Mr Chicken: the genius who paints London's fried-chicken signs

London's fried chicken restaurants are a bizarre and wonderful institution -- generally, they have American-ish names (Dixy Fried Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Carolina Fried Chicken) and KFC-ish logos, all carefully titrated to be just far enough from the KFC version to keep the Colonel's savage attack-lawyers at bay. I photograph these places semi-compulsively, but I never knew (until today) that all their signs were designed by a single virtuoso fried-chicken sign-painter named Morris "Mr Chicken" Cassanova, who warrants his own chapter in Siâron Hughes's 2009 book Chicken: Low Art, High Calorie. A post on Creative Review excerpts Hughes's interview with Mr Chicken:

Siâron: In London, how much of the signage would you say you’re responsible for?

Morris: I would say 90% of the logos that’s been used out there now, was originally designed by ourselves. People see them and try to change them around a little bit, and you will see somewhere along the line somebody will have something looking similar to that. It’s not all about the bits and pieces that goes with it, they will automatically try to copy it.

Siâron: There’s lots of mimicking America going on isn’t there?

Morris: Yeah, yeah the majority of shop owners out there they want for some reason or other, because Kentucky Fried Chicken is an American company, they wants to give the impression that they are linked with the American fast food chain. In the past Kentucky usually have a little logo, a little slogan, “American Recipe,” people used to copy that. I mean a lot of people still try, and we say, “Oh that’s old fashioned, people not using that again.” Because they try to pull the wool over people’s eyes, you get your Dallas, it’s American, you get your California, it’s American, you get your Mississippi it’s American, and so forth and so on, and people just use those names to link with America just as well as they’re using their recipe, y’know. You hardly ever see a sign saying English Fried Chicken, or with an English name or anything like that.

Siâron: You’ve already mentioned how the menus aren’t necessarily very American anymore?

Morris: No it’s not so American anymore, because people eventually found out it doesn’t matter anymore, once the product is good and it’s selling that’s all people is interested in. In the early days when Kentucky first came over everyone was brain-washed, y’know? It’s American and it’s good, it’s gotta be good because it’s American. It’s not just chicken shops it’s pizza, too. You get people like Domino Pizza or Pizza Hut. You find other little shops they learn how to do pizza and wise up to it, once the quality of your product is good you’ve got companies like Perfect Fried Chicken, which looks different and changes their logo.

Meet Mr Chicken (Thanks, Alice!)

Notable Replies

  1. Eksrae says:

    Remember, if the London police preface a stop with "What's all this then?", they can legally search your belongings. And anyone running around taking pictures of chicken restaurants -- well, that's just not normal; it's best to err on the side of public safety.

  2. "...and KFC-ish logos, all carefully titrated to be just far enough from the KFC version to keep the Colonel's savage attack-lawyers at bay."

    I think that's a bit of a stretch. Except for the "Tennessee Fried Chicken" one, which is an exact duplicate of the KFC font (and almost the name!), the only things any of the other logos shown have in common with any KFC logo past or present are that they use the color red, and the product they are advertising is fried chicken. And I guess one has red and white stripes, but if that's the case, Waldo, candy canes and circus tents are all ripping off the Colonel.

  3. He's everywhere! He's everywhere!

  4. That rooster seems very excited about visiting 'hen cottage'.

  5. Nelsie says:

    There's a broad, ill-defined spectrum between plagiarism and homage, between being x-ish and "ripping off". Nobody's fooled by these logos, but we're not meant to be: the logos are saying that the shop sells fried chicken of a vaguely KFC-ish nature, which is what we're looking for on a Friday night, and the logos do that by being vaguely KFC-ish themselves.

    It's not a question of 'ripping off', except perhaps in the sullen way those who employ an attack-lawyer resent anyone doing anything that resembles what they do, just because they've decided that they 'own' the idea of fried chicken on the High Street, say.

    These logos are KFC-ish more than they are Nando-ish, more than they would be, say, Forest-of-Dean Traditional Microwaved Chicken-ish, and much more than they are Father Christmas-ish. That's all that's meant by being KFC-ish; nobody except attack-lawyers cares about the degree of resemblance.

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