Big Boy Myles & the Sha-Weez

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New Orleans R&B outfit the Sha-Weez formed on the campus of Booker T. Washington High School in 1950. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the September 1977 issue of Yesterday's Memories, the founding…
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New Orleans R&B outfit the Sha-Weez formed on the campus of Booker T. Washington High School in 1950. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the September 1977 issue of Yesterday's Memories, the founding lineup featured Edgar "Big Boy" Myles on trombone and vocals, James "Sugarboy" Crawford on piano and vocals, Irving "Cat" Bannister on guitar and vocals, Alfred "Hot Lips" Woodard on trumpet, Eric "Skee-za" Warner on drums, Nolan "Sha-Wee" Blackwell on alto sax, Warren "Jake" Myles on piano, and the nickname-free Alfred Bernard and David Lastie on tenor saxes. The group's odd name derived from their theme song, Blackwell's instrumental "Cha-Paka-Sha-Wees," which roughly translates from the Creole "We are not raccoons." During an appearance on local radio, they were introduced as the "'Cha-Paka-Sha-Wees' musicians," and the moniker stuck.

Producer Dave Bartholomew signed the Sha-Weez to New Orleans imprint Aladdin Records in late 1952, helming their debut session at Cosimo Matassa's legendary J&M Studios. Crawford was slated to sing lead vocal, but a previous live performance left his voice so strained that "Big Boy" Myles stepped to the fore instead; "No One to Love Me" appeared at year's end, becoming a local hit and earning the group live appearances throughout the Gulf Coast region.

Still, Aladdin resisted releasing the remaining material from the Sha-Weez's J&M session, nor did the label book another studio date. The group nevertheless remained under contract to the label, but in late 1953 Crawford and Myles began recording for Chess, recruiting guitarist Billy Tate, bassist Frank Fields, tenor saxophonist Leroy "Batman" Rankins, and drummer Chester Jones to form Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters. Their Chess debut, "I Don't Know What I'll Do," was the label's first release cut in New Orleans, and enjoyed strong local airplay. The follow-up, "Jock-A-Mo," appeared in early 1954 and also proved a regional favorite -- a decade later, the Dixie Cups recut the song as "Iko Iko," one of the most popular and enduring Crescent City R&B records ever made. The third Sugar Boy & His Cane Cutters single, "I Bowed on My Knees," earned the group a residency at the Baton Rouge nightspot the Carousel Club, but brought an end to their Chess affiliation, leaving more than a dozen unreleased sides on the shelf.

Myles left the lineup in 1955 to join Li'l Millet & His Creoles; this group -- led by bassist Millet and also featuring tenor saxophonists Lee Allen and James Victor Lewis, guitarist Ernest Mare, drummer Bartholomew Smith, and Myles' aforementioned brother Warren on piano -- entered J&M in the fall of 1955 to cut "Who's Been Fooling You?," for reasons unknown credited to Big Boy Myles & the Shaw-Wees upon its release on Specialty. A second and final Specialty effort, "Just to Hold My Hand" -- this time featuring New Orleans session legend Earl Palmer on drums -- appeared in late 1956, almost concurrently with Crawford's solo debut for Imperial, "She's Got a Wobble." He cut three more Imperial sides, as well as one-offs for Montel and Ace.

In 1963, Crawford was en route to a Peacock label session when he was pistol-whipped by a policeman, resulting a protracted hospital stay that largely soured his desire to continue performing, confining his singing to the church. Myles also cut solo sides for Ace, V-Tone, and Pic-One before relocating to New York in the late '60s.