Arkansas Egg Men
Winner 2020 EOA April Fools' Day Contest
The Arkansas Egg Men were a notorious band of chicken thieves who ruffled plenty of feathers in northeast Arkansas during the 1960s and 1970s. Most famously, they are said to be the inspiration for the Beatles’ iconic track “I Am the Walrus”: On the group’s brief stopover in Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) on September 20, 1964, it is alleged that Beatle John Lennon overheard someone in the crowd whisper “I am an Egg Man,” a line that he later adapted for the song.
In the early 1960s, members of the Egg Men were considered first-rate poachers. However, as farmers in the region grew wise to their tactics, by the mid-1960s they were increasingly forced to scramble away from their targets. By the late 1960s, some say the Egg Men were fried. Others say they were toast. Ultimately, internecine conflict about the pecking order in leadership led to their demise. It is also rumored that they were griddled with FBI informants and that members flipped over easy.
Some members later sought to launch a musical career, embracing the outlaw country culture of the times and brazenly flaunting the name the Arkansas Egg Men. Band members were the Benedict brothers Holl (lead singer) and Aise (lead guitar), their sister Shell (bass guitar), and family friend O. M. Lettes (drums).
The band released its first album Let It Lay (1970) as a protest, members said, against the Beatles’ alleged earlier misappropriation of their name. Tracks included “For You, Blue Orpington,” “Get Back to the Chicken Coop,” and “The Long and Winding Road to ASU.” It did not trouble the charts. Their follow-up The White Albumen (1971) fared even worse. Three quick-fire 1973 releases, Dark Side of the Meat, Chicken’s Head Soup, and Egg ‘N’ Roll Live, were panned by critics. Their sixth and last album It’s Only Stock ‘n’ Bone came a year later. A television documentary film Cracked Tractor (1975) proved the final straw before tensions boiled over and the band broke up.
Failing in their own musical career, members of the band desperately tried filing plagiarism suits against other artists. Alongside the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” they also targeted Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay”; Johnny Cash’s “The Chicken in Black”; Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live and Let Fly”; and Rufus Thomas’s “Do The Funky Chicken.” Legend has it that they reached a number of lucrative out-of-coop settlements.
Whether the Arkansas Egg Men did in fact inspire “I Am the Walrus” has been the source of much historical controversy and debate. On the one hand, historian Michael Dougan dismisses what he refers to as the “poultry amount of evidence” available. On the other hand, historian Brooks Blevins claims that the song is fundamentally ingrained in Ozark culture. Historian Carl Moneyhon has implored scholars to address the critical question: which came first, the walrus or the egg man? Meanwhile, historian Jeannie Whayne, in her study Sunnyside Up: The Beatles, the Egg Men, and the Arkansas Delta, asserts that, in the end, all historians are just winging it.
Fans claim that various members of the band still scratch around at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock (Pulaski County), clucking about their former glories and coddled by admirers.
For additional information:
Arkansas Egg Men. Let It Lay. Hen House Records, 1970.
———. The White Albumen. Hen House Records, 1971.
———. Dark Side of the Meat. Hen House Records, 1973.
———. Chicken’s Head Soup. Hen House Records, 1973.
———. Egg ‘N’ Roll Live. Hen House Records, 1973.
———. It’s Only Stock ‘n’ Bone. Hen House Records, 1974.
———. Cracked Tractor. Twentieth Century Fox, 1975.
Arkansas Egg Men Collection. Archive of Avian Eggscellence, Trysome University, the Ozarks.
Benedict, Holl. My Life as an Egg Man. Hoxie, AR: Hen House Publishing, 1985.
Blevins, Brooks R. Eggs-citement in the Ozarks: The Beatles and Rural Folk Culture. Lilliput, LA: Big End Press, 2015.
Dougan, Michael B. Chickenfeed: The Case Against the Arkansas Egg Men. Chicken, AK: Palin Press, 1974.
Johnson, Ben F., III. Fowl Play?: The Arkansas Egg Men’s Plagiarism Suits. El Dorado, AR: Cluck and Sons, 1985.
Moneyhon, Carl H. A Cracking Story: The Rise and Fall of the Arkansas Egg Men. Bantam, TX: Chickenwire Press, 1977.
Nelson, Rex. Southern Fried: The Arkansas Egg Men Cookbook. Tasty, TX: Heart Attack and Wine Press, 2003.
Whayne, Jeannie M. Sunnyside Up: The Beatles, the Egg Men, and the Arkansas Delta. Lilliput, AR: Little End Press, 1994.
Dr. G. G. G’Joob
University of Kenplucky, Roosterville
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