New Orleans has always been known as the home of fascinating musical stories, like the tale of R&B singer Joe Jones and his disagreements with the singing group he managed for a while, the Dixie Cups. A court would eventually have to decide who held the rights to one of the group’s big hits, a song that has since become a New Orleans classic — and has also shown up on several soundtracks.
Jones was a rising star himself in the early 1960s, having struck gold with his “You Talk Too Much,” a record that climbed near the top of the charts. He decided to add managing to his resume when he ran across a local trio consisting of Joan Marie Johnson and her cousins, sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins. The girls had gone through a couple of name changes, including Little Miss and the Muffets, before settling on the Dixie Cups.
Things went well for a while with the girls and their new manager. Moving to New York, they were able to work with Phil Spector and others, and soon hit the top of the charts with what would become their biggest hit, 1964’s “Chapel Of Love.” The group’s success would continue with several other records, including “People Say,” and eventually “Iko Iko,” the unusual Mardis Gras song that would be the bone of contention, long after Jones and the Dixie Cups had gone their separate ways.
The girls had come up with the song by reworking a traditional earlier song, “Jock-a-mo,” written by a guy named James Crawford, and after the song became a hit an agreement was reached with him to share in the royalties. But decades later Joe Jones and his family claimed rights to the song, and licensed its use to several parties. The Dixie Cups sued and won — then lost on appeal, but eventually prevailed.