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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Friday, July 25, 2014

Terrell’s Tune-Up — Voodoo roots: John the Conqueror

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Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 5:00 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Apr 24, 2014.

You might think that the name of the band John the Conqueror, whose new album The Good Life I’ve been enjoying lately, sounds familiar. As a matter of fact, anyone who has ever heard Muddy Waters or the endless supply of lesser mortals sing “Hoochie Coochie Man” has heard the phrase “High John the Conquerer” (or, sometimes, “Conqueroo”). But unless you’re somewhat acquainted with the ways of the hoodoo, you might not realize what exactly that is.

So before we get into the music, let’s have a little lesson in culture. There’s a reason Muddy mentioned High John in the same breath as his black cat bone and his mojo in that song. Here’s what Papa Jim, a San Antonio mail-order voodoo merchant (and, according to some of his old catalogs, “a true man of God”), has to say on his website about the “Hi John the Conqueror” root:

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