By Jeff Lenard
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—“When I'm on the road and heading south//I can’t wait to feed my mouth.//With the gas station chicken that's oh so great,//You can smell it cookin’ from the interstate!”
The Nighthawks, a regional blues/bar band from the Washington, D.C., area, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the appropriately titled album called “Established 1972.” And if audience reactions to one of the songs they have been previewing on tour is any indication, they may have a hit on their hands.
The last song recorded and mixed for the album, “Gas Station Chicken,” is a song that drummer Mark Stutso has been thinking about for decades, starting when he was with another band back in the 1980s.
Stutso said that they band used to head south for tours taking I-85. And right before the band got to the North Carolina border, they would always stop at a Shell station in Dinwiddie County.
“People always think that ‘Gas Station Chicken’ is about Sheetz or Wawa or Royal Farms but it’s not. It’s about a small Shell station in Southern Virginia that just had the best fried chicken,” said Stutso.
“We stopped there so often we got to know them,” said Stutso about the sisters who operated the store’s kitchen.
“Them sisters done got that recipe down
White meat dark meat, fried golden brown.
Chicken livers, fries and a cup of Joe
Gas station chicken and I'm good to go!”
The song sat in Stutso’s head for years, waiting for the right time to be recorded. After all, he was never the primary songwriter in any of his bands, and the time never felt right to bring it forward.
But now it is the right time. Stutso constructed the song around an infectious groove, and the words just felt right with the beat. “Gas Station Chicken” already is a popular addition to the band’s live set. And it’s not just the groove; you can often hear audience members talking about their own favorite gas station food during breaks.
“Through the Carolinas on I-95
Gas station chicken joints jive and thrive.
Hot grease in the air keeps my world tickin’
A smoke and a Coke and gas station chicken.”
“I’m not a deep guy, and I don’t write complicated lyrics. But it was a fun song to record and it’s fun to play live,” Stutso said. And it certainly tells a positive story about the great food that can be found at convenience and fuel retailers across the country.
Gas station chicken
Gotta have it!
Gotta have it!
The Nighthawks new album, “Established 1972,” is available at thenighthawks.com and on all the major music platforms.
During the entire month of May, NACS Convenience Matters podcasts will focus on summer drive and road trips, including an episode called, you guessed it, “Gas Station Chicken.”
Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic initiatives, can count multiple Nighthawks shows among the 300 or so concerts he’s seen. And he’s also eaten plenty of great gas station chicken. He can be reached at email@example.com.