By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 22, 2004 at 5:46 AM

{image1} Long before "flash mobs" made it fashionable to create public diversions, a Milwaukee man -- who goes by the name "Rhythm Chicken" -- started spontaneously playing the drums on street corners, wearing a ridiculously large bunny head.

"There's something totally absurd about a street musician hauling a drum set around," he says.

But even more absurd is a man masquerading as a bunny who calls himself a chicken. Or is it?

Rhythm Chicken has performed all over Milwaukee - from East Side street corners to festivals to outside rock show venues - as well as in Door County, Green Bay, Indiana, Chicago, the Twin Cities, Kansas City, California and once at a "men's drinking day" in Germany.

"I prefer to perform in places where it's the least expected. Sometimes I just drive around until I see two people sitting and I'll set up (my drum kit) right in front of them, just because it's so out of the ordinary," he says.

Rhythm Chicken's favorite public event is the South Shore Frolics, where every year he rides in the parade on the Rush-Mor Records float.

"To Rhythm Chicken, South Shore Frolics is better than Christmas," he says.

Four years ago, someone who worked for the Brewers spotted Rhythm Chicken in the parade, and later hired him to perform at a home game. Footage of the Rhythm Chicken also regularly appeared on the scoreboard, but the organization changed his name to "Rally Rabbit."

"They said the fans wouldn't understand why I was called 'Rhythm Chicken' and wearing a bunny head," he says. "I later went to Poland for a year, and when I returned, they had gotten a Disney-fied version of Rhythm Chicken, named him 'Rally Rabbit' and I have not heard anything from them since."

Rhythm Chicken's usual routine is to stake out a spot, set up his drums and play for five or 10 minutes before anyone gets angry or annoyed. Sometimes, tension is unavoidable, like the time he started drumming in front of a Minneapolis apartment and a tenant was trying to sleep.

"He threatened to dump water on my head if I didn't stop. He was even holding a bucket of water out the window," he says.


The police have given Rhythm Chicken many warnings but never a ticket. "The police don't know what to do. They usually just tell me to stop or to move along," he says.

Coincidentally, Rhythm Chicken's existence began with a crime. Rhythm Chicken stole the bunny head from work, and even though most of the employees knew who did it and thought it was funny, one co-worker took offense. To avoid conflict, Rhythm Chicken bought the co-worker a new bunny head for $80.

"I gave them the brand new one and I got to keep the really stupid-looking one," he says.

Rhythm Chicken started his gig in 1999 when his punk rock band broke up after many years together. "The best part of being a one-man band is it never has to break up," he says.

But there's another reason why he continues his white meat music-making.

"I just want to make people smile. Some people are way too into the daily drudgery of their job," he says.

Although he calls Milwaukee his home, Rhythm Chicken often flies the coop. He spends summers working in Door County and recently went to Poland for a yearlong vacation.

"A lot of people thought Rhythm Chicken was dead," he says.

But Rhythm Chicken has no intention of permanently moving from Milwaukee or ending his public performance career, at least for now. "Someday I might burn the head in a ritualistic ceremony," he says.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.