Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters

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New Orleans R&B outfit Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters emerged in 1953 from the remnants of the Sha-Weez, formed three years earlier on the campus of the Crescent City's Booker T. Washington High School.…
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New Orleans R&B outfit Sugar Boy and His Cane Cutters emerged in 1953 from the remnants of the Sha-Weez, formed three years earlier on the campus of the Crescent City's Booker T. Washington High School. According to Marv Goldberg's profile in the September 1977 issue of Yesterday's Memories, the Sha-Weez were led by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford on piano and vocals and Edgar "Big Boy" Myles on trombone and vocals, their odd name derived from their theme song, bandmate Nolan 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 and 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 and 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 and His Creoles, and soon after, Crawford dissolved the Cane Cutters to mount a solo career.