Little Known Black History Fact: James ‘Sugar Boy’ Crawford

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  • The New Orleans songwriter responsible for the song “Jock-A-Mo,” Mr. James Crawford, has passed away. The R&B singer, who was also known as “Sugar Boy”, wrote the famous Mardi Gras song “Jock-A-Mo” in 1953. The song was re-made by the Dixie Cups as “Iko-Iko” in 1965. Crawford’s song has also been re-made by Cyndi Lauper, The Grateful Dead and Dr. John.

    The song “Jock-A-Mo” was a combination of Indian tribal chants put together by Crawford that referred to the interaction between the “Flag boy” from one Indian tribe and the “Spy Boy” of another. The Spy Boy threatens to set the Flag Boy’s flag on fire in the lyrics of the song. The song was said to be originally written as “Chock-a-mo”, but the record label misspelled it as “Jock-A-Mo.”

    In 1963, Crawford was on a road trip to Monroe, Louisiana with his band when he was pulled over by the police. He was severely beaten with a pistol, leaving him with a brain injury. Feeling like he could no longer deliver the quality of music to which his fans were accustomed, Crawford ended his recording career for three decades.

    At the urgency of his grandson, musician Davell Crawford, James Crawford returned to music on his grandson’s album “Let Them Talk” in 1995.  Most recently, the Crawford musicians had filmed scenes for the drama “Treme”, which airs on HBO.

    James Crawford died last Saturday at a hospice in New Orleans. He was 77 years old.

     

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