Iko Iko

1950© Music and Lyrics by James “sugar boy” “Jockamo” Crawford

James Crawford * New Orleans, La Oct 12, 1934
† New Orleans, LA Sep 15, 2012

The song was original named Jockamo.

This song was written and recorded back in the early 1950’s by a New Orleans singer named James Crawford who worked under the name of Sugar Boy & The Cane Cutters. In the original group were Professor Longhair on piano, Jake Myles, Big Boy Myles, Irv Bannister on guitar, and Eugene ‘Bones’ Jones on drums. This group was also known as the Cipaka Shaweez. 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. [liner notes by Mac Rebenack (dr. john) “Dr. John’s Gumbo”].i1

Interviewer: How did you construct ‘Jock-A-Mo?’

Crawford: It came from two Indian chants that I put music to. ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them…. Lloyd Price just added music to it and it became a hit. I was just trying to write a catchy song….

Interviewer: Listeners wonder what ‘Jock-A-Mo’ means. Some music scholars say it translates in Mardi Gras Indian lingo as ‘Kiss my ass,’ and I’ve read where some think Jock-A-Mo was a court jester. What does it mean?

Crawford: I really don’t know. (laughs) 2002 interview with offBeat Magazine i2

My grandma and your grandma,
were sittin’ by the fire,
My grandma told your grandma:
“I’m gonna set your flag on fire
Talkin’ ’bout: Hey now! Hey now!
Iko, Iko, unday,
Jockamo feeno ai nané,
Jockamo fee nané

Look at my king all dressed in red,
Iko, Iko, unday,
I betcha five dollars he’ll kill you dead,
Jockamo fee nané
My flag boy and your flag boy,
were sittin’ by the fire.
My flag boy told your flag boy:
“I’m gonna set your flag on fire.”
See that guy all dressed in green,
Iko, Iko, unday,
He’s not a man, he’s a lovin’ machine
Jockamo fee nané

Sources (internet):
i1 http://kazart.com/bus_stop/sngnote.htm

Sources (brassband history):