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Strike up the band for ol Jesse Jewell
0429Chickenband
The four members of The Jesse Jewell Band were commissioned by a Jackson County chicken farmer in the 1950s. They made such an impression on White County resident James Rogers that, 50 years later, he decided to find them and give them a place in his own home. - photo by DEMETRIUS FREEMAN

Nearly 50 years ago, four chickens had an effect on James Rogers.

Fresh on his first job driving baby chicks for a Jackson County farmer, Rogers noticed a unique piece of art at his boss' farm. It was a folk art representation of four chickens, each holding an instrument. Across the four pedestals read "The Jesse Jewell Band."

"I remembered seeing them, and Jewell, he made Gainesville the chicken capital of the world," Rogers said.

He drove a chicken bus for two years, until 1960, then left Hall County for the Merchant Marines.

But he never forgot about those whimsical chickens.

So, a few years ago, Rogers set out to find the birds. A self-proclaimed collector of odd things, the White County resident said he decided to track down the family of the man who originally commissioned the pieces.

"The farm where I delivered the chickens had been sold - somebody moved there and they didn't even know what I was talking about," he said. "I tracked down the grandchildren. They had them packed up - they didn't even remember them."

Steve Slotin, owner of Slotin Folk Art in Buford, said many people today are attracted to quirky folk art items, and that interest has created a market for them today.

"There is a group of people out there that are attracted to this kind of stuff, and they will continue to seek it out and find it and preserve it, even if there's no value to it," he said. "As the world continues to homogenize, these one-of-a-kind items are going to continue to be more important.

"They'll remind people of a day when things weren't mass produced."

About a foot tall each, the yellow, painted metal chickens look as if they were plucked right out of a jazz band from the '50s.

Rogers said he has several chicken statues, but these, now that he has them, are the favorites in his collection - especially given Jesse Jewell's mark on the history of Hall County.

"And that's the only four in the world like that, I promise you," he said.

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