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Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.

DigiTrad:
STAGALEE 3
STAGOLEE
STAGOLEE 2


Related threads:
Lyr Add: Stagalee (from J & A Lomax) (5)
Chords Req: Stackerlee (Dave Van Ronk) (5)
Listen to different versions of "Stagger Lee" (28)
Stagger Lee graphic novel (10)
Lyr/Chords Req: Stagger Lee (Lloyd Price) (4)
(origins) Origins: Stagger Lee: The Facts (15)
Book search:"StaggerLee/Black Hustlers" (4)
Stagolee: the full story (20)
stagolee (12)
RADIO: More Stagger Lee than Cheese (20)
Stagger Lee article (4)
STAGGERLEE AND SUPER SKIER (10) (closed)


Timothy Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 08 Oct 97 - 02:48 AM
Joe Offer 08 Oct 97 - 03:52 AM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 08 Oct 97 - 09:41 AM
Peter T. 08 Oct 97 - 10:58 AM
Carl 08 Oct 97 - 04:43 PM
Joe Offer 08 Oct 97 - 04:56 PM
Sir 08 Oct 97 - 05:10 PM
dick greenhaus 08 Oct 97 - 07:38 PM
Joe Offer 08 Oct 97 - 09:06 PM
Max 08 Oct 97 - 12:00 AM
Max 08 Oct 97 - 09:24 PM
Earl 09 Oct 97 - 12:28 AM
Peter T. 09 Oct 97 - 01:45 PM
Earl 10 Oct 97 - 10:35 AM
Susan of DT 10 Oct 97 - 09:52 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 11 Oct 97 - 02:21 PM
dwditty 12 Oct 97 - 06:48 AM
Peter T. 12 Oct 97 - 10:56 AM
Earl 12 Oct 97 - 08:05 PM
Gene 09 Jan 98 - 11:03 PM
chet w 09 Jan 98 - 11:34 PM
Gene 10 Jan 98 - 01:47 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 10 Jan 98 - 08:59 PM
Earl 11 Jan 98 - 06:05 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 11 Jan 98 - 06:50 PM
Earl 12 Jan 98 - 08:50 AM
Bill D 12 Jan 98 - 07:12 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 12 Jan 98 - 09:27 PM
Bill D 12 Jan 98 - 09:51 PM
Barry 13 Jan 98 - 12:14 AM
Earl 13 Jan 98 - 12:07 PM
Bert 13 Jan 98 - 04:15 PM
Earl 14 Jan 98 - 01:11 AM
Dale Rose 14 Jan 98 - 12:34 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 14 Jan 98 - 07:27 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 15 Jan 98 - 07:44 PM
Barry 15 Jan 98 - 10:22 PM
Earl 24 Jan 98 - 02:00 AM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 26 Jan 98 - 05:57 PM
Earl 27 Jan 98 - 08:43 AM
sc 05 Feb 99 - 12:46 PM
sc 05 Feb 99 - 12:51 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 08 Feb 99 - 05:37 AM
Art Thieme 09 Feb 99 - 02:13 AM
Brian Hoskin 09 Feb 99 - 03:33 AM
Nathan Sarvis 09 Feb 99 - 03:55 PM
GUEST,Q 28 Feb 03 - 09:37 PM
Fred Miller 01 Mar 03 - 12:19 AM
GUEST,Q 07 Jun 03 - 10:05 PM
Nerd 07 Jun 03 - 10:41 PM
Nerd 08 Jun 03 - 12:43 AM
GUEST,Q 08 Jun 03 - 12:48 AM
jaze 08 Jun 03 - 10:10 AM
GUEST,guest 24 Oct 03 - 11:03 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Oct 03 - 04:15 PM
Nerd 25 Oct 03 - 01:48 PM
GUEST,guest 26 Oct 03 - 10:04 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Oct 03 - 10:57 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Oct 03 - 11:04 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Oct 03 - 11:08 AM
kbr 06 May 04 - 05:58 AM
GUEST 09 Jul 04 - 07:37 PM
Nerd 09 Jul 04 - 09:46 PM
GUEST,Guest 08 Oct 04 - 04:11 PM
PoppaGator 08 Oct 04 - 05:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Oct 04 - 08:40 PM
Lonesome EJ 30 Mar 05 - 06:52 PM
Severn 30 Mar 05 - 09:18 PM
Severn 30 Mar 05 - 09:31 PM
Azizi 30 Mar 05 - 10:18 PM
Azizi 30 Mar 05 - 10:37 PM
Severn 31 Mar 05 - 02:15 PM
GUEST,The Old Mole 19 Apr 06 - 05:26 PM
Joe Offer 08 Mar 07 - 02:28 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 08 Mar 07 - 04:28 AM
GUEST,meself 08 Mar 07 - 08:41 AM
Scoville 08 Mar 07 - 10:01 AM
Lighter 08 Mar 07 - 10:35 AM
Morris-ey 08 Mar 07 - 11:40 AM
voyager 08 Mar 07 - 04:31 PM
PoppaGator 22 Mar 07 - 07:11 PM
Charlie Baum 22 Mar 07 - 07:18 PM
bobad 24 Apr 09 - 10:04 PM
Stewie 25 Apr 09 - 12:19 AM
Stewie 25 Apr 09 - 01:03 AM
Jack Blandiver 25 Apr 09 - 05:56 AM
gd303uk 25 May 09 - 09:59 AM
gd303uk 25 May 09 - 10:09 AM
GUEST 22 Jun 09 - 08:33 PM
Mysha 22 Jun 09 - 09:16 PM
Azizi 22 Jun 09 - 10:46 PM
MissouriMud 23 Jun 09 - 02:51 PM
Richie 26 Aug 09 - 12:40 AM
Lonesome EJ 26 Aug 09 - 01:22 AM
Lonesome EJ 26 Aug 09 - 01:25 AM
Richie 26 Aug 09 - 12:42 PM
Richie 26 Aug 09 - 12:53 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Aug 09 - 01:43 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Aug 09 - 02:04 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Aug 09 - 02:06 PM
Richie 26 Aug 09 - 05:36 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Aug 09 - 01:08 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Aug 09 - 02:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 27 Aug 09 - 04:07 PM
MissouriMud 28 Aug 09 - 12:45 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 09 - 01:18 PM
MissouriMud 28 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Aug 09 - 06:08 PM
MissouriMud 29 Aug 09 - 12:31 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Aug 09 - 03:25 PM
GUEST,Paul Slade 30 Aug 09 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,Guest, Ericka Clare 07 Sep 09 - 03:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM
MissouriMud 08 Sep 09 - 02:46 PM
meself 08 Sep 09 - 03:07 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 11 Sep 09 - 08:39 PM
Lonesome EJ 12 Sep 09 - 04:08 PM
GUEST,an unknown cover... ! 15 Mar 10 - 06:09 PM
Jim Dixon 02 Jan 14 - 06:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 02 Jan 14 - 07:48 PM
Jim Dixon 06 Jan 14 - 07:56 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Jan 14 - 12:46 AM
voyager 07 Jan 14 - 11:02 AM
Lighter 07 Jan 14 - 12:26 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Jan 14 - 03:50 PM
Lighter 07 Jan 14 - 04:34 PM
Lighter 07 Jan 14 - 04:42 PM
Lighter 07 Jan 14 - 07:32 PM
Jim Dixon 07 Jan 14 - 07:37 PM
voyager 07 Jan 14 - 08:32 PM
Lighter 07 Jan 14 - 08:45 PM
Jim Dixon 08 Jan 14 - 12:36 AM
Lighter 08 Jan 14 - 08:16 AM
Jim Dixon 09 Jan 14 - 12:08 AM
Jim Dixon 09 Jan 14 - 04:34 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Jan 14 - 06:38 PM
Jim Dixon 10 Jan 14 - 12:25 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 10 Jan 14 - 04:16 PM
Lighter 10 Jan 14 - 05:31 PM
Lighter 22 Oct 15 - 06:48 AM
GUEST, Paul Slade 22 Oct 15 - 07:47 AM
Charley Noble 04 Mar 16 - 05:33 PM
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Subject: Stagger Lee
From: Timothy Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 02:48 AM

I am surprised not to find this in the database. Today I bought a fifties R & R CD very cheap, and this was on it by Lloyd Price, the version I know.

I always thought that this was a "tradtional" song in the sense the author is not known. Certainly I have heard longer versions played in bars by bar bands.

Who wrote it? Lloyd Price? Full lyrics? It has a pre-Prohibition sound & feel to the lyrics. (Mind you, so do many of Stan Rogers's songs)

Pleased to be enlightened:)


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 03:52 AM

That's a tough one to search for, Tim. I tried sta* and came up with too much. Try staglee* and you'll come up with the three versions I found. Dick, are there more?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 09:41 AM

Thanks. I thought I might have done something wrong.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Peter T.
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 10:58 AM

There is an old, old song, "Stagolee", sometimes considered to be be a pre-blues song. Mississippi John Hurt did a nice version many years ago. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Carl
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 04:43 PM

I heard rumours, that it´s a song from wild west. It´s about a card game between Stagolee and a young guy named Billy DeLyons (in the version I know shortened to Bill Lee). Billy won and Stagolee shot him.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 04:56 PM

Peter, is your version of Stagolee significantly different from the three versions in the database? I swear I've heard lots of different versions.
Dick, are there other versions in the database I didn't find, or just the three?
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Sir
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 05:10 PM

I remember reading the words to "Stagolee" in a collection of African American poetry years ago. It was listed as folk-song. -Sir


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 07:38 PM

Stagolee. Stagalee. Stacker Lee. Try a search on Stetson. or [Billy Lyons].


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 09:06 PM

Didn't come up with any more, Dick. Three versions should be enough to suit anybody, with the possible exception of the late, great Francis James Child.
Searching under staglee* brings up all three versions.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: Lyr Add: STAGGER LEE (from Taj Mahal)
From: Max
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 12:00 AM

STAGGER LEE
As sung by Taj Mahal on "Giant Step" (1969)

Could been on a rainy mornin'; could been on a rainy night.
Stagger Lee and Billy de Lyon had a great big fight.
Talkin' 'bout the bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

"Stagger Lee," said Billy, "man, you know I can't go with that.
I done won all your money and your great big Stetson hat."
Talkin' 'bout the bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

"Stagger Lee," said Billy, "man, don't take my life.
I got two lovely children; I got a very lovely wife."
Talkin' 'bout the bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

Stagger Lee shot Billy, shot the boy so bad
The bullet went through Billy, broke the bartender's looking-glass.
Talkin' 'bout the bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

If you ever down in Louisiana, go into the Lyon's Club.
Every foot you be steppin' in, Billy de Lyon blood.
Talkin' 'bout that bad man, bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

It could been on a rainy mornin'; it could been on a rainy night.
Oh, Stagger Lee and Billy de Lyon had a great big fight.
Talkin' 'bout that bad man, cruel old Stagger Lee.

_________________
Gosh I love this song


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Max
Date: 08 Oct 97 - 09:24 PM

I read that This song dates back to the civil war. There is a letter from a soldier in the war to his mother or wife telling the story of Stagger Lee and his fight with Billy DeLyons. The letter is on catalog somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 09 Oct 97 - 12:28 AM

Other accounts have Staggerlee as a deck hand on a riverboat around the turn of the century or a black gangster who controlled the black section of Memphis in the 1870's. Most accounts place the fight in Memphis but there are versions of the song set in New Orleans.

Here is a list of 125 recorded versions of Staggerlee.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Peter T.
Date: 09 Oct 97 - 01:45 PM

Earl, This is Staggering, not Stagolee. It only goes to show that the Internet is the weirdest thing ever. Who would have thought someone would post 125 versions of this? Is everyone as crazy as we are? Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 10 Oct 97 - 10:35 AM

Peter, Yes, everyone on the web is as crazy as we are and some are downright obsessive. With the right key word you can find absolutely anything!


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Susan of DT
Date: 10 Oct 97 - 09:52 PM

Joe et al - when you find a number near the bottom of a song, in this case #663, you can search for the number and get all versions of the song (or all that we realized we had when we did the numbers). There are three versions of Stager Lee with #663


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 11 Oct 97 - 02:21 PM

"Herb Wiedoeft's Cinderella Roof Orchestra"? What a great name for a band.


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Subject: Lyr Add: BILLY LYONS AND STACK O'LEE (Furry Lewis)
From: dwditty
Date: 12 Oct 97 - 06:48 AM

From the book, "The Blues Line" - a collection of blues lyrics in a survey of sorts (Eric Sackheim, Schirmer Press, 1973), here are lyrics to Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee attributed to Furry Lewis. This version appears virtually word for word on a Dave Van Ronk recording from the 60's. ^^

BILLY LYONS AND STACK O'LEE

I remember one September, on one Friday night,
Stack O'Lee and Billy Lyon, had a great fight,
Crying, when you lose your money, learn to lose.

Billy Lyon shot six bits; Stack O'Lee bet he passed,
Stack O'Lee out with his forty-five, said "You done shot your last."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.

Lord, a woman came a-running, fell down on her knees,
Crying, "O Mister Stack O'Lee, don't shoot my brother, please."
When you lose your money--

Now you talking about some gambler, oughta seen Richard Lee,
Shot one thousand dollars, and come out on a three,
Crying, when you lose your money, learn to lose.

Lord, the judge told the sheriff, "We want him dead or alive.
How in the world can we bring him in, when he totes a forty-five?"
When you lose your money, learn to lose.

Lord, the woman told the judge, "My husband's name Jack Shelf.
Wanna 'rest poor Stack O'Lee, better go somewheres else."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.


I am not at all confident that the form of these lyrics will remain in "stanza" form once I submit. If someone would send me message on my personal page as to "how to force the end of line" when typing lyrics, I would appreciate it. I'm sure I read about it somewhere in the past, but cannot recall.

Thanks in advance,

DW

HTML line breaks added --JoeClone, 29-Sep-01.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Peter T.
Date: 12 Oct 97 - 10:56 AM

Dear DW, the easiest is, where you want the break, to type an arrow bracket, the thing that looks like two thirds of a left pointing triangle, followed by the letters br, followed by the arrow bracket pointing right. This is HTML code for a break. The Net recognises things within those brackets as instruction code. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 12 Oct 97 - 08:05 PM

Tom Rush also recorded dwditty's version.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Gene
Date: 09 Jan 98 - 11:03 PM

RE: The list of 125 recorded versions of Staggerlee posted above HAS MOVED TO:

http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/stagger.html


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: chet w
Date: 09 Jan 98 - 11:34 PM

Doc Watson did a great version of Stack-o-Lee. The last verse, after the hanging is:

Stack grabbed the devil by the collar Throwed him up on the shelf Said, Get out of here, you son of a gun I'll run this place myself I'm that bad man They call me Stack-o-Lee

Doc Watson is a great source of quality versions of just about anything. The version of Staggerlee/Stack-o-Lee that I do is a combination of the ones by Doc and Taj Mahal. I'm going to work in some of the wonderful Furry Lewis verses above. Thanks for those.

Chet W.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STAG O'LEE
From: Gene
Date: 10 Jan 98 - 01:47 PM

Here is one of many versions of STAG O'LEE
From "THE WORLD's FAVORITE HOOTENANNY Sing Along Songs"
^^

It was early, early one morning
When I heard my bulldog bark
Stag O'Lee and Billy Lyons
Was squabblin' in the dark.

Refrain: A mean one was he, Stag O'Lee!

Stag O'Lee, he told Billy Lyons
Tell me why you be like that?
You win all my money, Bill
You win my Stetson hat.

Refrain:

Stag O'Lee, he went out a-walkin'
In the red-hot broiling sun
Went and shot poor Billy Lyons
With his old forty-one.

Refrain:

Billy Lyons, he had a fam'ly
Wife and kids, a nice, neat flat
Stag O'Lee made Missus Lyons
A widow dressed in black.

Refrain:

Thousand dollars, that was the bounty
For a noose 'round Stag O'Lee
They are aiming for to hang him
The devil still goes free.

Refrain:


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 10 Jan 98 - 08:59 PM

I have seen it spelled Stack O Lee too!

The Furry Lewis version is my favorite. He does some good guitar picking in it. In that it is Billie Lyons's sister who pleads for his life before Stagerlee shoots him.

The Mississippi John Hurt version is a different story. In that Stagerlee shoots Billy because he stole his $5 Stetson Hat, whereas in most other versions, he shoots him because of a gambling argument. I would call that my second favorite.

Of course Hurt makes up for it with Louis Collins who does get shot in a gambling argument under conditions similar to those in which Billy Lyons was shot.

There was a court case, of which there is ballads about the $5 hat case, but I don't recall the details. It is not Stagerlee. I have read that the "original" John Hardy was arrested for shooting a man over something like $5.

Here is a question for John Hurt experts. I seem to recall he has two versions of Stagerlee. One where he says "that cruel Stagerlee" and one where he says "that mean ol' stagerlee." Am I remembering correctly, or am I confusing two different versions.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 11 Jan 98 - 06:05 PM

I know Mississippi John Hurt sang "cruel Staggerlee" but I havent heard "mean ol'" although I've seen written versions like that.

Although Staggerlee was probably based on a real person he was also a legendary figure in African Americal folklore. He was sort of an evil Paul Bunyon who started San Francisco earthquake by pulling the water pipe in a saloon.

The way I heard the story is that Staggerlee sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a white Stetson hat. The hat had magic powers that that, among other things, protected Staggerlee from the law. When he lost the hat to Billy he lost his protection so they were able to arrest and execute him. I haven't heard or seen any version of the song that explicitly describes the hat as magic, though.

John Hurt's version has one verse about the trial:

Gentlemen of the Jury, what do think of that?
Staggerlee shot Billy DeLyon 'bout a five dollar Stetson hat
That bad man, Cruel Staggerlee


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 11 Jan 98 - 06:50 PM

Found it. It was posted in rec.music.folk on December 28, 1997 by the informative Abby Sale under his daily "Happy."

According to the post, the incident happened on December 28, 1895 and was reported in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Lee "Stag" Sheldon, a carriage-driver, shot William Lyons, dockhand, when Lyons snatched his hat after the two had been arguing politics. Look under Stag Lee on a Dejanews search and the whole article will come up.

BTW, there was some debate over this song on one of the folk music newsgroups when someone asked what was the first folk rock song. Considerable numbers held out for the R & B version of Stagger Lee, but House of the Rising Sun by the Animals seems to have won it. ( I go with Stagger Lee) It of course raised the argument about what was folk and what was rock.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 12 Jan 98 - 08:50 AM

That's interesting information about St. Louis. I'm not saying it's wrong but I have four sources that put the murder in Memphis and three that give Lee as Staggerlee's last name. Two say he was Richard Lee, related somehow to the Lee family of Memphis who owned a stamboat line. One says he was Jim Stack Lee, mulatto son of Stack Lee, a Confederate cavalryman. There was also a steamboat on the Mississippi before the murder called the Stack-o-Lee. In the songbook "Outlaws and Outcasts" Jerry Silverman claims to have had the great grand nephew of Billy Lyons as a student.

A newspaper clipping, thoough, would be harder evidence than anything I've seen.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Jan 98 - 07:12 PM

a man with a good watch always knows the time....a man with two watches is never sure....


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 12 Jan 98 - 09:27 PM

A man with a non working watch knows the exact time twice a day.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Bill D
Date: 12 Jan 98 - 09:51 PM

nahhhh...the WATCH is right twice a day...the man has no idea when that is...


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Barry
Date: 13 Jan 98 - 12:14 AM

sounds like a song, " I asked the mate which watch was mine O" Barry


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 13 Jan 98 - 12:07 PM

I'd be happy just to know what day it is.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Bert
Date: 13 Jan 98 - 04:15 PM

"the first folk rock song"

Is no one going to bite on that one.
My candidate would be "Rocking through the Rye" by Bill Hailey. But then my definition of folk is quite broad.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 14 Jan 98 - 01:11 AM

I won't try for the first, but there was folk-rock way before the term was coined. Johnny Horton did "The Battle of New Orleans", Jimmie Rodgers (not THE Jimmie Rodgers) did "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine."

I don't know where you want to put skiffle but Lonnie Donnegan did the whole Leadbelly songbook with drums and electric guitar before the Animals did "House of the Rising Son."


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Subject: Lyr Add: MRS. DELION'S LAMENT
From: Dale Rose
Date: 14 Jan 98 - 12:34 PM

Here's Jim Ringer's take on the Staggerlee story.

Mrs. DeLion's Lament
Jim Ringer
from Any Old Wind That Blows Philo 1021, 1975.

Stagalee walked down by the levee, just about the break of day
There he met old Billy DeLions and he set him down to play
Billy DeLions was a good ol' boy, but he learned just a little too late
He never shoulda swore Stagalee's seven was a goddam hard luck eight
So Stagalee told Billy DeLions well you can't get away with that
You got my money and my forty dollar suit, can't have my Stetson hat
Now if you still here when I get back with my butcher knife and gun
I'm gonna cut you if you stand still, and I'll shoot you if you run.

Cause I'm Stagalee, boys, he's comin' round the bend
He ain't doin' nothin' but just killin' off good men
He's long and he's tall and he do not wear no shoes
You cannot tell his footprints from a horse or a mule.

Stagalee he went a'walkin' in the red hot blazin' sand
Said I feel so mistreated, Lord, I could shoot most any man
Then he walked back down, found Billy DeLions and its a sad, sad thing to tell
Lord he cut him deep and he shot him down, and he laughed when Billy fell
Then he stuck his nose in the sheriff's face, and what do you think he said
You know the man I run from ain't been born, and his momma, she's done dead
Well, the sheriff come at Stagalee next morning just at dawn
With 98 deputies, the National Guard, and a brand new Gatling gun.

They lookin for Stagalee, boys, he's comin' round the bend
He ain't doin' nothin' but just killin' off good men
He's long and he's tall and he do not comb his hair
And in his face he look just like some goddam grizzly bear.

When the fight was done, they took Stagalee down to the old courtyard
In 200 pounds of loggin' chain with a Sherman tank on guard
Ol' judge he grin from ear to ear, said I see you standin' there
You killed 42 deputies and Billy DeLions and you goin' to the 'lectric chair
Ol' Stagalee shrugged his shoulders, said I guess my gamblin's done
But I'll eat your face for breakfast, Judge, if you try to take away my gun
With his six gun held in his right hand, they put him in the 'lectric chair
Said you ain't gonna put no headpiece on or cut my curly hair.

Cause I'm Stagalee, boys, he's comin' round the bend
He ain't doin' nothin' but just killin' off good men
He's long and he's tall and he do not comb his hair
And in his face he look just like some goddam grizzly bear.

When Stagalee reached the gates of Hell, he put the imps all on the run
Foamin' at the mouth and cussin' up a streak and wavin' around his gun
Walked right up in the devil's face, said I like your place just fine
I wanna shoot some body so goddam bad, (like I??) shot Billy DeLions
Devil he told Stagalee, now don't you lose your self control
You know you can't shoot Billy DeLions no more, there ain't room for no more holes
So Stagalee he told the devil, what you say we have some fun
You can stick me with your pitchfork and I'll shoot you with my gun.

Cause I'm Stagalee, boys, he's comin' round the bend
He ain't doin' nothin' but just killin' off good men
He's long and he's tall and he do not wear no shoes
You cannot tell his footprints from a horse or a mule.

From the notes: I'd like to thank my friend, Jon Adams, who may currently be living in Portland (he was at last report) for the idea for "Mrs. DeLion's Lament." I'm not sure just how much of his words and melody I used. Maybe it's a direct lift in which case there was no intent to rip him off. It's just that when I head Billy, Warren and Peter on the horns, I wanted to use them, and didn't have any song that they fit on really well.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 14 Jan 98 - 07:27 PM

Well, it should be easy enough to test the veracity of Abby Sale's post. Maybe someone in St. Louis can go to the library archives and look up that paricular issue of the Globe-Democrat, and see if the article on the shooting is there. Presumably it would be reported the day after the shooting or soon thereafter.

Show-Me staters, please advise us!


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 15 Jan 98 - 07:44 PM

Just to pick a few nits. The other Rodgers's name is spelled Jimmie [F] Rodgers, which is handy for writing and searching the net, but not for pronouncing.

In the 60s, folk programs tended to refer to Jimmie Rodgers (The singing brakeman, yodeler, etc) as the "legendary Jimmie Rodgers" to distinguish him from the more modern Jimmie.

CAUTION; The above was written by the world's worse speller!

One more thing. I was listening to an Ella Fitzgerald number called "Rock it For Me". She uses the phrase "Rock and Roll". This might be the first use of the phrase in a song. Unfortunately, it is a cheapie album, and they don't give recording details. The music bears no resemblance to Rock, R&B or Rock and Roll, by the way, and from it's style I would say it is made in the 40s.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Barry
Date: 15 Jan 98 - 10:22 PM

Other references to "rock & roll" 'Oh rock & roll (or row) me over Johnny one more day' & 'Oh roll rock her bars, heaver 'er hi oh rock 'er roll'. I think you could safely say sailors have been rockin & rollin for ages. Barry


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 24 Jan 98 - 02:00 AM

While trying to find out more about the Staggerlee-St. Louis connection (without actually going to St. Louis) I found this page:Stagger Lee: A Historical Look at the Urban Legend It mentions the St. Louis article as well as just about everything already mentioned.

One other note, I keep reading references to other folktales involving Staggerlee. Except for one rather obscene poem, I haven't found any.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 26 Jan 98 - 05:57 PM

Interesting essay. It is hard to know what to believe, even though it seems there was indeed a newspaper article as Abby Sale stated.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Earl
Date: 27 Jan 98 - 08:43 AM

I think there must have been more than one Staggerlee and maybe more than one murder. There is certainly more than one song. The name Billy Lyons and the reference to the hat must have come from the St. Louis murder.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: sc
Date: 05 Feb 99 - 12:46 PM

taj mahal did another version live on this little demo cd from ruf records. (free from Blues Revue magazine). The ending is different than what max left. I'd give my stetson for those lyrics. You can barely understand what taj is sayin.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: sc
Date: 05 Feb 99 - 12:51 PM

UVa has a public radio station. they have in their homepage a section listing all stagger lee songs and the artists.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 08 Feb 99 - 05:37 AM

There is an interview with Mississippi John Hurt in which he discusses Stagger Lee. He puts him in the company of Jessie James.

Click here to read the interview.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Art Thieme
Date: 09 Feb 99 - 02:13 AM

I've always heard that the man's name was simply LEE and he was a STACKER OF COTTON BALES on the docks of New Orleans---therefore STACKERLEE.

Art


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 09 Feb 99 - 03:33 AM

In 'The Journal of American Folklore' Vol. XXIV July- Sept 1911, Howard W. Odum, in an article entitled 'Folk-Song and Folk-Poetry as Found in the Secular Songs of the Southern Negroes', prints two versions of Stagolee which he collected. Between the versions he writes:

"The above version is usually sung in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee, though it is known in Alabama and Georgia, besides being sung by the negro vagrants all over the country."

Sorry, but I haven't time to print them out just at the moment.

Brian


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Nathan Sarvis
Date: 09 Feb 99 - 03:55 PM

An interesting point, in the interview Murray links above,, Mississippi John Hurt insists that Stagger Lee was a white man.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STAGOLEE (from Odum and Johnson)
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 09:37 PM

Lots of stories about Stackolee, few of which agree on details. The following is quoted from The traditional Ballad Index, California State Univ. Fresno:
"On Dec. 29, 1895, William Lyons (levee hand) and Lee Sheldon (coach driver nicknamed "Stag" Lee) were drinking at a tevern in St Louis, MO. A political discussion began; in the heat of the argument Lyons knocked off Sheldon's hat and Sheldon promptly pulled a pistol and shot him dead. He was arrested and tried; the first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted in a second trial and served time in prison, dying in 1916.
A St. Louis judge who has researched the case suggests that Sheldon had received a spell from a hoodoo woman, giving him exceptional sexual potency. The talisman for that spell was his hat, so knocking it from his head was no ordinary insult..-PJS" No reference in given.

In one of the posts above, versions found by Odum are mentioned.

Lyr. Add: STAGOLEE

Stagolee, Stagolee, what's dat in you' grip?
Nothin' but my Sunday clothes, I'm goin' to take a trip.
Oh, dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.

Stagolee, Stagolee, where you been so long?
I been out on de battle fiel' shootin' an' havin' fun.
Oh, dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.

Stagolee was a bully man, an' ev'ybody knowed,
When dey seed Stagolee comin' to give Stagolee de road.
Oh, dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.

Stagolee started out, he give his wife his han';
"Goodbye darlin', I'm goin' to kill a man.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Stagolee killed a man and laid him on de flo'.
What's dat he kill him wid? Dat same ole fohty-fo'.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Stagolee killed a man an' laid him on his side,
What's dat he kill him wid? Dat same ole fohty-five.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Out of house an' down de street Stagolee did run,
In his hand he held a great big smok'n' gun.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Stagolee, Stagolee, I'll tell you what I'll do;
If you'll git me out'n dis trouble I'll do as much for you.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Ain't it a pity, ain't it a shame?
Stagolee was shot, but he don't want no name.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Stagolee, Stagolee, look what you done done:
Killed de best ole citerzen; now you'll have to be hung.
Oh, dat man, etc.

Stagolee cried to de jury, "Please don't take my life.
I have only three little children an' one little lovin' wife."
Oh, dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.

Odum and Johnson, 1925 (Negro Press reprint of 1968), "The Negro and His Songs," pp. 196-198. See Brian Hoskin post, above, for comments by Odum.

Some versions borrow verses from Frankie and Albert (Johnny).


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Fred Miller
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 12:19 AM

God'll take care of your three little children
and I'll take care of your wife
you done stole my stetson hat
and I'm bound to take your life.


I heard that he was a bad man.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 07 Jun 03 - 10:05 PM

NY Times book review, "Stagolee Shot Billy." Stagolee has little relevance to the African-American of today.

Stagolee and gangsta


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Nerd
Date: 07 Jun 03 - 10:41 PM

I've read the book, and I'd say Stagolee still has great relevance. Certainly the author thinks so!

It's very good on the history, not so great on the interpretation. In other words, he shows a lot about who the original person was on whom the song is based, and makes a very convincing case, but he could have developed the analysis more in terms of what the song means to people. Still, by and large it was a good, groundbreaking book.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Nerd
Date: 08 Jun 03 - 12:43 AM

Interesting review. I'd still disagree on many points, but the reviewer is right that Brown's interpretations are limp, and that he blows up the importance of Stagolee somewhat. For example, Brown claims that hip-hop culture's use of consumption practices as a status symbol (wearing certain brands of clothes, for example) is a result of Stagolee doing so. But obviously, the fact is that BOTH Stagolee AND hip-hop culture are actually reflecting the lives of real black people, for whom clothes are and have been status symbols; it's not a case of hip-hop imitating the blues, but of art imitating life.

That said, despite what the author of the review may think, those baggy pants and brand names really WERE about status, however they might have originated in prisoners' culture or the necessity of wearing clothes designed for whites. So both guys get some things right and others wrong, methinks... and the book is still worth a read.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 08 Jun 03 - 12:48 AM

I remember the baggy pants, tight at the ankles, worn by Latinos back in the 1940s (or was it 1950s?). Was it called a zoot suit? Nerd, I agree, status symbols are involved.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: jaze
Date: 08 Jun 03 - 10:10 AM

The Youngbloods with Jesse Colin Young did a version of this song on an early lp. I just remember it was different from the MJH version. Now I'm gonna have to go and try and find that lp....


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 24 Oct 03 - 11:03 AM

I read once that Stackolee was based on a West African demon/god of fire with a similar sounding name. Anybody know anything about that?


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Oct 03 - 04:15 PM

Guest- pure fakelore.


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Nerd
Date: 25 Oct 03 - 01:48 PM

Stackolee was based on a man whose last name was Lee, and whose nickname was Stag or Stack. The book Stagolee Shot Billy makes that abundantly clear. It documents the fight (which took place in St. Louis, not Memphis or New Orleans) and the case at good length. At the same time, there was a Mississippi riverboat called Stack o lee which I believe was owned by another Lee family, though I forget the details. That's how Stag Lee became Stackolee to people who didn't know him.

There's little room in there for a West African demon, but West African Aesthetics may inform the structure of the Blues Ballads about Stackolee, as many of them resemble praise songs (vignettes about a powerful man, and his qualities described, not in any particular order) rather than Euro-American ballads (linear narrative). This is speculative, but some scholars have made this argument about African America Badman and Hero ballads generally.

One thing that did happen was that characters like Stackolee and Railroad Bill were ascribed supernatural powers. This can be traced to the African American magical tradition of Hoodoo, which does go back to African (Yoruba and Congo) roots. So some characteristics associated with West African supernatural powers may have crept into the story sometimes. I'd recommend John Roberts's book From Trickster to Badman on this. (That's John Roberts the African-American folklorist and past president of the American Folklore Society, not John Roberts the English Folksinger!)


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 10:04 AM

Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd seems to owe something to Stakolee .Is there a record of Woody singing the song?


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 10:57 AM

I remember Pretty Boy Floyd from my boyhood- I was about 10 years old when he was killed. He was white, a young punk of no merit, son of dirt-poor farmer parents. He worked for bootleggers in Kansas City, robbed banks, and killed a number of innocent people.
This took place during the worst of the Depression, the dirty Thirties. He was a sort of folk hero to poor sharecroppers and farmers, because robbing banks was robbing the rich. He sometimes took refuge on po' white farms.

The Seeger version in the DT and the Woody Guthrie original are nonsense, an attempt to make a hero out of a bank-robbing killer who sometimes passed out money to people who hid him. Story at
Pretty Boy


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 11:04 AM

Oh, well- the Floyd story was at http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3935.

The Woody Guthrie song is at http://www.geocities.com/nashville/3448/pretty.html
Pretty Boy


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Subject: RE: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 11:08 AM

Still having trouble with error 404. Sometimes now I can't get in to Mudcat at all.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: kbr
Date: 06 May 04 - 05:58 AM

Hi, all.

This is intriguing. I am curently looking for the words of a version that I remember from the UK skiffle days, as sung by... (Damn! Another 'senior moment'). Anyway, this version went like:

"It was on Christmas morning,
The time was round about ten,
When Staggerlee shot Billy Lyons,
And landed in the Jefferson pen.

Billy Lyon's old woman,
She was a regular sinner,
She was home that Christmas morning,
Cooking Billy's dinner.

When a messenger boy came to the window,
And knocked upon the door,
He said your man is lying there,
Dead upon the bar-room floor..."

And that's about all I can (coherently) remember; there's more about appealing to the jury to "let Staggerlee go" because of his "poor old aged mammy..." and "Sherrif, oh, sherrif, I just can't sleep... Cos the ghost of Billy Lyons has found my head a place to weep..."

Is this familiar to anyone?

kbr


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 04 - 07:37 PM

While I really enjoy the origins of the lyrics, I think we should all just enjoy the song, what ever your afovorite version would be.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Nerd
Date: 09 Jul 04 - 09:46 PM

Hey, GUEST, it's been a year, but...

yes, Woody sang and recorded Stagolee.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 08 Oct 04 - 04:11 PM

KBR, that sounds like the Grateful Dead (Robert Hunter)'s version, especially the Christmas reference to start it off.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: PoppaGator
Date: 08 Oct 04 - 05:19 PM

Referring back to the original query, from October '97:

The melody common to most of the "folk-music" Stagger Lees, Stack-O-Lees, etc., is markedly different from that used on the Lloyd Price recording. His hit record used a version well-known in the New Orleans boogie-woogie piano tradition, which is markedly different from most of the folk-guitar versions which are so similar to each other (melodically if not lyrically), such as John Hurt's, Taj Mahal's etc.

Also: I've heard lots of folks hereabouts use the term "Stagger Lee" in reference to stumbling drunkards reeling and staggering down the street. Obviously not the original meaning, if you believe even half the research about the incorrigible "bad man," but an interesting contemporary reinterpretation.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Oct 04 - 08:40 PM

Stagger Lee was responsible for the San Francisco earthquake.

He went into a bar for a drink. The bartender refused to serve him without seeing his money. Stagolee got mad, grabbed hold of the bar and tore it down. All over town, buildings collapsed, and a cloud of dust and smoke rose in the air. What happened was that when Stagolee wrenched out the bar, he pulled out the pipes. Since all the water pipes in town were connected, he tore them out too, causing the general disaster. (p. 178)

From Harold Courlander, 1963, "Negro Folk Music, U. S. A.," Columbia University Press.

Oh, dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come.
When Billy Lyons was pleading for his life, saying he had three little children, Stagolee responded (reliable sources):
Damn your little children,
Damn your lovin' wife.
You stole my good old Stetson hat,
An' now I'm goin' to have your life.

op. cit.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 30 Mar 05 - 06:52 PM

Randall Roberts, writing for the Riverfront Times, the local entertainment paper in St Louis, adds more specifics to the origin story.

Stagger Lee shot Billy Lyons, Eleventh Street and Convention Plaza

"On Christmas night 110 years ago at Bill Curtis' Saloon, a pimp named 'Stack' Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons. The fight began when Lee and Lyons, both drunk,started arguing over politics. Shelton grabbed Lyons' derby and smashed it. Billy snatched Sheltons' hat and demanded restitution. Shelton pulled out his .44. 'Give me my hat, Nigger!' he screamed, befotre gunning down Billy Lyons. He picked up his hat and walked out.
Within ten years, the crime evolved into one of the most recorded songs in history. 'Stack' has morphed into 'Stagger' and the song became 'Stagger Lee'. Over the course of the next century, the murder became an archetypal legend.
The saloon and its building have long since vanished, but the spot, a block west of the Edward Jones Dome, still endures its share of turmoil; the St Louis School Board owns the building. In fact, the side walk where Stagger pulled the trigger is stained with a splotch of red paint...or is it blood?
Lee lived just down the street, at 911 Tucker. Noted photographer Drew Wojchik now owns the building, and he has transformed the former brothel into an art gallery."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Severn
Date: 30 Mar 05 - 09:18 PM

A forerunner to the Lloyd Price piano based New Orleans version of "Stagger Lee" was a hit 78 on Lew Chudd's Imperial label (Imperial 5068) in 1950 by Archibald (real name-Leon T. Gross, 1912-1973)."Stack-A-Lee" was his only major hit, reaching #10 on the national R&B charts, but due to illness and a dispute with the musician's union, and a failure to tour, he never duplicated his success. He never recorded again after 1952, even when approached by such people as Dr. John, and played for years in Crescent City bars a bitter man over his experiences.

"Stack-A-Lee Pts. 1&2" can be heard on the EMI/Capital 4CD box set (E2-37350) and his entire Imperial output (prod. by Dave Bartholemew) can be heard on another 4CD box set on the English Proper label (Properbox 28).

Anyway, it was the first large scale hit of the song.


Severn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Severn
Date: 30 Mar 05 - 09:31 PM

I have memories of a friend of mine responding to a request for "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" that he didn't particularly want to fulfill (back when it was the equivalent of Rocky Top, Free Bird" or "Barrett's") by singing "I was standing on the corner when I heard my bulldog bark....." to that venerable tune, and damned if it didn't work!


Severn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Azizi
Date: 30 Mar 05 - 10:18 PM

Dorothy Scarborough's On The Tail of Negro Folksongs {originally published in 1925} has the following information and version of "Stagolee" [Folklore Associates edition, 1963, pp 92-93]

'Howard W. Odum, professor in the University of North Carolina, in an article in the Journal of American Folk-lore, reporrts several versions of Stagolee's carryings on. The first is sung by Negroes in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Alabama, as well as by Negro vagrants as they travel casually:

             Stagolee

Stagolee, Stagolee, what's dat in yo' grip?
Nothing but my Sunday clothes; I'm foin' to take a trip.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee, Stagolee, where you been so long?
I been on de battle-fiel' shootin' an' havin' fun.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee was a bully man an' everybody knowed,
When de seed Stagolee comin', to give Stagolee de road.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee started out, he gives his wife his han';
"Goodbye, darlin', I'm goin' to kill a man."
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee killed a man an' laid him on de flo'.
What's dat he kill 'im wid? Dat same ol' fohty-fo'.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee killed a man an' laid him on his side.
What's dat he kill 'im wid? Dat same ol' fohty-five.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Out o' de house an' down de street Stagolee did run,
In his hand he held a great big smoking gun.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee, Stagolee, I'll tell you what I'll do,
If you'll git me out o' dis trouble, I'll do as much for you.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Ain't it a pity, ain't it a shame,
Stagolee was shot, but he don't want no name!
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee, Stagolee, look what you done done.
Killed de bes' ole citizen; now you'll have to be hung.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

Stagolee cried to de jury an' to de judge: "Please don't take my life;
I have only three little children an' one little lovin' wife."
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

end of quote.

I wonder if the sentence "When de seed Stagolee comin', to give Stagolee de road." was a mishearing of "When de seed [seen] Stagolee comin', they give [gave] him the road"?
At least it seems to me that that is what that sentence means.


Also FWIW, "citizen" as found in the next to the last verse was a commonly used post Civil War term of respect that African Americans people gave to other Black people {and I suppose to others}.


Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Azizi
Date: 30 Mar 05 - 10:37 PM

Here's another version of Stagolee that I didn't find in the DigiTrad.. Like the preceding one this is from Dorothy Scarborough's "On The Tail of Negro Folksongs" {originally published in 1925; Folklore Associates edition, 1963, pp 93}

"A version [of Stagolee] with a different tune is sung more commonly in Georgia.

I got up one morning jes' bout four o'clock;
Stagolee wan' big bully done have one finish fight;
What 'bout? All 'bout dat rawhide Stestson hat.

Stagolee shot Bully; Bully fell down on de flo'.
Bully cry out, "Dat dohty-fo' hurts me so".
Stagolee done killed dat Bully now.

Sent for de wagon, wagon didn't come;
Loaded sown wid pistols an' all date Gatlin' gun.
Stagolee done kill dat Bully now,

Some giv' a nickel some giv' a dime;
I did n't five a red copper cent 'cause he's no friend of mine.
Stagolee done kill dat Bully now.

Carried po' Bully to de cemetary; people standin' round,
When preacher say Amen, lay po' body down.
Stagolee done kill dat Bully now.

Fohty-dollar coffin, eighty-dollar back,
Carried po' man to de cemetery, but failed to bring him back.
Ev'rybody been dodging Stagolee."

end of quote

FWIW, the line "give a nickel and a dime" is very common in African American folksongs including African American children's rhymes.

Also I believe that the line "I did n't five a red copper cent 'cause he's no friend of mine" refers to the collection that was taken up to pay for Bully's {Billy's??} funeral. [that space was in the text for some reason, maybe a typo, maybe not]

BTW, one line in this song says "Stagolee done killed that Bully now" and the others say "Stagolee done kill that Bully now"...It's possible that the one line with the word "killed" was a result of the author's writing the word as she was used to saying it..

[then again, anything is possible, right?]   


Azizi


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Severn
Date: 31 Mar 05 - 02:15 PM

Ian Tyson tried his own spin on things back in the "& Sylvia" years w/ something called "The Shark & The Cockroach" on the first Columbia album, by adding a third party.


Severn


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,The Old Mole
Date: 19 Apr 06 - 05:26 PM

I'm kinda amazed that in seven years of chewing on this song, no one has ever mentioned that the Clash did their own version of the Stagolee legend:


Stagger Lee met Billy and they go down to gambling


Stagger Lee throwed seven
Billy said that he throwed eight
So Billy said, hey Stagger! I'm gonna make my big attack
I'm gonna have to leave my knife in your back

Why do you try to cheat?
And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong?
To cheat the trying man
Don't you know it is wrong?
To cheat the trying man
So you better stop, it is the wrong 'em boyo

You lie, steal, cheat and deceit
In such a small, small game
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
You'd better stop, it is the Wrong 'Em Boyo

Billy Boy has been shot
And Stagger Lee's come out on top
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat Stagger man
You'd better stop
It is the Wrong 'Em Boyo

you must start all over again-all over again
don't you know it is wrong
You got to play it, Billy, play,
don't you know it is wrong
you got to play it, Billy, play
And you will find it is the right 'em boyo

But if you must lie and deceit
And trample people under your feet
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
Don't you know it is wrong
To cheat the trying man
You better stop.
It is the wrong 'em boyo(x6)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 02:28 AM

From George Seto:
    I can't get to write a new message into the above thread.

    I just heard about this Graphic Novel from Image Comics which
    is about the original characters, and it just came out. Here's the
    link:

    http://www.staggerleebook.com/sl_story.html
Thanks, George.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 04:28 AM

I was in my schoolyard ( Liverpool, UK, 1959), and a group of us lads were talking about our current favourite records. I mentioned Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee" ( which I loved). Another lad in the group said that it was an old song. Well, I saw red! (In retrospect, my reaction was undoubtedly to do with the fact that rock n' roll was my music! Not my parents or the previous generation). Anyway, one thing lead to another and there was a bit of punch-up. ( Incidentially, that was the last time I threw a punch in anger). A few years after this incident, I got heavily into folk and blues music and realised that the lad in the schoolyard was correct. I'm not quite sure where he got that information from, but I suspect his dad was probably a trad jazz fan.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 08:41 AM

Tunesmith: It's a damn good thing that lad didn't touch your Stetson hat!

Re: message from George. I suppose George heard the interview on CBC last night with Derek McCulloch, author of the graphic-novel version. McCulloch says that his one original observation concerning the song, is that in recordings by white singers, such as Woody Guthrie, it's "we" that hanged Stackalee, while for black singers, it's "they" that hanged the bad man. He also claims that those same white singers do not seem to identify Stackalee as a black man - he did not explain the basis of that insight .... Just repeating what McCulloch said in the interview ....

Re: the hat. I did see a version in print somewhere decades ago in which the hat is explicitly characterised as "magic".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Scoville
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 10:01 AM

Stagolee Shot Billy, by Cecil Brown.

I have not had the chance to read this yet but my dad said it was interesting.

"Stagolee" always amazed me because I don't believe I've ever heard the same version by any two artists. The first version of it I ever heard was the 1950's Lloyd Price one, but I've got a number of other covers now, and they are all quite different.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 10:35 AM

I've read it. Its is.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Morris-ey
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 11:40 AM

I like Nic Cave's version


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: voyager
Date: 08 Mar 07 - 04:31 PM

Here's the Woody Guthrie Stagolee Thread -

Woody Guthrie Stagolee Thread

I always liked the verse -

"Stagolee told the Devil
   Put your pitchfork on the shelf
   My name is Stagolee
   And I'll rule Hell by myself"

voyager


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: PoppaGator
Date: 22 Mar 07 - 07:11 PM

...in recordings by white singers, such as Woody Guthrie, it's "we" that hanged Stackalee, while for black singers, it's "they" that hanged the bad man...

Well, Mississippi John Hurt was certainly black, and in his version we find the lyric:

Gentlemen of the jury
Please don't fight and fuss;
Don't you know WE'D better kill him
Before he kills one of us?


The exception that proves the rule?

Of course, now that I think of it, any jury in that time and place would have been all-white. So I guess MJH is "quoting" some hypothetical white folks saying "we."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Charlie Baum
Date: 22 Mar 07 - 07:18 PM

Some new Stagolee/Stagger Lee performances

From movie Black Snake Moan
Samuel Jackson:
http://www.stereogum.com/mp3/Samuel%20Jackson%20-%20Stack-O-Lee.mp3

based on the roots version of Stack-o-lee by R.L. Burnside:
http://www.mc-records.com/html/rl_burnside_stackolee.html

(WARNING, the above are NOT G-rated versions!)

And an indispensible website on the subject:
http://stagoleeshotbilly.com/


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: bobad
Date: 24 Apr 09 - 10:04 PM

The Stackalee Variations

Excerpts from the Wikipedia page about Stackalee:

"William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Shelton, a carriage driver. Lyons and Shelton were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Shelton's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Shelton withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Shelton took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Shelton is also known as 'Stagger' Lee. " (St.Louis, Misouri, Globe-Democrat article from 1895)

Lee Shelton (also known as Stagger Lee, Stagolee, Stackerlee, Stack O'Lee, Stack-a-Lee and by several other spelling variants) was a black cab driver and a pimp convicted of murdering William "Billy" Lyons on Christmas Eve, 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri. The crime was immortalized in a blues folk song that has been recorded in hundreds of different versions. Lee Shelton was not just a common pimp, but as described by Cecil Brown, "Lee Shelton belonged to a group of pimps known in St. Louis as the 'Macks'. The macks were not just 'urban strollers'; they presented themselves as objects to be observed."

Shelton died in prison in 1912, of tuberculosis.

-Stackalee is, along with John Henry, the most important figure in afro-american oral traditions, one of the most persistent too, his legend being present in almost every new stage of developement of afro-american music in the 20th century. In a way he is the opposite of John Henry, his negative side, surely a "bad" man, with all the clichés of violence, gambling, booze and women surrounding him, but nevertheless became a "hero" for the black community, a symbol of resistance against white supremacy and racism.

-I found some really great articles on the net about Stagger Lee: The Stagger Lee Files is a great place to start exploring the myth and the legend, Stagger Lee.com has a very complet historical page and also a list of 421 recordings!, from Early Blues.com, there's a superb essay by Max haymes and here, another brillant essay by Angela Nelson who analyse the figure of Stagger Lee in rap music.

-There are two books also of interest on the subject, Cecil Brown's "Stagolee shot Billy" and Greil Marcus's essay "Sly Stone and the myth of Stagolee" in his book "Mystery Train".

-I've selected 60 performances, trying to represent all the musical traditions that shared the song and his legend. Once again, like "The John Henry Variations", i've classed the tracks according to musical thematics but once you have download them all, it's good to mix them, to make your own list of favorites,etc…

http://oldweirdamerica.wordpress.com/


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Stewie
Date: 25 Apr 09 - 12:19 AM

Tony Furtado's rendition is worth a listen:

Tony Furtado.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Stewie
Date: 25 Apr 09 - 01:03 AM

Surprisingly, there were only 3 commercial recordings of the song by old-time performers: Frank Hutchison, 'Stackalee' (Jan 1927); David Miller, 'That Bad Man Stackerlee', (ca May 1927); and Fruit Jar Guzzlers, 'Stack-O-Lee' (ca March 1928).

The Hutchison and Miller recordings preceded Furry Lewis' 'Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee' (Oct 1927) and Mississippi John Hurt's 'Stack O'Lee Blues' (Dec 1928), but not Ma Rainey's 'Stack O'Lee Blues' (ca Dec 1925).

[Info from Meade et alia and Dixon et alia].

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 25 Apr 09 - 05:56 AM

I like Nic Cave's version

Me too, but the video's pants. Here's a live version from BBC4:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xX_WVJDX4M

I once sang this in a singaround and was asked to leave. Maybe it's time to dig it out again...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: gd303uk
Date: 25 May 09 - 09:59 AM

William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Sheldon is also known as 'Stag'


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: gd303uk
Date: 25 May 09 - 10:09 AM

Lyons eventually died of his injuries. Sheldon was tried, eventually convicted, and served prison time for this crime. This otherwise unmemorable crime is remembered in a song.

The song was well known in African American communities along the lower Mississippi River by the 1910s. Before World War II, it was almost always known as "Stack O'Lee". W.C. Handy wrote that this probably was a nickname for a tall person, comparing him to the tall smoke-stack of the large steamboat Robert E. Lee. By the time that W.C. Handy wrote the explanation in the 1920s, "Stack O' Lee" was already familiar in United States popular culture, with recordings of the song made by such pop singers of the day as Cliff Edwards.

oops
i should hae read thie entire thread, wiki' beat me to the article printed in The St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1895


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 08:33 PM

I rememer a verse saying "his crabs carried shotguns to fight off the fleas".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Mysha
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 09:16 PM

Hi Azizi,

No, the sentence starts one line up:

Stagolee was a bully man, an' everybody knowed ... TO give Stagolee de road.

It's correct as it is.

                                                                      Mysha


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Azizi
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 10:46 PM

Hi, Mysha.

It took me a moment or so, but I'm pretty sure you are referring to my question in 2005 about this Stagolee verse that was included in Dorothy Scarborough's 1925 book On The Trail Of Negro Folk Songs :

Stagolee was a bully man an' everybody knowed,
When de seed Stagolee comin', to give Stagolee de road.
Oh dat man, bad man, Stagolee done come!

-snip-

One point I was trying to make in my post was that I had just realized that the word "seed" meant "seen".

But I appreciate the way you wrote

"Stagolee was a bully man, an' everybody knowed ... TO give Stagolee de road."

because I was reading it as

"Everybody 'knowed' that Stagolee was a bully."

But what you're saying is to act like that comma in that verse isn't there and read the sentence like this:

"Stagolee was a bully. And everybody knew that when they saw him coming, they'd better give him the road (meaning "get out of his way").

**

Thanks Mysha for breaking that down for me.

This kind of text analysis isn't necessarily that important in the scheme of things. But it can be fun. And sometimes-like in this example-you can learn how a "misplaced" period or comma can give a whole new meaning to what is said (or read, as the case may be).

Come to think of it, a "misplaced period" could lead to a whole 'nuther line of inquiry. But I'm not going there. :o)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: MissouriMud
Date: 23 Jun 09 - 02:51 PM

The Christmas time Billy Lyons shooting involving the hat that is mentioned in most versions of the song happened in St Louis (I can see the site from my window) - assuming the Globe Democrat reported it accurately in its newspaper a couple of days after the fact.   However it is clear that the story and the song soon eclipsed the facts and created in Stack a symbol of the original bad dude of the Mississippi River area with stops in Memphis, New Orleans, steam boats etc, no doubt compounded by similar names, events and people in those places. The story had the appeal of universal recognition - everyone knew a Stack and he was cool, as long as he didnt shoot you. The folk process happens to stories (even facts) as well as songs.

My only regret in reading the accounts is that Stack didnt die in the 'lectric chair with his head held up high saying "my six shooter never lied".   He didnt even die while in prison for the murder conviction - but for some later offense. I debated whether to leave that verse out of my version of the song - but I figured that it is a song not a history lesson (but I ususally explain the difference after the song).

For some reason St Louis seems to revel musically in its murders - besides Stagger Lee, the Frankie/Albert, and Duncan/Brady shootings can both be placed there by various sources although those facts too are probably clouded by legend that surrounded them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Richie
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:40 AM

Hi,

I was wondering if anyone has the lyrics to the bawdy 1903 version? I think I have the first verse.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 01:22 AM

The section of St Louis where Stagger Lee shot Billy, around 11th and Morgan, was a popular area for black Mississippi dockworkers in the late 1800s and up til the Second World War, and it was known as "Deep Morgan". It was an area of taverns and whorehouses (barrelhouses), and gave its name to Henry Brown's Deep Morgan Blues. St Louis in the early years of the twentieth century, and Deep Morgan in particular, became a hot bed for piano blues, and the birthplace of barrelhouse style. The style was inherited by latter day players in the area, and can be heard in the the rock 'n roll records of Chuck Berry and his piano player, Johnny Johnson, both Mound City natives. In fact, Berry's unique guitar phrasings had their origin in his attempts to mimic Johnny's barrelhouse piano style on songs like Johnnie B. Good.
For more info on the blues greats of Deep Morgan, click here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 01:25 AM

and here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Richie
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:42 PM

Cecil Brown calls it his favorite version, this is all I have;

The first documented lyrics collected in Memphis, date 1903 are bawdy:

Poor old Nellie Sheldon, when she heard the news,
She's sittin' on the bedside, lacin' up her high-heeled shoes,
Bulls got my sweet-f...in' Papa Stackerlee.

If anyone has the complete lyrics or any versions from 1800s. Apparently Lomax found one, or at least someone claiming they learned it in the 1800s.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Richie
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 12:53 PM

Apparently Nick Cave's version is similar:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYyl78qQPVI

Anyone know if this is based on the 1903 version?

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 01:43 PM

Lyr. Add: Stackolee
Coll. John Hibbert

Stackolee was a bad man;
Everybody knows
Spent one hundred dollars
On them high-tone fancy whores.
They all loved Stackolee.
2
Billy Lyons said, "Stackolee,
Please don't take my life.
You make an orphan of my son,
And a widow of my wife."
Mean old bad man, Stackolee.
3
"I don't give a damn for your son.
I don't give a damn for your wife.
You done stole my Statson hat.
I'm going to take your life."
Mean old bad man, Stackolee.
4
What do you know about this?
What the hell you know about that?
Stackolee killed Billy Lyons
Over a damned old Stetson hat.
Poor old Stackolee.
5
They took him to the jailhouse
And they threw his ass in a cell.
All the pimps and whores went on down
To bid poor Stack farewell.
Poor old Stackolee.
6
Policeman said to Stackolee-
His eyes all filled with tears-
"The judge sure won't be hard on you;
He'll just give you ninety-nine years."
Poor old Stackolee.
7
Stack's girl was a good girl,
None of that low-down trash.
I'll make the bail for Stackolee,
Give that sheriff a piece of ass."
Poor old Stackolee.
8
She hustled in the morning.
She hustled in the night.
She got so thin from hustling
She was an awful sight.
She'd get the dough for Stackolee.
9
One night it rained like hell
And she had an awful time.
She said, "I won't break Stackolee's luck."
She shook her fanny for a dime,
Making bail for Stackolee.
10
Then she got a dirty old crib
Right behind the jail.
She hung a sign on the front door:
"Fresh fish here for sale."
She'd get the bail for Stackolee.
11
One night she had more bad luck.
An old nigger gave her a buck.
She said, "You know I got no change,
So give yourself another fuck.
For poor old Stackolee."
12
One night there came a telephone call
And everybody cried.
It said that at nine o'clock
Poor old Stack had fried.
Means a funeral for Stackolee.
13
When Stackolee's girl friend
Heard this awful news,
She was lyin' on the torn bedspread
Havin' the electric chair blues,
Havin' the blues for Stackolee.
14
When they got to the graveyard
And saw that awful hole,
Those pimps and whores fell on their knees
And asked the Lord to save their souls.
Poor old Stackolee.
15
A high yeller pimp stepped out,
Said, "I ain't got much to say,"
Pulled a bindle and took a shot,
Said, "Like Stack, I'm on my way."
Poor old Stackolee.
16
They laid out poor old Stackolee
And laid him in his last hole.
All the whores and pimps gathered 'round and said
"Lord have mercy on his soul.
Poor old Stackolee."

Ed Cray, 1992, The Erotic Muse," Univ. Illinois Press (2nd Ed.).
pp. 149-152 with brief musical score.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 02:04 PM

Lee Shelton (Stagger Lee) was born March 16, 1865, in Texas. It seems that he was a 'mack' (maquereau), or pimp. He killed Billy Lyons in St. Louis in 1895.
"Godfather of Gangsta," Cecil Brown.
Godfather

The first record of the song is 1903 (not seen) according to the Traditional Ballad Index.

Also see Cecil Brown, 2003, "Stagolee Shot Billy," Harvard University Press.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 02:06 PM

Sorry-
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2003/may/09/artsfeatures


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Richie
Date: 26 Aug 09 - 05:36 PM

Thanks Q,

Another gr8 article can be found here:

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

Cave's lyrics are based on a version from 1956 referenced in the above article.

There are other pieces of the 1903 lyrics in Brown's book. I don't have it tho.

Richie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 01:08 PM

What was the source of the 1903 version? Was it a fragment or the complete lyrics?
It is mentioned in Trad. Ballad Index, but I couldn't fill out the reference.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 02:57 PM

"Early folklorists took an interest in the ballad as early as 1911, when Guy B. Johnson published the first version in the prestigious 'Journal of American Folklore'."
This quotation is attributed to Cecil Brown in the Guardian article linked above. The 1911 article in JAFL is by Howard W. Odum, not Johnson, although the versions were repeated in the jointly authored Odum and Johnson, 1925, "The Negro and His Songs."

Neither of the two versions is bawdy; they are "sung to different music," but the music is not given. No bawdy version is mentioned.

No sources, beyond a listing of the the southern states where the song was collected; the Missouri area is not included.

The song and its versions seems peculiarly disconnected from the actual event and its locale. The supposed central character, Lee Shelton, was a St. Louis pimp, but one with political connections. He was tried for the murder of Billy Lyons, posted $2000 bail, and the trial ended with a hung jury. He received 26 years in the second trial but was released after a short time. He pistol-whipped a man, was sentenced to prison, where he died in 1912. (from the Guardian article, quoting from Cecil Brown).

His victim, Billy Lyons, does not appear in the early versions printed by Odum and Odum and Johnson.
The song may have developed independently of the Shelton- Lyons event.

The song was first recorded by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians, 1923. Ma Rainey and her Georgia Band, 1925, was the first Black musician to use the title in "Stack O'Lee Blues," but this song is more related to "He was my man but he done me wrong" (Can be heard on redhotjazz.com/georgiajazzband.com). Evelyn Thompson recorded "Stagger Lee" in 1927 (not heard).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 27 Aug 09 - 04:07 PM

Lomax and Lomax, 1934, "American Ballads and Folk Songs," printed a version from a Miss Ella Scott Fisher, Texas, "sent, February 9, 1910," which gives Billy Lyons as the victim.

In the introductory discussion, it is evident that they (and Miss Lee) were attributing the event to Memphis, and searched for a tune there. The date seems questionable. The different voices give a vaudeville aspect to the version.

Lyr. Add: Stagolee
Version A

'Twas a Christmas morning,
The hour was about ten,
When Stagalee shot Billy Lyons
And landed in the Jefferson pen.
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
2
Billy Lyons old woman,
She was a terrible sinner,
She was home that Christmas mornin'
A-preparin' Billy's dinner.
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
3
Messenger boy came to the winder,
Then he knocked on the door,
An' he said, "Yer old man's lyin' there
Dead on the barroom floor."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
4
[Billy's old woman]
"Stagalee, O Stagalee,
What have you gone and done?
You've gone and shot my husband
With a forty-four gatlin' gun."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
5
[Stagalee's Friend]
Stagalee, O Stagalee,
Why don't you cut and run?
For here comes the policeman,
And I think he's got a gun."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
6
[Policeman, a little scared of Stagaleee]
"Stagalee, O Stagalee
I'm 'restin' you just for fun,
The officer jest wants you
To identify your gun."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
7
[Stagalee in jail]
"Jailer, O jailer.
I jest can't sleep;
For the ghost of Billy Lyons
Round my bed does mourn and weep."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
8
[Counsel for the Defense]
"Gentlemen of this jury,
You must let poor Stagalee go;
His poor and aged mammy
Is lyin' very low."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
9
[Counsel for the Prosecution]
"Gentlemen of the jury,
Wipe away your tears,
For Stagalee's aged mammy
Has been dead these 'leven years."
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
10
Stagalee's old woman,
She hung around the jail,
And in three days she had him out
On a ten-thousand-dollar bail.
O Lordy, po' Stagalee!

(Three days to raise $10,000 bail? A busy lady!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: MissouriMud
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 12:45 PM

Q - Fascinating - I am curious about the reference to the "Jefferson pen" in the first verse of the "Fisher" version, if the Lomaxes and Mrs Fisher thought the song was Memphis based.   Lee Shelton of the 1895 St Louis incident was housed in the Missouri State pen in Jefferson City MO, which would at least potentially permit a reference to it as the "Jefferson Pen", although I'm not sure I have ever seen that precise reference.   Is there is a "Jefferson Pen" that would come into play for a Memphis TN crime? As best I can tell the Tennessee State Pen has been in Nashville since prior to the 1890's and I don't think it is referred to as the Jefferson Pen. The County and City of Jefferson TN are no where near Memphis or the state capitol, so if there is a County Pen in TN referred to as the Jefferson Pen, why would someone involved in a Memphis crime end up there? Is there some other jail associated with a Memphis crime that may have been called the "Jefferson Pen"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 01:18 PM

MissouriMud, the MO pen in Jefferson City is the only one I can find; the song, like many that are widespread in tradition, departs from factual content.

It is difficult to trace the growth of the song and its variants; more information is needed on its beginnings and spread. Other crimes in other localities than the Shelton-Lyons shooting in St. Louis may contribute to some versions.

The development of an event into legend is always interesting.

I also would like to see original news reports; were they detailed and abundant or was it a back-page event?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: MissouriMud
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 04:40 PM

I agree that there are other possibilities - it just seemed to be an odd juxtaposition of the Lomaxes saying they thought it was a Memphis event when the only locale in the song they were given appeared to be a Missouri reference.

    I have seen the Globe Democrat article quoted and I thought I had seen a web site that had an actual picture of it - but I can't find it now. Some of the quoted versions vary slightly, some appearing to have been "cleaned up" by deleting some of the racial designations in the original. However absent that they are fairly uniform in their content - which was itself fairly modest.

The article according to one source that I trust stated:

Saint Louis Globe Democrat
December 28, 1895
SHOT IN CURTIS' PLACE
"William Lyons, 25, colored, a levee hand, living at 1410 Morgan Street, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon, also colored. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. The discussion drifted to politics and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. He was removed to the City Hospital. At the time of the shooting the saloon was crowded with negroes. Sheldon is a carriage driver and lives at 911 North Twelfth Street. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Sheldon is also known as 'Stag' Lee."

However, like you I would feel better seeing it in print myself and seeing the context. I suppose I could mosey up to the City Library about 10 blocks away (4 blocks from the scene of the crime) and see what their microfilm records for the Globe Democrat paper look like - Not that it makes a lot of difference given the "folk process".

The St Louis City coroner's records for 1850-1900 have been computer indexed by the Missouri secretary of state's office so I was able to look up the computer entry for Lyons, William, 12/26/1895 black, male, cause of death: Homicide - gunshot wound to abdomen.
http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/coroners
-search for Lyons in 1895.
One can request the records by citing the id and record storage info in the computer entry. It might be interesting, but probably wouldn't add anything to the discussion, unless the index is wrong.

I have no doubt that there was an incident in St Louis in 1895. However, it is quite likely that there were other crimes in other locations involving someone with a nickname like "Stag" or "Stack" Lee - possibly a common nickname - and a person with a name like Billy Lyons - another not uncommon sounding name, and they may have all gotten jumbled together in the course of the song's evolution. By the time songs of that vintage had solidified they rarely are 100% fact based - particularly a single set of facts.

I was intrigued to see that the first apparent reference to the song - although not a written version of the song itself- was by a blck newspaper in Leavenworth Kansas in late 1897.
"It is understood that Prof. Charlie Lee, the piano thumper, will play 'Stack-a-Lee' in variations at the K. C. Negro Press association. Scarcely any convention held in K. C. is complete unless Prof. Lee is down on the program. The professor is an idol on such a high pedestal in Kansas City that men, women and children fall on their knees in worship of him."
Leavenworth Herald, August 21, 1897, [p. 2].

It would have been interesting to hear what the words of the song were at that time. Obviously Stack had not "died in the 'lectric chair" by then.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Aug 09 - 06:08 PM

"Prof. Charlie Lee" ..."Stack-a-Lee" in variations"...

Now was the piano player referring to himself or to Lee Shelton??
Did he sing as well, or were these piano variations?
A pretty cryptic news item at this distance.

Yes, I would like to see the original Globe-Democrat item, although your quote seems normal for the times. Were there follow-up items at the time of the trial(s)? How does the legend get started? Of the many shootings across the country, why did this one fly?

In what version was the Stetson first mentioned? Probably an invention.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: MissouriMud
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 12:31 AM

I did go to the library and found the micro film of the original article in the Globe Democrat - I made a copy which is poor but if I can scan it and then somehow stick it into a message here I will.   For one thing the article is in the Dec 26, 1895 edition not the Dec 28 edition. A follow up story of the inquest (1 brief paragraph) is in the Dec 28 paper.   I also found an even briefer report of the shooting in the December 26 Post Dispatch.   There was a third newspaper available at the time but I ran out of time - I figured 2 was enough. Both articles initially mispell Shelton's name as Sheldon - which was later corrected.

In neither paper was the article prominently featured - in both it was basically buried in a "police blotter" type area sandwiched in among in among other shootings, stabbings etc - which were numerous but only briefly described in a short paragraph or two at most. I read in one web site that there were 6 shootings in St Louis on Christmas day that year - I didnt count them but there seemed to be a huge amount of violent crime being reported - so unless it was really sensational it ws pretty commonplace. Sad to say but if you were a minority I doint think they thought you normally were worth much press.   So in the Globe Democrat it is buried in the middle of page 11 with the minimal title "Shot in Curtis' Place - just as I had quoted in the prior post - right next to similar stories entitled "One Chinese Cuts Another" "QUARRELED ABOUT A MAN - Alice Roberts Disemboweled by Lulu Howard", "Officer Stabbed by Negro", "Shot By a Policeman" etc. The front page of the Globe Democrat was all national news - the War in Cuba and Washington legislation - very dry.

The Post Dispatch Article was similarly placed toward the rear of the news section, although it along with other local police doings there were listed to the side of the editorials and there was a certain amount of local crime on the front page, which was apparently deemed more interesting than this.   It is also adjacent to the Chinaman knifing story, and sevral other similar ones The Post Dispatch article bears the headline in fairly modest type: "SHOT IN A SALOON - Drinks and Politics Get a Bullet in William Lyons Stomach". The article is only 4 sentence,just slightly bigger than the space occupied by the headline, including two that read: "They were drinking and arguing about politics. War was discussed and Lyons was shot in the abdomen". No mention of the hat.

I think Stetson hats would have been common in Missouri at the time as in most parts of the country. I've seen nothing in the actual reports to identify Billy's hat as a Stetson but any person aspiring to be cool or wealthy would probably have wanted to have one.   So whether it is true or not in makes for a nice consistent story for the hat to be a Stetson. Stetson made more than just cowboy hats.   I have no idea when the reference first showed up.

Anyway if you want to see the original papers - I have them, but tell me how I can post them I did not track down other followup stories of the trial etc. There are sites that give the dates so it would be feasible, but I'm not planning to do it myself.

In terms of why the legend took off I can only speculate on a few possibilities a. among the St Louis black community the two men were well known and even were possibly representatives of rival political factions - at the inquest I gather there was a heated crowd, so I think the story resonated in the black community more than it did in the white press; b. if Sheldon did indeed take his hat and walk coolly out the door as reported by the Globe Dem - that bespeaks of a certain panache that could fuel the imagination, c. the subsequent trials may have been somewhat more publicized (possibly due in part to the prior reasons) - also Shelton got himself a fancy lawyer; d. the world was ready for an urban antihero


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Aug 09 - 03:25 PM

Missouri Mud, you describe the articles well. I have no need to get copies. Thanks for spending the time to look them up.
It would be interesting to see if the stories were more detailed at the time of the trial verdicts.

The Stetson may have shown up in reports of the trial.
Stetson hats were well thought of and in many styles, as you say. For a time they made they for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
I once had the style favored by President Truman which I picked up in a 'junktique' but gave it to my daughter for use in a play. I have 3-4 in the so-called Rancher style but seldom wear them anymore.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 30 Aug 09 - 04:13 PM

Those skiffle lyrics kbr mentions are from Stack O'Lee Blues by Ken Colyer's Skiffle Group, released in 1955. It's available on a compilation CD called Skiffle At Its Best.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,Guest, Ericka Clare
Date: 07 Sep 09 - 03:14 PM

As a child, I grew up listening to my grandfather sing StackoLee while playing the guitar. Although I cannot remember it in its entirety; this is what I do know:   Billy said to Stackolee, please don't take my life, I've got three little children, and a mighty sickly wife, but he's bad, bad, bad, bad, bad Stackolee.   Has anyone ever heard of, or have information on this version. I would love to know more about it.   Thanks, Ericka


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 01:17 PM

Guest Erica-
Lomax and Lomax (1934) print a rather long version with similar lyrics, which they say is "being sung in the honky-tonks and barrelhouses throughout Texas and Louisiana today." The words were furnished by "Sullivan Rock, rounder and roustabout on the docks of New Orleans," with music by "Windy Billy of the Louisiana State Prison at Angola." Probably edited by the Lomaxes.
A few verses:

Stack took out his Elgin, looked direc'ly at the time
"I got an argument to settle wid that bad man, Billy Lyon."

"Kiss me, good woman, you may not see me when I come back."
And Stack went runnin' up that Great Northern track.

Well, he got outside in front of de barroom, an' he eased up to the door,
Billy Lyon had his 44 special, pacin' up an' down de floor.

Billy Lyon began to scream, "Stack, don't take my life,
I've got five lil helpless chilluns an' one po' pitiful wife."

He shot him three times in the forehead an' two times in de side,
Said, "I'm goin' keep on shootin' till Billy Lyon died."

Billy Lyon got glassy, an' he gapped and hung his head,
Stack say, "I know by expression on his face dat Billy Lyon dead."

Mrs. Billy she went runnin' and screamin': "Stack, I don' b'lieve it's so.
You an' my lil Billy been frien's since many long years ago."
etc.

Some 40 couplets in the version. Some of these later versions were highly embroidered.

Version B, pp. 96-99, "Stagolee," John A. and Alan Lomax, 1934, :American Ballads and Folk Songs, Macmillan Co.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: MissouriMud
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 02:46 PM

Erikca - I am not familiar with a Stagolee verse that has those exact words - particularly the "Bad bad bad bad bad" - part - but a number of versions have verses that are close.

A version based on what McNeil collected from Vera Hall in 1947 for his Southern Folk Ballads goes:

Billy de Lyons said, "Stagolee
Please don't take my life
I've got two little babes at home
And a darling, loving wife;
You are a bad man You mean old Stagolee."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: meself
Date: 08 Sep 09 - 03:07 PM

Somewhere I heard the subsequent verse as something like:

Stackalee looked at Billy,
Said, Man, I'm gonna take your life;
God'll take care of your children,
And I'll take care of your wife.
Oh, that bad man, etc.


(Now that is a bad man!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 08:39 PM

Lyr. Add: Stackerlee
Bama, convict at Parchman

Now Stackerlee, he was a bad man
He wanted the round world to know
He toted a 32-20 and a smokeless 44.

Now Stackerlee, Lord, and Billy Lyon
They was gamblin' early one day
Stackerlee losin' money
And he throwed the cards away.

Now Stackerlee, he told Billy Lyon
"Billy, I'm sho' gonna take yo' life
You have winned my money, Stack
And I have found a foul dice."

Now Billy Lyon he told Stackerlee,
He says, "Stack, please don't take my life!
I have two little chillen
And my po' little weasely wife."

"Now one of them is a boy, Stack,
And the other one is a girl."
"But if you love yo' chillen, Billy Lyon,
You will have to meet them in the other world."

Now Stackerlee, he told Billy Lyon,
"Billy I thought you was a gambling man
You know you passed leads in the second
And you know you done fouled yo' hand."

Now Stackerlee, he shot Billy Lyon
Way down on the barroom flo'
It was early one mornin',
Just about fifteen to four.

Now Billy Lyon mother, she come runnin'
She said, "Lord, have mercy on my son
Po' Billy Lyon done got murdered
And I know he didn't have his gun!"

Alberta, Lord, Alberta
Baby don't you hear me calling you?
But you three times seven, Alberta,
And you know what you want to do.

I'm going to call up the undertaker
Lord, I'm going to ring up Mr. Moss
I'm going to ask those people
What will Alberta funeral cost.

I wants a two hundred dollar coffin
Lord, I wants a hundred dollar hearse
And that will put Alberta, I know,
Six feet in the earth.

Now give me water, Lord, when I'm thirsty,
Honey, give me whiskey when I'm dry
Give me Alberta when I need her
And Heaven when I die.

Now when I gets all up in Glory
Lord I'm gonna sit down on the golden stool
And I'm going to ask St. Gabriel
To blow me the "Worried Blues."

Somewhat confused version, but interesting nevertheless. Sung at Parchman Penitentiary, Mississippi, 1947, by a prisoner known as Bama.
Collector not named.
From "Stagger Lee," 2006, Derek McCulloch, drawn by Shepherd Hendrix, Image Comics.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 04:08 PM

Thanks MissouriMud for the research on the original GlobeDemocrat article. It's gratifying when an iconic song like this can be traced to its real roots.
I lived in the Central West End of St Louis from 2004-2006, and have great memories of my time there. I sure miss the concretes, Imo's pizza, and Saturday bicycle rides in Forest Park. Great town!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: GUEST,an unknown cover... !
Date: 15 Mar 10 - 06:09 PM

by UK band Procol Harum in 1969 as Long Gone Geek which is the B-side
of A Salty Dog ;)
Songwriters: Gary Brooker/Matthew Fisher-lyrics by Keith Reid.
Mastermad (BE)


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACKALEE (Dave Van Ronk)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 02 Jan 14 - 06:10 PM

Van Ronk's version is clearly based on Furry Lewis' song BILLY LYONS AND STACK O'LEE, which was posted earlier in this thread, here. However, Lewis' version contains only 6 verses, to Van Ronk's 13. So did Van Ronk invent 7 new verses? Or did Lewis sing more verses that we don't have? Or did Van Ronk get them somewhere else?


STACKALEE
As recorded by Dave Van Ronk on "Folksinger" (1963)

1. I remember one September, cold and frosty night,
Mister Stacker Lee and Billy de Lyons had a great fight,
Cryin' when you lose your money, learn to lose.

2. Old Stacker Lee shot six bits; Billy Lyons' bet he pass.
Stacker Lee out with his forty-five, says, "You done shot your last."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.

3. Lord, a woman comes a-runnin', fell down on her knees,
Cryin' "Lordy, Lord, Mister Stacker Lee, don't shoot my brother, please!"
When you lose your money—

4. Talk about some gambler, ought to see my Richard Lee.
He shot one thousand dollars and he come out on a three,
Cryin' when you lose your money, learn to lose.

5. Well ol' Stacker Lee got his pistol, ... got it fast,
Shot poor Billy through and through and he broke her lookin'-glass,
Cryin' when you lose your money—

6. Well the deputy says to the sheriff: "You want him dead or alive?
How in the world we gonna bring him in when he totes that forty-five?"
When you lose your money—

7. Old deputy leaves the office, puts his pistol on the shelf.
"You want to go and get that bad man, better do it by yourself."
When you lose your money—

8. Well they sent for the militia; wagons come,
Loaded up with pistols and a great big Gatlin' gun,
Cryin' when you lose your money, learn to lose.

9. Well the judge says to Mister Stacker Lee, "Mister bad-man Stacker Lee,
Gonna hang your body up and set your spirit free."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.

10. Well he's standin' on his gallows, head way up high.
Twelve o'clock we killed him; I was glad to see him die,
Cryin' when you lose your money—

11. Well there's a great big rumblin' underground; "Mama, what is that?"
"Ain't nothin' but old Stacker Lee down in hell with his John B Stetson hat."
Cryin' when you lose your money, learn to lose.

12. Well Stack says to the devil: "Devil, let's us have some fun.
You stab me with a pitchfork and I'll shoot you with my gun."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.

13. Well Stack says to the devil: "Put your pitchfork on the shelf.
I'm that bad man they call Stacker Lee; I'm gonna rule hell by myself."
When you lose your money, learn to lose.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 02 Jan 14 - 07:48 PM

His final three verses are new to me, but may appear elsewhere.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK O'LEE BLUES (from Ma Rainey)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 06 Jan 14 - 07:56 PM

This is the earliest vocal recording mentioning Stack O'Lee (however you spell it) I was able to identify. (There were a few earlier recordings of instrumental tunes called STACK O'LEE BLUES, done by the big jazz bands: Waring's Pennsylvanians, Frank Westphal and his Orchestra, and Herb Wiedoeft and his Orchestra, in 1923 and 1924.)

The tune is "Frankie and Johnny" and the refrain is very similar.


STACK O'LEE BLUES
As recorded by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Paramount 12357, 1925.

Stack O'Lee was a bad man, ev'rybody knows,
And when they'd see Stack O'Lee comin', they'd give him the road.
He was my man, but he done me wrong.

Stack O'Lee, Stack O'Lee, was so desp'rate and bad,
He'd take ev'rything his woman(?) would bring, and ev'rything they had.
He was my man, but he done me wrong.

Stack O'Lee's on the warpath, and you'd better run.
Oh, Stack holds a Gatlin'(?) and he'll kill you just for fun.
He was my man, but he done do wrong.

Stack O'Lee's in jail now; had his face turned to the wall.
Dirty women and old corn whiskey was the cause of it all.
He was my man but he done you wrong.

A hundred-dollar coffin and a eighty-dollar hack
Carried him to the cemetery, but it did not bring him back.
He was my man but he done me wrong.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACKALEE (from Frank Hutchinson)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 12:46 AM

Another early version.

STACKALEE
As recorded by Frank Hutchinson on Okeh 45106, 1927.

On an alley one dark and drizzly night
Billy Lyons and Stackalee had one terrible fight
All about that John B. Stetson hat.

Stackalee walked to the barroom and he called a glass o' beer.
He turned around to Billy Lyons, said: "What are you doin' here?"
"Waitin' for the train; please bring woman home.

"Stackalee, oh Stackalee, please don't take my life.
I've got three little childern and a weepin' lovin' wife.
You're a bad man, bad man Stackalee."

"God bless your childern; I'll take care o' your wife.
You stole my John B., and I'm bound to take your life,
All about that John B. Stetson hat."

Stackalee turned to Billy Lyons and he shot him right through the head.
Only taken one shot to kill Billy Lyons dead,
All about that John B. Stetson hat.

Sent for the doctor, well the doctor he did come.
"This morning(?), oh Stackalee, now what have you done?
You're a bad man, bad man Stackalee."

Six big horses and a rubber-tired hack,
They taken him to the cemetery; they failed to bring him back,
All about that John B. Stetson hat.

[Spoken:] Lookin' for old Stackalee, then.

On an alley, I thought I heard a bulldog bark.
It must 'a' been old Stackalee stumblin' in the dark.
He's a bad man; gonna land him right back in jail.

[Spoken:] How'd they catch old Stackalee?

Five police walked on to Stackalee; he's lyin' fast asleep.
Five police ... Stackalee; he jumped for forty feet.
He's a bad man; gonna land him right back in jail.

Got old Stackalee, they led him way back in jail.
They couldn't get a man around to go Stackalee's bail,
All about that John B. Stetson hat.

Stackalee said to the jailer: "Jailer, I can't sleep.
Round my bedside, the lice begin to creep,
All about that John B. Stetson hat."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: voyager
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 11:02 AM

"Stagolee was, undoubtedly and without question, the baddest nigger that ever lived. Stagolee was so bad that the flies wouldn't even fly around his head in the summertime, and snow wouldn't fall on his house in the winter."

– Julius Lester, "Black Folktales.

The Song and the Myth of Stagger Lee

237 Recorded Versions of Stagger Lee

I learned John Hurt's syncopated, fingerstyle version when I was a lad and have played this tune for 50 years. I always wanted to add
my own verse along the lines of -

The judge told ol' Stagger Lee
Man, you're going to Hell
Stagger Lee just looked at him
Said - Judge I'll see you there as well

voyager


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 12:26 PM

Just coincidentally I read Lester's tale of Stagolee a few days ago.

It's pretty funny.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ORIGINAL STACK O'LEE BLUES (Reed/Hull)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 03:50 PM

ORIGINAL STACK O'LEE BLUES
As sung by Long "Cleve" Reed and Little Harvey Hull, on Black Patti 8030-B, 1927.

Stack O'Lee was a bully; he bullied all his life.
Well, he bullied to Chicago town with a ten-cent pocket knife.
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

Stack said to Billy: "How can it be
You arrest a man ... as me, but you won't 'rest Stack O'Lee?"
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

Stack says to Billy: "Don't you take my life.
Well, I ain't got none but two little children and a darlin' lovin' wife
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

"One is a boy and the other'n is a girl."
"Well, you may see your children again but it'll be in another world."
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

Standing on a corner, well, I didn't mean no harm.
Well, a policeman caught me; well, he grabbed me by my arm.
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

Stack O'Lee and Billy had a noble fight.
Well, Stack O'Lee killed Billy deLyon one cold dark stormy night.
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

Standing on a hilltop a dog begin to bark.
Well, it wasn't nothin' but Stack O'Lee come creeping in the dark.
And he's gone, Stack O'Lee.

- - -
This recording is on several albums that can be heard at Spotify. On one of them, the artist is called "Big Boy Cleveland."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 04:34 PM

Concerning riverboat Captain Stack Lee (not the badman):

Public Ledger (Memphis, Tenn.) (Aug. 4, 1875), p. 3:

THE QUICKSTEP ...

Captain Stack Lee will Wake 'em
Up, After making them Hop
with the Gallant Phil
Allin.

Captain Stack Lee starts out to day with the staunch and elegant steamer Quickstep, in the Friar's Point trade in place of the Phil Allin, the latter going to the bank to be put in complete order for the fall season. ...[Etc.]

Advertisement, Memphis Daily Appeal (Nov. 14, 1876), p. 4:

"U.S. Mail - for Arkansas City, Chicot, Napoleon, Friars Point and Helena.
The elegant passenger packet PHIL ALLIN [sic]

"Stacker [sic] Lee ... master
Making all Way Landings in the Bends.
Leaves every Monday and Thursday at 5 o'clock p.m."

Same, Dec. 13, 1877, p. 4:

"For Friars Point.

"Lee Line Steamers!
Carrying United States Mail.
Str. Coahona.
Stacker Lee....master/ E. R. Thomas....clerk."

Evidently he was "Stack" for short.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 04:42 PM

Lee seems first to be mentioned as an officer, not a captain, in the "Appeal" in 1867.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 07:32 PM

From the magazine "Current Opinion" (Feb., 1920), p. 246 (reprinted from "Reedy's Mirror")

Stackerlee: A Missouri Folk Song

On one cold and frosty Christmas night,
Stackerlee and Billy Lyons had an awful fight--
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Said Billy Lyons to Stackerlee, "Don't you take my life,—
Remember my two children and my loving wife."
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

"Care nothing 'bout your children, care nothing 'bout your wife,
You spit in my Stetson hat, and I'm going to take your life." — Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Billy Lyons, Billy Lyons, staggered through the door,
'Cause Stackerlee had got him with his great big forty-four.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Dogs did howl, dogs did bark,
When Stackerlee, the murderer, went creeping through the dark.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Dogs did howl, and trees did moan:
I think he whispered "Mother," as he went by his home.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Sergeant and two policemen, Stackerlee behind a tree:
Sergeant said to Stackerlee: "Better come along with me."—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Up in the jail cells, Stackerlee in despair,
He hears them repairing that old electric chair.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Little Lillie Sheldon, when she first heard the news,
She was sittin' on her bedside, just alacin' up her shoes.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

She wired to Stackerlee, "Don't you weep or moan:
Your honey-babe will get you out of jail, if she has to sell her home."—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

In answer to her message, this is what she read:
"Where shall we send the body? Your Stackerlee is dead."—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Rubber tires on the carriages, rubber tires on the hacks,
Took old Stack to the cemetery, never to bring him back.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Rounders, Rounders, you take my advice:
Stop your drinking whiskey, stop your shaking dice.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

Stackerlee, Stackerlee, what do you think of that?
Killed old Billy Lyons over a damned old Stetson hat.—
Everybody talk about Stackerlee!

What a bold bad man he must be:
With his forty-four and his bowie-knife, never hesitate for to take your life.—
Oh, everybody talk about Stackerlee!


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK-O-LEE (from Fruit Jar Guzzlers)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 07:37 PM

STACK-O-LEE
As recorded by the Fruit Jar Guzzlers (a.k.a. The Pan Handle Boys) on Broadway 8199, 1928.

Oh, Stack-O-Lee went downtown with a forty-four in his hand,
Lookin' around for old Bill Lyons, killed for every hand(?),
All about that broad-brimmed Stetson hat.

So Stack-O-Lee in a barroom and he ordered just some beer,
Looked around into Billy Lyon's face, said: "What are you doin' here?"
This Stack-O-Lee, that bad man Stack-O-Lee.

Stack-O-Lee, said Stack-O-Lee, "Oh, please don't take my life.
Have ... children, sweet little lovin' wife.
I'm a lookin' for my honey on the next train."

"God bless your children; I'll take care of your wife.
You stole my John B. Stetson hat; I'm bound to take your life."
All about that broad-brimmed Stetson hat.

Shot Billy deLyons and he shot him right through the head.
Took one loving shot to kill that poor boy dead.
He's a bad man, oh, bad man Stack-O-Lee.

Here come the high sheriff, getting a long...
"Look-a here, boys; can you tell me just where'd Stack-O-Lee go?"
He's a bad man but he ought to be in jail.

One little boy walked up, said: "Sheriff, he went down the road.
Great God! in his right hand, a great big forty-four.
He's a bad man; for God's sake, let him go."

Billy Lyon said: "Mother gray, God, don't weep nor cry.
Old Bill Lyons said: "Mother, I'm bound to die."
All about that broad-brimmed Stetson hat.

Stack-O-Lee said: "Judge, have a little pity on me.
One old gray-haired mother dear, she's left to weep for me."
All about that John B. Stetson hat.

That judge said: "Stack-O-Lee, gonna have a little pity on you,
Give you twenty-five years in that penitentiary."
All about that John B. Stetson hat.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: voyager
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 08:32 PM

This thread is why I am a Mudcatter (20 years or so).....

Stagolee - The Crime Report

The hangman put the mask on,
tied his hands behind his back
sprung the trap on Stagolee
but his neck refused to crack

voyager


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Jan 14 - 08:45 PM

Great link! Thanks!


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK O' LEE (Cliff Edwards)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 08 Jan 14 - 12:36 AM

This song took up both sides of a 78-rpm record. You can hear both sides at YouTube:

STACK O' LEE
As recorded by Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards) on Columbia 1820-D, 1928.

Part 1.

1. Listen, folks; I'm gonna tell you a story you've never heard.
It's all about a high yellow colored man; there's truth in every word.
I'm talkin' 'bout the man called Stack o' Lee.

2. It was in Saint Louis on Pine Street; that's rezactly where it was at.
Stack up an' shot himself a competin' colored man on account of a dirty old Stetson hat,
And from then on they called him Hard Luck Stack o' Lee.

3. The sheriff came up and said: "Hello, Stack; let's have a little talk."
Then he throwed the handcuffs on his back and said: "Come on, buddy; let's walk."
Down to the jailhouse they took poor Stack o' Lee.

4. Stack's gal went to get some bond money, for somebody to go his bail.
She said: "There ain't a trick in this world that I wouldn't turn to get my Stack out o' jail."
Oh, how she loved her Stack o' Lee!

5. Next mornin' down in the courtroom, the judge sat down on the bench.
The first one to occupy the witness stand was old Stacko's sweet lovin' wench.
She said: "I'm gonna argue with the jury for Stack o' Lee."

6. The judge got up and called the sentence; his eyes was filled with tears.
He said: "I'm gonna be good to you this time, Stack; I'm only gonna give you sixty-nine years.
You've got plenty o' time now, Stack o' Lee."

7. They told him, said: "Don't ever sharpen your razor; brother, don't shave your face.
Don't ever ask anybody the hour of the day, 'cause you ain't goin' noplace.
You're in here from now on, Stack o' Lee."

8. This song is just about half through; to get it all on here, I've tried.
You better stop your machine, turn your record over, and play the other side,
And you'll hear some more of the song called Stack o' Lee.

Part 2

9. Stack-o's gal was a good gal, 'most ev'rybody knows.
She said: "I gotta go and get myself a lot o' bucks to buy Stack some new prison clo'es.
Anyway I must provide for Stack o' Lee."

10. But one mornin' she began to moan. Great God, how she cried!
She got a letter from the jailhouse, said: "Lady, your Stack has died.
He just up and kicked the bucket, did Stack o' Lee."

11. She went out and got a big rubber-tire hearse; she got a little ol' lonesome hack,
Took him on out to the graveyard, laid him right down on his back,
And then they kicked a lot o' dirt on the face of Stack o' Lee.

12. A man standin' by said, "Last night while I was sleepin', I had myself an awful dream.
If you got some tar, I got the stem and lamp; I'll show you just how to cook with steam.
I might as well hop right along with Stack o' Lee."

13. But finally, one might say, eventually, Stack o' Lee's gal died.
The last thing she said was that she wanted to be buried right by his side.
She said: "I wants my body to cool with Stack o' Lee."

14. She had a common ordinary fun'ral; she was planted right down by his side.
On the monument read this inscription: "These riders rode their last ride."
And that is the story of the man called Stack o' Lee."

- - -
I have no idea what verse 12 is about.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Jan 14 - 08:16 AM

It's about an opium addict.

A "stem" was an opium pipe, and opium for smoking has a tar-like consistency. Smoking required an "opium lamp," and the process of
vaporizing was known as "cooking a pill."

"Hop" was once a familiar slang term for opium.

"Cooking with steam" jokingly compares opium preparation with ordinary "steam cooking."


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK O'LEE BLUES (Mississippi John Hurt)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Jan 14 - 12:08 AM

STACK O'LEE BLUES
As sung by Mississippi John Hurt on Okeh 8654, 1928.

Police officer, how can it be?
You can 'rest ev'rybody but cruel Stack O'Lee,
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee.

Billy deLyon told Stack O'Lee, "Please don't take my life.
I got two little babes and a darlin' lovin' wife."
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee.

"What I care 'bout your two little babes, your darlin' lovin' wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat; I'm bound to take your life."
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee.

Hmm-hmm....

Boom-boom, boom-boom, went a forty-four,
But when I spied Billy deLyon, he's lyin' down in the floor.
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee.

"Gentlemens of the jury, what d'you think of that?
Stack O'Lee killed Billy deLyon 'bout a five-dollar Stetson hat,
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee."

Standin' on the gallows, head way up high,
At twelve o'clock they killed him; they's all glad to see him die,
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O'Lee.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK O'LEE BLUES (Johnny Dodds)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Jan 14 - 04:34 PM

The tune on this one is the same as the familiar "Frankie and Johnny."


STACK O'LEE BLUES
As recorded by Johnny Dodds and His Chicago Boys on Decca 1676, 1938.

It was one cold and stormy night.
Stack O'Lee and Billy had a fight.
Stack got his gun, boy; he got it fast,
Shot poor Billy; the bullet broke the glass.
Oh, Stack O'Lee, oh, Stack O'Lee.

Stack O'Lee shot Billy once.
His body fell to the floor.
The can-can dancers rushed for the door.
Billy cried, "Stack, don't shoot me no more."
Oh, Stack O'Lee, mean Stack O'Lee.

Billy cried, "Stack, spare my life.
I've got two babies and a wife."
Stack said, "Bless your children; doggone your wife.
I'm gonna steal your life."
Oh, Stack O'Lee, please, Mister Stack O'Lee,

Stack went to sleep in the jail.
Billy's ghost made an awful wail.
Stack dreamed the devil said, "Hunt your hole,
'Cause I've come to get your soul."
Poor Stack O'Lee, poor Stack O'Lee.

- - -
"Hunt your hole" was new to me, but it seems to have been a common expression meaning "You'd better hide."


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK-A-LEE (Archibald / Leon T Gross)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Jan 14 - 06:38 PM

This song also occupied both sides of a 78-rpm record. It was also issued as a 45.


STACK-A-LEE
As recorded by Archibald (Leon T. Gross) on Imperial 5358, 1950.

[Part 1]

I was standin' on the corner when I heard my bulldog bark.
They were barkin' at the two men who were gamblin' in the dark.

That was Stack-A-Lee and Billy, two mens who gambled late.
Stack-A-Lee throwed seven; Billy swore that he throwed eight.

Stack-A-Lee told Billy, "I can't leave you go with that.
You done won all my money and my brand-new Stetson hat."

Stack-A-Lee went runnin' down that lonesome track.
"I won't kill you now, Billy, but don't be here when I come back."

Stack-A-Lee went home and he got his forty-fo',
Says, "I'm goin' to the barroom just to pay that debt I owe."

Stack-A-Lee went to the barroom and he stood across the barroom do',
Says, "Don't nobody move 'cause I got my forty-fo'."

Now old Billy told Stack, "Oh, please don't take my life.
I got three little children and a very sickly wife."

Stack-A-Lee shot Billy; oh, he shot that poor boy so fast,
The bullet went through poor Billy and it broke the bartender glass.

[Part 2]

Stack-A-Lee went round the corner and they shot Stack in his side.
Stack-A-Lee went stumblin' in his mother do'.

He said, "Mother, O Mother, won't you turn me over slow?
I been jabbed in my left side with a police forty-fo'."

When all the ladies heard that Stack, oh, Stack-A-Lee was dead,
Some come dressed in orange color and some come dressed in red.

Stack-A-Lee went to the devil to identify poor Billy's soul,
But the poor boy was absent; he had burnt down to charcoal.

Now the devil heard a rumblin', a mighty rumblin' under the ground.
Said, "That must be mister Stack turnin' Billy upside down."

Now they sit the devil pick on top o' the devil's shelf.
Say, "If you want Mister Stack you go and get him by yourself."

- - -
This recording rose to #10 on the Billboard R&B chart. Lloyd Price recorded a shortened version in 1958 which topped both the R&B and US Pop charts in 1959. Dr. John recorded it more recently.


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Subject: Lyr Add: STACK-O-LEE (from Tennessee Ernie Ford)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 10 Jan 14 - 12:25 AM

STACK-O-LEE
As recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, on Capitol 1349, 1951.

CHORUS: Stack-O-Lee, Stack-O-Lee, he was a gamblin' man, as ev'rybody ought to know.
Stack-O-Lee, Stack-O-Lee got a Stetson hat and a blazin' forty-fo'.

I was hangin' round the levee along about the break of day,
When I hear two gentlemen arguin'; I listen to the words they say.
It was Stack-O-Lee and Billy a-gamblin' awful late.
Stack-O-Lee he throwed a seven and Billy said he throwed an eight.

Stack-O-Lee he looked at Billy, said, "You can't get away with that.
'Tain't enough you win my money, but to win my lucky Stetson hat."
Stack-O-Lee run home to his woman, said, "Fetch me my forty-four.
Gonna fix old Billy's wagon so he don't gamble wrong no more."

CHORUS

Stack-O-Lee he found poor Billy; Billy pleaded for his life.
"Have some mercy on my children; have mercy on my darlin' wife."
Stack-O-Lee shot poor old Billy; he plugged him in the side,
Then he kept on pumpin' bullets till poor old Billy died.

Well, they caught old Stack next mornin'; they strung him up a tree,
And the women dressed in mournin' and cried for Stack-O-Lee.
Had a hundred-dollar fun'ral with preachin' Parson Brown,
Then the undertaker got him and stuck him in the ground.

CHORUS

When the devil see Stack comin', he holler, "Now listen to me.
Hide the children and the money, 'cause Stack-O-Lee is worse than me."
Stack-O-Lee grabbed hold of the devil and he threw him up on the shelf.
Said, "Your workin' days are over; I'm a-gonna run the place myself."

CHORUS

Stack-O-Lee, Stack-O-Lee, Stack-O-Lee, ain't gonna gamble no more.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 10 Jan 14 - 04:16 PM

Lyr. Add: STAGOLEE DONE KILL DAT BULLY
From Georgia; Odum and Johnson.

I got up one mornin' jes' 'bout four o'clock;
Stagolee shot bully; bully fell down on de flo',
Bully cry out: "dat fohty-fo' it hurts me so."
Stagolee done kill dat bully now.

Sent for de wagon, wagon didn't come,
Loaded down with pistols an' all dat gatlin' gun.
Stagolee done kill dat bully now.

Some give a nickel, some give a dime;
I didn't give a red copper cent, 'cause he's no friend o' mine.
Stagolee done kill dat bully now.

Fohty dollar coffin, eighty dollar hack,
Carried po' man to cemetery but failed to bring him back,
Ev'rybody been dodgin' Stagolee.

Pp. 197-198, no musical score.
Howard W. Odum and Guy B. Johnson, 1925, "The Negro and His Songs," Univ. North Carolina Press (reprinted Negro Universities Press).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.
From: Lighter
Date: 10 Jan 14 - 05:31 PM

Anybody ever heard or seen "Stack O'Lee: words and music *re-written* by the Three White Kuhns [sic]", copyrighted by Sunlight Music, Chicago onOct. 27, *1910* ?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Oct 15 - 06:48 AM

Simply as a point of interest regarding the "electric chair" in the 1920 text, as well as in some versions of "Frankie & Johnny": Although the electric chair was invented in 1890, it was not adopted as a method of execution in the United States until some years later. It was thought to be more humane than hanging.

Acc. to Wikipedia (which seems trustworthy here), the first state to adopt the electric chair was Ohio in 1897.

Missouri, the locale of both ballads, has never used the chair for executions.

Billy Lyons was shot by Lee Sheldon on Dec. 29, 1895; and Frankie Baker by Alan Britt on Oct. 15, 1899.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.
From: GUEST, Paul Slade
Date: 22 Oct 15 - 07:47 AM

The enlightenment you seek can be found here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stagger Lee / Stack O'Lee / etc.
From: Charley Noble
Date: 04 Mar 16 - 05:33 PM

The first Sternwheel Steamboat Stacker Lee was steaming in and about Memphis in the late 1880s, her captain being Stacker Lee of the Lee Line family. There was a third Stacker Lee still steaming around in the 1920s.

Now it's unlikely that this captain was the fella who murdered poor Billy De Lyons. More likely it was a pimp who was nick-named after the steamboat. And whether the murder took place in St. Louis or Memphis is not exactly nailed down.

However, here are some interesting notes from the Lee Line Steamers website:

"The Stacker Lee was named after Capt. Jim Lee's son Samuel Stacker Lee. Stacker Lee served as captain on several Lee boats.   The Stacker Lee was called Stack-o-Dollars by her crew because she was a very profitable boat for the Lee Line. Son Stacker at 16 rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest during the war of northern agression or Civil War depending on your point of view. Stacker was known to live large, pursue women and drink. Later in life he settled down, married and had a son Samuel Stacker Lee, Jr."

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


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