Composer, recording artist and master fingerstlye guitarist John Knowles was awarded the first honorary C.G.P. (Certified Guitar Player) degree by Chet Atkins himself. He’s collabed with some of the best: Chet, Jerry Reed, Lenny Breau, Tommy Emmanuel, and the Romero Family to name a few.

His debut TrueFire course, Fingerstyle Journals, features performances of his most well-known songs, along with reflections on how they came to be, and a breakdown video for each part of the songs so you can learn it yourself. Here, we’ll take a look at one of the songs, “Chicken in the Rain”:

Chicken in the Rain – Overview

I was inspired to write “Chicken in the Rain” when I saw a stuffed animal in a gift shop window. It was a chicken in a raincoat and hat…like a lobster fisherman’s outfit. The idea of wet chickens just seemed funny to me. It suggested some quirky rhythms and unexpected harmonies. So, I went to the key of C for a Merle Travis, “Saturday Night Shuffle” feel and I got to work.

Chicken in the Rain – Performance

Download the tab and notation for this fingerstyle guitar song on TrueFire.

Now here’s the full performance for “Chicken in the Rain”. Next, continue on to the breakdown section where we’ll take it section-by-section, so you can learn it on your own.

Chicken in the Rain – Intro & Outro Breakdown

The intro and outro to “Chicken in the Rain” are both built around a lick that is so old you almost can’t steal it. But you can disguise it. After I do that first pull-off, instead of playing the next two notes one-after-the-other I play them together with my ring and middle finger — a Jerry Reed move. Then the outro is just a short variation on the intro. And it just happens to fit the rhythm of the title.

Chicken in the Rain – Verse Breakdown

There’s only two chords in the verse…G7 and C. I’ve adjusted the G7 so that F is on the 4th string, but the C is right out of the book.

Now there’s a few things to watch for: There’s a spot where your right thumb drops out for a couple of beats. And when I get to the C chord, I’m alternating the bass between the 5th and 6th strings. And finally, when I need an A on the 3rd string, I lean my 2nd finger over without letting go of the E on the 4th string. It’s straightforward but tricky.

Chicken in the Rain – Bridge Breakdown

You’ll love the bridge. It’s only got one chord…G7. So, your 2nd finger is an anchor finger on the sixth string…all the way. And your 2nd and 3rd fingers are just swapping strings. Your right index finger gets a break because everything is thumb plus that ring/middle pair. So, the trick is to get the rhythm right.

Chicken in the Rain – Reflections

I worked hard to get “Chicken in the Rain” solid at a slow and steady tempo so I could play all those quirky rhythms without thinking about it. I remember one day, I was working when I heard Becky in the other room say, “It’s not funny, yet.” So now when I play it, I just think wet chickens.

Make sure to check out the rest of John’s songs in the full version of the course. There are five more compositions to listen to and learn – all working towards your very own honorary C.G.P. degree! Check it out now.