Country Throwback: Johnny Cash Performs ‘The Chicken in Black’ at Bob Hope Special in 1984

by Keeli Parkey

Without a doubt, two of America’s most cherished entertainers are Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Cash was a country music legend. Hope was a comedian and television star.

In 1984, the Cash and Hope appeared on a television special together. Hope introduced the Man in Black, then Cash took the stage to sing “The Chicken in Black.”

The song is a sort of spoof of other Johnny Cash songs and uses music very familiar to his fans. In the song, the singer has his brain replaced with one that belonged to a bank robber.

“For two long years my head hurt bad / So the doctor checked me and he shook his head / He said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you but your body’s outlived your brain,” Cash sings in his unique style.

Humorously, the new brain leads Johnny Cash to rob a bank – or so the song goes.

“I said, ‘Stick ’em up everybody, I’m robbing this place / Drop all of your money in my guitar case / Don’t nobody move and don’t nobody reach for that door,” Cash sings.

As the song goes, the famous singer is quickly recognized while he is robbing the bank.

“A lady said, ‘Why, you’re Johnny Cash! / I said, ‘No ma’am, I’m the Manhattan Flash / And I am the best bank robber in New York.”

The Grand Ole Opry even makes an appearance in the song. As Cash and his new brain try to hold up the attendees. Later, when he asks for his old brain back, Cash learns it has been given to a chicken. The chicken in question ends up being successful singing Johnny Cash’s songs and gets a recording contract.

Johnny Cash was No Fan of ‘The Chicken in Black’

According to, Johnny Cash was not a fan of “The Chicken in Black.” Even though the song reached #45 on the country charts, the Man in Black later said it was “intentionally atrocious.”

“‘The Chicken In Black’ taught (Cash) that his novelty songs were best heard and not seen, as he took a hit to his dignity,” the website reports.

You can watch Johnny Cash perform “The Chicken in Black” on a Bob Hope television special broadcast during 1984 below.

“He stands as tall and as proud as the American eagle,” Hope says as he introduces Cash for the 1984 performance. “And, his country roots run as deep as our country’s most hallowed traditions that he has come to represent. Over the past 30 years, he’s made a mark on American country music that is unique as some of the songs he’s made famous.” Johnny Cash, wearing a tuxedo and bowtie, then takes the stage.

A music video was also made by Johnny Cash for “The Chicken in Black.” You can watch it below.