Thursday, September 20, 2012

RIP: James "Sugar Boy" Crawford

James 'Sugar Boy' Crawford, New Orleans rhythm & blues singer of 'Jock-A-Mo,' dies at 77

Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune
James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, the New Orleans rhythm & blues singer who wrote and recorded the enduring Mardi Gras standard “Jock-A-Mo,” died early Saturday while under hospice care following a brief illness. He was 77.


“Jock-A-Mo” borrowed its lyrics from age-old Mardi Gras Indian chants. It was later remade by the Dixie Cups as “Iko Iko.” Artists as diverse as Dr. John, the Grateful Dead and Cyndi Lauper also rendered variations. 

Mr. Crawford’s own career came to a premature end following a police beating in 1963. Only in recent years did he return to the stage, and then only occasionally.

Dubbed “Sugar Boy” as a child, Mr. Crawford grew up around LaSalle Street. He played trombone while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He also formed a rhythm & blues band that deejay Dr. Daddy-O dubbed the Chapaka Shawee, after one of the band's instrumentals. The group performed in local clubs and released a single on Aladdin Records.

Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, happened to hear the Chapaka Shawee at radio station WMRY while in New Orleans. He made what was purportedly an audition tape of the group.

“The man paid me $5, and I went and bought some wine and red beans,” Mr. Crawford recalled for The Times-Picayune’s Sheila Stroup this spring.

Weeks later, a disc jockey at the station presented Crawford with a 78 rpm record of “I Don't Know What I’ll Do.” It was manufactured from the audition tape and credited to Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters.

In November 1953, at age 19, Mr. Crawford recorded his composition “Jock-A-Mo” at Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio on North Rampart Street, with a band that included Snooks Eaglin on guitar. He did not know what the lyrics meant. 

“It was just a couple of Indian chants I put together and made a song out of them,” he said.
In a 2002 interview with OffBeat magazine, Mr. Crawford said he actually sang "Chock-a-Mo." But Leonard Chess, listening to the recording in Chicago, heard "Jock-A-Mo" and designated that as the title.
Released on the Chess subsidiary Checker Records, "Jock-A-Mo" was a hit during the 1954 Carnival season and a boon to Mr. Crawford’s career. He became popular on the fraternity circuit at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and toured around the country, even though he was too young to perform in venues where alcohol was served.

“I was so young, they had to send my money home to my people,” he said. "They had to stop serving liquor when I performed." 

Over the next decade, he recorded for various labels, including Imperial Records, releasing such singles as "I Bowed on My Knees,” “You Gave Me Love,” "Morning Star" and "She's Gotta Wobble (When She Walks)." 

But in 1963, his career, and life, took a tragic turn. En route to a show in Monroe with his band, he was stopped by police and badly pistol-whipped. 

"The sheriff in Columbia called ahead, and they had a roadblock set up for me,” he recalled. "It was the time of the Freedom Riders, and the police jumped on me and cracked my skull." 

Joe "Cool Davis" and James "Sugar Boy" Crawford sing Gospel Local Gospel legend Joe "Cool" Davis and James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, who wrote and recorded "Jockamo" shared the Gospel Tent stage on May 6, 2012 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Presented By Shell. They performed separately but share a little music here during their portrait session in Joe's apartment. 
The beating left Mr. Crawford in a coma. A metal plate replaced part of his badly damaged skull. When he awoke, he had lost much of his memory. “I had a brain injury, and it took me two years to come back,” he said. “I had to learn how to walk, talk, play the piano, everything.

“I don't have to hear people talk about those times. I lived them.” 

He briefly attempted a comeback, but was discouraged by what he perceived as his diminished talent. He subsequently retired from rhythm & blues. For decades, he confined his singing to the church. 

He went to trade school and became a building engineer. For several years he maintained the Masonic Temple building on St. Charles Avenue. Later, he owned and operated C&C Locksmith, and lived in Gentilly. After sorting out the publishing rights to his old catalog, he earned royalties whenever "Jock-A-Mo" or one of its derivatives turned up in movies or commercials, such as when the Belle Stars’ recording of “Iko Iko" appeared on the "Rain Man" soundtrack. 

It was his grandson, the pianist and singer Davell Crawford, who coaxed Mr. Crawford out of retirement. He appeared on Davell’s 1995 CD “Let Them Talk,” and subsequently joined his grandson onstage, including at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. 

In recent years, those appearances became more frequent. Mr. Crawford guested with gospel singer Jo “Cool” Davis as recently as the 2012 Jazz Fest.

Mr. Crawford also taped scenes with Davell for an episode of the upcoming third season of HBO’s “Treme.”
"Jock-A-Mo," both the song and the phrase, is ingrained in the local consciousness. Dr. John, who originally recorded the song for his 1972 album "Dr. John's Gumbo," performed it during halftime of the 2008 NBA Allstar Game in New Orleans. The Abita Brewing Company named one of its beers Jockamo IPA.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Upcoming: Malone Brothers @ Emelin Theatre (mamaroneck)

Sat, Dec 15, 2012 @ 8pm
Bringing together the similar but fantastically different worlds of two of the finest New Orleans rock bands today – The Radiators and the subdudes – The Malone Brothers is a brand new collaboration by brothers  Dave and Tommy Malone, two of Louisiana's greatest guitarist singer-songwriters. One of the most exciting new lineups in American music, the brothers create a musical experience that fans of both men have wanted to hear for years.

Upcoming: Davis Rogan @ Joe's Pub

Davis Rogan

 Davis Rogan-1.jpg

Upcoming Shows

Price: $12 in Advance; $15 at Door
  • 7:00 PM - November 10 Buy Tix

Show Description

Davis Rogan draws his musical inspiration from Professor Longhair and Fats Domino, as does every New Orleans Rhythm and Blues piano player. What separates Davis is his lyrics. The quick wit, rapid-fire wordplay, and the wry observations about life, humanity, and New Orleans could come from no one else. Though he is truly inimitable, Davis provided the inspiration for the character of Davis McAlary on the critically acclaimed HBO series "Treme." He has also written a number of original songs to the show, in addition to serving as a consultant and writer.

"Davis is a morbidly ironic writer in the mold of Randy Newman, balancing sweet melodies with dark thoughts to create comic imbalance in his songs." -John Swenson, Offbeat Magazine

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Upcoming: Big Sam's Funky Nation / Stooges Brass Band @ Rebel

1/2 Price Tix: Allen Toussaint Brings the Boogie to City Winery

Allen Toussaint

October 1 @ City Winery

(click on picture for link to discount)

Full Price:
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Allen Toussaint, one of the most influential songwriter-musicians ever to come out of New Orleans, is set to shake loose some of his patented Cajun-flavored R&B funk at City Winery. Toussaint has 18 of his own albums under his belt, including 2009's The Bright Mississippi, but he's also well-known for sharing his songs like "Get Out My Life, Woman" with other artists, as well as producing and collaborating with greats like Elvis Costello, The Band, Jerry Garcia, Little Feat, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Paul Simon, Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and even Devo ("Working in the Coal Mine"), among many others.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upcoming: Bill Malchow & Go Cup All Stars @ Rodeo Bar this Friday

From the desk of Bill Malchow...

All right! Headed up to NYC this weekend.   Let's all hang out at the Rodeo Bar this Friday.  10:45pm is the start time.  Free Peanuts!

Also I'll be joining Alex McMurray at his Joe's Pub debut this Sunday.

As you know Isaac hit New Orleans pretty hard.  Wife, Dog and I evacuated to Monroe, LA. prior to the storm. It was our first evacuation. We brought too much stuff.  We came back to no damage, except that our landlord had looted our freezer of tater tots.   Lot of folks outside the levee system were not so lucky.  Come out to one of the shows and I'll tell you more...

Friday, September 14, 2012
Bill Malchow and the Go Cup All Stars
The Rodeo Bar
375 3rd Avenue
(27th Street)
New York, NY
(212) 683.6500
10:30pm 1:30ish
Tim Luntzel - bass
Dan Rieser - drums
Dion Tucker - Trombone
Scott Bourgeois - alto sax/tenor sax/clarinet

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Alex McMurray
Joe's Pub
425 Lafayette St
New York, NY
Get Tickets

Friday, September 7, 2012

Upcoming: New Orleans Suspects to play 3 area shows next week

Thursday. September 13, 2012
BUY NOWNew Orleans Suspects
@ Lucille's Bar at BB Kings - New York City, NY
Presented by HARD

Friday. September 14, 2012
BUY NOWNew Orleans Suspects
@ H on the Harbor - Port Washington, NY
Presented by HARD

Saturday. September 15, 2012
BUY NOWNew Orleans Suspects
@ The Home of Brad Gerla - Westport, CT
Presented by HARD