Monday, February 06, 2006


Sugar Boy Crawford, Jockomo.

The voice of New Orleans, distilled into 2 1/2 glorious minutes. "Jockomo", or "Jock-o-mo", is better known in its later incarnation as "Iko Iko", a hit for the girl group the Dixie Cups in 1965, but it was first recorded in 1954 by a New Orleans singer named James Crawford, who performed under the name of Sugar Boy & The Cane Cutters.

Crawford was born in New Orleans on October 1934, growing up on Lasalle Street, the home territory of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes. Crawford was part of the next, upcoming generation of New Orleans musicians, learning his craft from the likes of Dave Bartholomew and Paul Gayten. At the age of 12, Crawford was sneaking into the Dew Drop Inn and playing piano.

By 1951, Crawford's group, which at times included Professor Longhair, Jake Myles, Big Boy Myles, Irv Bannister, and Eugene 'Bones' Jones, had a regular Saturday morning show hosted by Doctor Daddy-O on WMRY--the DJ named them the Chapaka Shaweez (one of many spellings), after an instrumental the band had begun playing. (When Crawford signed with Chess Records, Leonard Chess, realizing "Chapaka Shaweez" would be a tough sell to national DJs and record buyers, rechristened the band "the Cane Cutters.")

Dr. John: "The song was originally called 'Jockomo' and it has a lot of Creole patois in it. Jockomo means 'jester' in the old myth. It is Mardi Gras music, and the Shaweez was one of many Mardi Gras groups who dressed up in far out Indian costumes and came on as Indian tribes. The tribes used to hang out on Claiborne Avenue and used to get juiced up there getting ready to perform and 'second time' in their own special style during Mardi Gras. That's dead and gone now because there's a freeway where those grounds used to be. The tribes were like social clubs who lived all year for Mardi Gras. getting their costumes together. Many of them were musicians, gamblers, hustlers and pimps."

Recorded in January 1954 and released as Checker 787. Find here.

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