Remembering DJ Chicken George

The Groove Temple’s DJ Shani remembers jazztronica pioneer and Third Root member DJ Chicken George, who died on May 10, 2024.

Before I moved to Austin, I lived in Chicago most of my life. It’s a great city with great cultures, people, history and most notably MUSIC. As a northerner, I was definitely concerned to be in a state that historically wasn’t so friendly to the global majority, yet I still told my friends in music that I’d be moving to Austin. Did they know about House Music? If they did, what kind of house music did they know about? I had all the questions. My friend, Sonia, who worked with Ron Trent at Sonotheque for Africa Hi-Fi, immediately said “You gotta reach out to Chicken George!” Of course, I said, giggling, “His name is what? Ok, I’ll reach out, but I got questions about that name.”

I searched on Facebook and saw that he was playing at Malverde. I immediately called a cab and went there solo. I can’t recall who he was playing with, but as soon as I walked up those stairs, he had the entire place – from tech bros, to sistahs with locs – jumping! He played acid jazz, soul, true school, funk, boogie and classics, with a sprinkle of house, and the place was buzzing. I knew I had found the start of my tribe. As he took a break, I walked over and introduced myself. He was so welcoming and spoke to me as if we were long lost friends who had just reunited. Sonia was right.

CG is the one who encouraged me to put out mixes. No matter the length. “Are you kidding?” he told me, “I put out 20 minute mixes. 40 minute mixes. It doesn’t matter the length, just put it out so people can hear what you do.” I took his advice and would always ask him to listen to anything before I released it to the public. He’d always make a joke about how long my blends were: “It started at the Capital, took a left on Cesar, went north on 35, then looped around 183 to the airport, then got off at Riverside, then went back to the Capitol!” We’d crack up every time.

If you’re an artist and move to a new city, you always have to kind of start over. Finding the record stores you like, coffee shops, and hang-out spots can be exhausting. CG told me about all the places he thought I’d like and possibly be able to DJ at. We’d go record shopping together, nerd out about music tech and new music groups that were innovative. This was important for my musical growth. As a house head ’til the end, I admittedly was a bit closed off to any genre that wasn’t house/disco focused. CG opened my eyes to people like Lord Echo, Sault, Khruangbin and other great artists.

He got so excited when I told him about relaunching “The Groove Temple” on other radio platforms – he asked for the recordings and always gave constructive criticisms that I welcomed.

Once, we happened to be in Chicago at the same time and I was able to introduce him to all of my people. We walked in Wicker Park and popped into shops and restaurants where I introduced him to my people, just as he’d introduced me to his back in Austin.

I’d reach out to him when someone wanted me to play and he’d always ask “What are they offering? Do you have to bring equipment?” After answering, he’d always nudge me to counter the offer because of all the pre-work I’d have to do. No one had ever told me this.

He’d add me to lineups for parties I never knew were happening. The most notable was the first year F1 came to Austin. It was in the warehouse district and I played right before him. I stuck around to watch him work and it was glorious. I had never seen a DJ control the people in the way that he did with what wasn’t house music. He was always playing the dopest parties in town fulled with community, self-expression, safety and love.

I visited him twice while he was receiving cancer treatment. I had never seen him in that state, but was prepared to push through with anything I would see. It was rough. Very rough. I smiled through it all, made a few jokes and realized his spirit was still the same, even though the exterior had changed. In the hospital bed he said to me, “Every time I go on social media, you’re playing another show! I’m proud of your progress, it was only a matter of time before you got a following. Keep going!” With tears in my eyes, I nodded yes.

I am extremely saddened by the loss of our brother, music soldier, overall great guy that everyone loves even if he’s on the other side. I want that we honor his legacy. For me it means rocking all the CG merch that I have, buying his merch from his online store, following Third Root and buying all of their merch.

To the ladies in CGs life … To his mother: Thank you for blessing the world with the gift of your son. To his daughter Brooklyn: We love you sweetheart. Cry when you feel it coming, it gets easier with time. To his sister: Thank you for being involved in raising him to be the man we all know and love. To Brooke and Rae: Thanks for just being there. To his sweetheart, and primary caregiver for the last 5 years, Jamie: You have been instrumental in making him comfortable while putting your comfort to the side.

To the fellas in CGs life … To Austin Boogie Crew, Eddie, Dan and Spence: You four have shared so many great experiences (music and otherwise) together that reintroduced and solidified the boogie in Austin. To his brothers, even though none of you performed music: You all were instrumental in CG expressing himself musically and for that the world thanks you. To DJ Sun: Thank you for inviting CG to be part of the Soular Grooves collective. Thanks to Martín Perna for playing rare grooves with CG for many memorable Malverde times; to DJ Mel & Nick Nack for playing some of the dopest parties together; to DJ El Dopa for sharing an unbreakable music bond and helping him prepare for the future. To Steven, thank you for checking his mail and being the best friend that he needed. To Papa Chop, thank you for always getting the dance floor going when he was behind the decks. I’m sure there are many people I’m missing and for that I apologize.

Rest well, Jeff. 

DJ Shani
Host, The Groove Temple

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