By the time the original Alice Cooper group notched their first hit with “I’m Eighteen,” the shock rockers were already infamous. Their notoriety began in September 1969, when they played a short set at the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival Festival a few months after they put out their heavily psychedelic debut, Pretties for You. As legend has had it, as propagated by Cooper himself in his Behind the Music episode, a fan threw a chicken onstage and Cooper reciprocated by throwing it back into the audience, which in turn tore it to pieces and threw parts of it onstage.
Now bassist Dennis Dunaway is setting the story straight. In his recently released memoir, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs!: My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group, he reveals that the band had been traveling with chickens named Larry and Pecker. “They were treated like pets,” he recalls. Then during an onstage stunt, everything went awry. In an audio excerpt from the book, courtesy of Audible, Dunaway himself retells the whole “chicken incident” as it happened, with regard to his bandmates, Cooper, guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, and drummer Neal Smith. The tale also features a cameo by Gene Vincent, whom the group was to support at the festival.
Dunaway reveals that the story of concertgoers throwing the chicken onstage was concocted to “get us off the hook with animal protection organizations, who, after the chicken incident, showed up at every Alice Cooper gig to prevent our murdering chickens, which we never did.”
In Behind the Music, the singer recalls speaking with Frank Zappa, who ran the band’s label at the time, the next day. “I get the call from Zappa saying, ‘Did you kill the chicken onstage?'” he says. “I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, don’t tell anybody. Everybody loves it. You are the most notorious character of all time now.'”