The Chicken (Jaco Pastorius)

The Chicken is a cool jazz funk standard composed by Pee Wee Ellis, saxophonist and member of James Brown’s band in the 60s. The Chicken first appeared as a B-side of a 1969 James Brown single called The Popcorn but was later made famous by Jaco Pastorius, who made it his signature song.

The chicken is a lot of fun to play and a great song for jam sessions. Below you’ll find the bass guitar tabs and a guitar arrangement of the theme.

The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary


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The Chicken Videos

Here’s the original James Brown version of the chicken:



Here’s a video of Jaco Pastorius and his band playing The Chicken. Other band members are Peter Erskine (drums), Don Alias (Percussion), Othello Molineaux (steelpan), Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Bob Mintzer (saxophone).


The Chicken Bassline Tabs

Here are the guitar tabs for the main bassline:


The Chicken bassline tabs


The Chicken Guitar Tabs and Chords

Here’s a guitar arrangement for the theme:


The Chicken guitar tabs and chords


15 thoughts on “The Chicken (Jaco Pastorius)”

  1. Erwin

    Can’t wait for some solo tabs as played by John Scofield with Jaco…;-)

  2. Kevin Sanmoestam

    Greetings from Suriname, South America,

    this is a great lesson and it is well transcribed, but my concern is on the last 4 measures of the song the tabs notation of the C9 chord: instead of using 089890(because this is a C#9 chord) my intuition tells me that the C9 is played last four measures where instead of 089890 the correct tab notation must be 078780. If I am wrong at this, can you please reply immediately. I am very comfortable when I receive critic and updates on my musical knowledge.

  3. Fabrice Loedec

    Désolé mon anglais est défaillant, alors je m exprime en Français.
    Bravo pour votre travail, c’est un plaisir de recevoir les leçons.

    Pour Chicken, comment jouer l’accompagnement?


  4. Manel Mercadal

    Hi Kevin,

    I think you have misread the tab, it is xx898x and not 089890. You will see that your 078780 (E,E,Bb,D,G,E) is the same as xx898x (Bb,E,G) where the D is missing. I agree that your chord sound better since it has all the notes in it.
    Hope this makes sense.

    1. Lari

      Dont play big chords when theres bass… 😉

      1. Barry Sebastian

        Wise advice… Especially… if he plays like Jaco or Mark😉 (Lari B – is that you?)

  5. Michael Kent Smith

    Thanks for the arrangement!

    However, the video is not the Jaco Pastorius Band. It’s the Gil Evans Orchestra!
    Gil himself is on piano and Mark Egan is on “second” bass. Jaco apparently is a guest performer and plays the lion’s share of the bass; I only hear Mark Egan join in at the end, doubling Jaco’s written line.

  6. Alain

    Hi there, if you want to vary your chicken sources of inspiration, here is a cute one from Tom Ibarra (13 yrs old at the time)

  7. Harry

    This lesson is great! IS there any way to print the tab?

    1. Dirk Laukens

      Hi Harry, just richt click the tab and select “print image…”

  8. jay

    Great stuff Dirk!!!! Too bad Pastorius didn’t get help.

  9. Mike C.

    How can you consider the chords to not include Bb7 to Eb7 in the first 4 measures of the tune? The bassline clearly puts the Eb on beat 3, and the G note(which is the 3rd of the Eb chord) on beat 4.

  10. Pawcraft


    Can you play and make a record of the arrangement please?

  11. Frank Spear

    This lesson is a totally eye-opener experience for me. Thanks ever so much for posting. After years of working on American standards, I had no idea how much fun funk could be!!!

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