue $35.66 (30% off) [via bandcamp]

    You can also support the Austin Boogie Crew through their Bandcamp page [10]https://austinboogiecrewrecords.bandcamp.com/.

    Music & Mixes Online

    DJ Chicken George’s mixes are almost omni-present, much like his influence. Once you start looking they are everywhere. Sadly Jeff’s actual website is no longer a source for links, and many other formally reliable sources have started to atrophy. Most disappointingly the “peddlin’ Jazztronia” archive.org site has been blocked, at least at the time of writing [11]https://archive.org/details/podcast_peddlin-jazztronica_668769953?tab=about. I put together a list of currently reliable sources.

    • Peddlin Jazztronica podcasts – currently all available to stream and download [podomatic.com]
    • DJ Chicken George – mostly more recent projects [Soundcloud]
    • A DJ Chicken George – Tribute to Guru – Newly Remastered Set from 2010 – free download by KOOP 91.7 fm [Bandcamp]
    • Austin Boogie Crew – their projects and artists, similar but more [Soundcloud]
    • DJ Chicken George sets [Brooklyn Radio]
    • Properly Chilled, CG’s sets were in the early part of the 95-shows [podbay.fm]
    • Jazztronica sets and other podcasts by CG [iheart radio]

    Other Information

    While this was recorded in 2014, it pretty much has everything you’ll need to know about Jeff Henry aka DJ Chicken George and his background, how he got started etc.

    Obituaries

    Remembering Jeffrey Henry (DJ Chicken George), one of Austin’s most influential DJs [The Austin American Statesman]
    Remembering Jeffrey Henry (DJ Chicken George), one of Austin’s most influential DJs [Y! Entertainment]
    Houston DJs remember local ‘jazztronica’ legend [The Houston Chronicle aka The Chron]
    Jazztronica Pioneer Jeffrey Henry, aka DJ Chicken George, Has Died [The Austin Chronicle]
    Groove Temple’s DJ Shani remembers jazztronica pioneer and Third Root member DJ Chicken George [KUTX Radio, Austin TX]

    References

    References
    1 Normally I avoid Facebook posts as their cookies are loaded to your browser when the post is displayed. They then use that cookie inside Facebook and Instagram to show you posts and adverts that their algorithm feels are relevant to you. If you start seeing related adverts to topics on this page, it wasn’t a coincidence
    2 https://web.archive.org/web/20070718225343/http://swedishbrandy.com/artists/index.php?artist=djcg
    3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Vereen
    4 The Independent, Sunday, Aug 20, 2006 ·Page-85
    5 Black in this context doesn’t refer race but to the areas industrial past and the coal soot from chimneys
    6 If anyone is interested in these UK DJ Chicken George press clippings, please get in touch by leaving a comment below or using the form on the about page.
    7 “April 27-29: 2007 Diesel DJ Series in Diesel Stores Nationwide.” Remix, 24 Apr. 2007, p. NA. Gale OneFile: Business, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A162545323/GPS?u=denver&sid=bookmark-GPS&xid=745b660e. Accessed 10 June 2024.
    8 https://www.ctproduced.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/06/DJ-Chicken-George-Press-Cuttings.pdf
    9 https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-chicken-george-kick-cancer
    10 https://austinboogiecrewrecords.bandcamp.com/
    11 https://archive.org/details/podcast_peddlin-jazztronica_668769953?tab=about

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