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Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts

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STAGALEE 3
STAGOLEE
STAGOLEE 2


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GUEST,Paul Slade 03 May 09 - 06:44 AM
Azizi 03 May 09 - 11:08 AM
GUEST 05 May 09 - 05:28 AM
Wolfgang 05 May 09 - 09:07 AM
meself 05 May 09 - 11:12 AM
Mrrzy 06 May 09 - 09:49 AM
Max 09 Nov 11 - 07:50 AM
Girl Friday 09 Nov 11 - 11:55 AM
Girl Friday 09 Nov 11 - 01:55 PM
GUEST,Paul Slade 09 Nov 11 - 05:06 PM
meself 09 Nov 11 - 05:11 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Nov 11 - 05:42 PM
Stewie 09 Nov 11 - 06:42 PM
Girl Friday 10 Nov 11 - 07:34 AM
GUEST,Stack 02 Oct 13 - 06:26 PM
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Subject: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 03 May 09 - 06:44 AM

I've just posted a long essay about Stagger Lee on my new website. It sets out the facts of the real murder which inspired the song, examines how its interpretation has changed over the decades and spotlights a few interesting versions you may have missed.

If that sounds interesting to you, please click here:

http://www.planetslade.com/stagger-lee1.html

NOTE TO MODERATORS: The site above generate no income for me or anyone else. Therefore, I hope I might be allowed to mention it here. Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Azizi
Date: 03 May 09 - 11:08 AM

Paul Slade, thanks for alerting Mudcatters to your website. I found your "Stagger Lee" essay as well as the essay about "Frankie and Johnny" to be interesting reading. It's strange how some events become immortalized in song and others don't.

As one of Mudcat's regular guests noted on the thread you started about yourFrankie & Johnny essay, there have been a number of discussions on this forum about these two songs. I certainly don't have a problem with another thread being started on the same subject, particularly if the subject is being approached from a different angle. But it occurs to me that it's possible that you weren't aware that there had been other discussions on this forum about those two songs.

Accessing archived Mudcat threads isn't always the easiest thing to do although I'm told that the internal search engine has been upgraded. Also, folks can always use search engines such as Google or Yahoo to find discussions on Mudcat. For instance when I entered "frankie and Johnny" mudcat.org in Yahoo's search engine, I got this @displaysong.cfm?SongID=2123 hit . That hyperlink is for a song in the Digital Tradition of song lyrics which Mudcat hosts. When I went to that page, underneath those particular lyrics are hyperlinks to three other versions of that "Frankie and Johnny" and seven discussion threads about that song. One of the good things about Mudcat is that no matter how long ago it's been since a comment has been posted to threads, archived discussions can started again with the addition of another comment.

Paul, your note to the moderators (btw, I'm not one) suggests that you may not have been aware that Mudcat members and guests are welcome to post announcements about other websites that might be of interest to posters here. Your high quality website certainly falls within that category. In hind sight, perhaps it would have been better for you to have started a thread announcing that you had launched http://www.planetslade.com/index.html, a website that included essays on various subjects including murder songs such as "Frankie and Johnny" and Stagolee".

And- since I'm giving out unsolicited advice-it would be great if you would post a hyperlink to Mudcat as a means of encouraging your readers to visit this forum to continue reading about and to join ongoing discussions about the songs that you feature.

Also, Paul, please consider joining Mudcat. Membership is free and easy to do.

Thanks again for those interesting reads about those two songs as well as other other essays on your website.

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: GUEST
Date: 05 May 09 - 05:28 AM

Thanks for that, Azizi. It wasn't a question of not knowing there were other Stagger Lee threads here, but of finding so many other threads devoted to the song that I didn't know which one to choose. Also, if I'm honest, I quite fancied having a little headline of my own!

Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece, and I'll certainly look for a chance to plug Mudcat in the future.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Wolfgang
Date: 05 May 09 - 09:07 AM

I love reading about historical background of songs. Your site is great for both ballads.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: meself
Date: 05 May 09 - 11:12 AM

I think it was just as well that the ballad composers chose not to mention that Stack and Billy were arguing about politics ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Mrrzy
Date: 06 May 09 - 09:49 AM

Fascinating! Thank you so much!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Max
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 07:50 AM

Good stuff.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Girl Friday
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 11:55 AM

Hi Max. Trevor reserched the story, and has rewritten the song.

I can only find his resarch notes on my computer. Shall I ask him to post them with the new words?


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK LEE (Mumblin' Len Turner)
From: Girl Friday
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 01:55 PM

He's now emailed me his version.

STACK LEE Mumblin' Len Turner, May, 2011

Gonna [A] tell you all a [A7] story, and I [D] won't give you no [D7] jive,
'Bout a [A] killing in St [A] Louis, Christmas 189[E]5. [A D A E]


Gonna tell you all a story, and I won't give you no jive,
'Bout a killing in St Louis, Christmas 1895.

Stack Lee Shelton was the owner of the Modern Horseshoe Club,
Pimp, Democrat, and dandy, wearing hundred-dollar duds.

Billy Lyons worked the levee; he was not a wealthy man,
But he was surely well connected, and a staunch Republican.

The two men got to talking; they talked and drank all night.
By the time they got to politics, it was brewing for a fight.

Stack Lee took Billy's derby; he punched it 'til it tore,
Said: "Bill, now give me six bits, or I'll do the same to yours."

Shelton pulled his forty-four, said: "What do you think of that?
And now I'm gonna shoot you if you don't return my hat."

Billy Lyons called his bluff, and pulled out a switchblade knife,
Said, "You cockeyed S.O.B., I'm gonna make you take my life."

But Stack Lee wasn't kidding, and he blew Bill a brand new vent,
Then picked up his Stetson hat and calmly home he went.

They took Billy to the infirmary, where he died about four a.m.
Stack Lee laid home a-sleeping when the police arrested him.

They had to try him twice, because the jury could not agree,
Fin'ly he got twenty-five years in the Penitentiary.

So, you bar-room politicians, take a warning from my verse:
Argue hard 'bout politicking you may end up in jail or worse.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 05:06 PM

I like it. Would I be flattering myself too much to think Trevor may have used my essay to one degree or another in his research? If so, is it available as audio anywhere on the internet, and could I offer interested PlanetSlade readers a link where they'd be able to hear it?

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: meself
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 05:11 PM

Yes, a worthy effort, with some great turns of phrase - but I stand by my earlier remarks!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 05:42 PM

Yes, but why let the facts get in the way or a good old song?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Stewie
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 06:42 PM

Some 60 recordings of the song from various musical traditions are available for download from this blog - you will need to scroll down past the Hutchison info:

Click here.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: Girl Friday
Date: 10 Nov 11 - 07:34 AM

Here's the research notes...
stackolee

Synopsis:
Stack Lee Shelton was the owner of a St. Louis saloon/brothel called the Modern Horseshoe Club and was a well known figure in the black neighborhood of Deep Morgan. He belonged to a class of St. Louis pimps known as the "macks" who were famous for sporting a mode of dress that demanded attention. This is how Cecil Brown, in his book Stagolee Shot Billy, described Stack Lee's entrance to Bill Curtis's Saloon the night of the murder:
"Shelton was dressed in a pair of tailored shoes know as 'St. Louis flats,' with almost no heels and long toes pointing upward. On the top of the toes were tiny mirrors that caught the electric light hanging overhead and sent sparkles upward. A pair of dove colored spats covered Shelton's shoe tops. Gray-striped pants hung over his spats. The flaps of his black box-back coat fell open to reveal an elaborately patterned red velvet vest and a yellow embroidered shirt with a celluloid standing collar that kept his chin high in the air. Knuckle-length sleeve's almost covered the gold rings on his manicured fingers; his left hand clutched the gold head of an ebony walking cane. the other hand took a long cigar out of his mouth. On his head was a high-roller, milk-white Stetson. Along the hatband was an embroidered picture of his favorite girl, Lillie Shelton."

Shelton saw his friend Billy Lyons standing at the bar and joined him for a drink. Lyons worked as a levee hand and did not dress with the flash of the macks. He was not a wealthy man but he was well connected, his sister was married to Henry Bridgewater, one of the richest black men in St. Louis, and a leader in the Republican Party.

Stack Lee Shelton and Billy Lyons drank and talked amiably most of the evening, but when the discussion turned to politics the exchange became heated. Billy was a Republican like his brother-in-law, Stack Lee was aligned with a growing faction of black St. Louis Democrats. Shelton grabbed Lyon's derby hat and broke the form. Lyons demanded six bits from Shelton to replace it. When Shelton refused, Lyon's grabbed Shelton's Stetson hat. Shelton drew his .44 Smith and Wesson and the saloon patrons scattered. He threatened to blow out Lyons' brains if he did not return the hat.

Lyons called his bluff, pulled out his knife saying, "You cockeyed son of a bitch, I'm going to make you kill me."

But Shelton wasn't bluffing. He shot Billy Lyon's, snatched back his hat and coolly left the saloon.

Billy Lyons was taken to an infirmary, then moved to a hospital where he died at around 4 AM.

Stack Lee Shelton was home sleeping when police came to arrest him. He was released on $4000 bail.

Trial: July 15, 1896

Verdict: Hung Jury

Outcome:
Shelton hired Col. Nat C. Dryden, one of the finest criminal lawyers in St. Louis. The trial opened on July 15, 1896 and lasted two days. Dryden argued that Shelton had killed Lyons in self defense. The jury deliberated for twenty-two hours but could not agree on a verdict. Their final polling had seven jurors for second degree murder, two for manslaughter, and three for acquittal.

Nat Dryden died on August 26, 1897, before Shelton could be retried. Though there is no surviving record of the second trial, it must have happened soon after because on October 7 Stack Lee Shelton began serving a twenty-five year sentence at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City.

Shelton was paroled on Thanksgiving Day 1909, possibly helped by petitions from influential St. Louis Democrats. But two years later he was back in prison for robbery and assault. He died in prison of tuberculosis on March 11, 1912.

Even before his death, the killer of Billy Lyons, in song and story had morphed into Stagolee, that mythic bad man who would not be refused. Since the murder, the song of Stagolee in all its versions and titles has been recorded at least 285 times. times. Gaslight recommends Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 recording Stack O'Lee, and Lloyd Price's 1959 recording Stagger Lee


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts
From: GUEST,Stack
Date: 02 Oct 13 - 06:26 PM

Is there any evidence for the assertions that Lee Shelton was a mack?

He appears to have been the proprietor of the Modern Horseshoe Club for a while, whatever that might imply. Some of Cecil Brown's assertions are challenged at

http://devilattheconfluence.blogspot.com/2013/06/stagger-lee-invention-and-legend.html

and I'm not sure that John Russell David (*Tragedy in Ragtime*) found anything on this point.


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