Top Six Mardi Gras Songs of All Time

July 1 2018

What do you do when you’re waiting for a parade? Eat Popeye’s Fried Chicken or red beans and rice and listen to Mardi Gras music. Here are six of our favorites (we tried to narrow it down to five but couldn’t do it). Check them out on the YouTube links provided. BTW, they're not listed in any particular order. We love them all.

Carnival Time—Al Johnson

Recorded on the Ric label, Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time” hit the streets of New Orleans for Mardi Gras of 1960. While it didn’t catch on at first, today it’s a standard. That’s Mac Rebennack (Dr. John) on the piano.

Sample lyric:

Claiborne Street is a-rockin'
From-a one side to the other
The joints are jammin', packin'
And I'm about to smother

All because it's Carnival Ti-i-ime
Whoa, it's Carnival Time
Oh well, it's Carnival Time
And everybody's havin' fun

Go to the Mardi Gras—Professor Longhair

“Go to the Mardi Gras,” first recorded in 1949, by Roy “Baldhead” Byrd, also known as Professor Longhair. The definitive version was recorded in 1959 for the Ron label. Some say it’s the most popular Carnival record ever made. Fats Domino recorded it in 1956. We love the whistling.

Sample lyric:

While you stroll in New Orleans
You ought to go see the Mardi Gras
If you go to New Orleans
You ought to go see the Mardi Gras
When you see the Mardi Gras
Somebody'll tell you what's Carnival for

Mardi Gras Mambo—The Hawketts

The Hawketts, a popular high school R&B band, recorded only one single but it was a good one – “Mardi Gras Mambo.” Released on the Chess label in 1954, it was an immediate hit. In 1976,  it was recorded by the Meters, led by Art Neville who had been a member of The Hawketts. 

Sample lyric:

Down in New Orleans
Where the blues was born
It takes a cool cat to blow a horn
On LaSalle and Rampart Street
The combo's there with a mambo beat
The Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo
Party Gras mambo, mambo, mambo
Mardi Gras mambo, ooh
Down in New Orleans

Jock-A-Mo—Sugar Boy Crawford and the Cane Cutters

Recorded by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford in 1954, Jock-A-Mo was a pop hit. In 1964, it was  recorded by the Dixie Cups as “Iko Iko.” In 1983, Crawford said, “When I was growing up I lived near the battlefield [Simon Bolivar and Melpomene Streets] where the Indians paraded on Mardi Gras Day. When the tribes ran up on each other they shouted ‘Jock-a-mo fee na na’ and ‘Iko Iko.’” I didn’t have in mind to do a Carnival record—just wanted to record a good song.” He succeeded.

Sample lyric:

Iko, iko
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee no ah na nay
Jock-a-mo fee na ne
My spyboy met your spyboy
Sittin' by the fire
My spyboy told your spyboy:
I'm gonna set your flag on fire
Talkin' 'bout Hey now, hey now
Iko iko an de
Jock-a-mo fee no ah na nay
Jock-a-mo fee na ne

The Meters, "Hey Pocky A-Way"

It’s been said that the infectious “Hey Pocky A-Way” captures the bohemian essence of Mardi Gras. The Grateful Dead loved it. We do, too.

Sample lyric:

Live a boy with a heart of steel
He can't move it now
But his sisters sure will
Feel good music
I've been told
Good for the body
And it's good for your soul
You can do it now

Hey hey hey
Hey pocky a-way

I'm back grooving 
Right in the car
It don't make no difference where you are
Feel good music
In your soul
Make your body
Do the slow boogie roll

Hey hey hey
Hey pocky a-way

Stop, Inc., "Second Line"

In the 1970s, someone discovered that there was no existing recording of the popular song “Second Line” so a group of session musicians stepped up. There are no lyrics but you don't need them.

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