From its first “Howdee!” in 1968 to its last squawk in 1971, the tale of Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken is an odd bird.
The chain was the brainchild of John Jay Hooker, a gregarious Nashville attorney and politician. In 1967, Hooker and his brother and law partner, Henry, watched the skyrocketing profits of Kentucky Fried Chicken and thought, “Surely there’s room for another chicken in that pot.”
To match Colonel Sanders’ trusted visage, they teamed with Opry and Hee Haw star Minnie Pearl. “I figured the public would think it believable that her family had a good fried chicken recipe,” Hooker later said of the cornpone comedienne.
The Hookers sold stock in the new venture for fifty cents a share. Investors included some of Nashville’s most prestigious names – among them US representative Richard Fulton, publishing magnate Bronson Ingram and Tennessean editor John Seigenthaler (who gave a lot of free publicity to the restaurant).