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Dixie Cups
Title: Iko Iko
Author: R. Hawkins, B. Hawkins, J. Johnson, J Crawford

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"Iko, Iko" (R. Hawkins/B. Hawkins/J. Johnson/J Crawford)
The Dixie Cups, Red Bird, 1965

"Jock-A-Mo” is another early r&b Carnival record that incorporates Mardi Gras Indian chant phrases and a Spy Boy reference, while “Iko, Iko”, which came out about a decade later, seems to be a derivation of it. These songs are so closely ssociated that I thought I’d post them both.

By the time James “Sugar Boy” Crawford recorded his classic celebration of Mardi Gras day late in 1953, he had already done several sides for the Chess family of labels, plus one single for Aladdin credited to his band, the Sha-Weez, short for the Chapaka Shawee. “Jock-A-Mo” caught on in New Orleans during the 1954 Carnival season and was picked up nationally to become Sugar Boy’s biggest record. The band, renamed the Cane Cutters by Leonard Chess, at the time consisted of James Crawford on vocal and piano, Snooks Eaglin on guitar, Frank Fields on bass, Eric Warner on drums, Edgar Myles on trombone, with Alfred Bernard and David Lastie on saxes. Warner’s unique drumming shifts the song’s groove from second line calypso to rock ‘n roll and back during the course of the song. In Jeff Hannusch’s book, I Hear You Knockin',Crawford says that his inspiration for “Jock-A-Mo” (which most people call “Iko, Iko”) came from seeing and hearing the Indian maskers in his neighborhood on Mardi Gras day back when they would actually battle each other. As “Iko, Iko”, it is still a Mardi Gras standard and has been covered numerous times since then, after being popularized again by Dr. John on his 1972 album, Gumbo.

According to Barbara Ann Hawkins of the Dixie Cups, she, at least, had never heard Crawford’s song before they did an impromptu rendition they called “Iko, Iko” in the New York studios of Red Bird Records in 1965. Instead, she and her sister, Rosa Lee, say their grandmother sang it to them as they were growing up. Whatever the case, the tape was rolling and the song became their last hit for the label. Later, Crawford’s name was added to the songwriting credits, perhaps by court order. The Hawkins sisters plus Joan Johnson were brought to New York from New Orleans in 1963 by bandleader and talent scout Joe Jones and signed to Red Bird, one of the labels owned by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Originally called the Mel-Tones, they were thankfully renamed the Dixie Cups and went on to have a string of hits over the next few years, “Chapel of Love”, “People Say” and “Iko, Iko” being the biggest.

02/1/05- click date for entire article, updates and possible comments

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