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The death of Louis Collins

Related threads:
ADD: Angels Laid Her Away (Folk Bloodbath) (6)
Miss.J.Hurt song: Angels Laid Him Away? (9)
Lewis Collins? (3)


murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au 22 Oct 97 - 02:52 AM
Bill 22 Oct 97 - 03:22 AM
John Nolan 22 Oct 97 - 03:15 PM
Jon W. 22 Oct 97 - 05:48 PM
Bob Schwarer 22 Oct 97 - 06:03 PM
bigj 22 Oct 97 - 06:46 PM
murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au 09 Nov 97 - 09:34 PM
Jon W. 10 Nov 97 - 01:31 PM
murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au 14 Nov 97 - 12:00 AM
bfabbro@cp.duluth.mn.us 14 Nov 97 - 05:00 AM
dick greenhaus 14 Nov 97 - 11:30 AM
Bob Schwarer 14 Nov 97 - 11:32 AM
Jon W. 14 Nov 97 - 02:44 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 17 Nov 97 - 10:06 PM
John Nolan 18 Nov 97 - 08:40 PM
GUEST,Matthew 01 Aug 00 - 12:22 AM
GUEST,Bruce, Nonmember 04 Oct 02 - 07:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Oct 02 - 07:47 PM
greg stephens 04 Oct 02 - 07:49 PM
zac 04 Oct 02 - 08:23 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Oct 02 - 08:39 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 04 Oct 02 - 10:10 PM
Mike Regenstreif 05 Oct 02 - 11:38 AM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 02 - 12:47 PM
Mr Happy 31 Jul 08 - 06:28 AM
Megan L 31 Jul 08 - 08:07 AM
Arkie 31 Jul 08 - 12:30 PM
pdq 31 Jul 08 - 12:53 PM
PoppaGator 31 Jul 08 - 12:54 PM
Mr Happy 05 Aug 08 - 05:35 AM
GUEST,Tunesmith 05 Aug 08 - 06:51 PM
evansakes 06 Aug 08 - 06:40 AM
Doc John 06 Aug 08 - 10:54 AM
PoppaGator 06 Aug 08 - 12:29 PM
Newport Boy 06 Aug 08 - 01:42 PM
PoppaGator 06 Aug 08 - 02:03 PM
Mr Happy 12 Oct 10 - 06:15 AM
Banjovey 12 Oct 10 - 08:51 AM
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Subject: The death of Louis Collins
From: murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 02:52 AM

There was a song often played on the radio during the folk revival of the sixties which went something like

Mrs. Collins wept, Mrs. Collins Moaned to see her son Louis leave his home oh, angels laid him away

It was done by single voice and acustic guitar. (I sort-of remember it was Doc Watson, but ...)

I would like to know who did it, and if it is available nowadays on CD or cassette. Thanks, Murray


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Bill
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 03:22 AM

Howdy Murray,

I always think of Louis Collins as a Mississippi John Hurt song. He certainly does fingerpick solo guitar and sing it. I'll have to look around to see if I've got it on CD, but I'm fairly sure it's on at least one of the several reissues of his material that has been done recently.

Allinkausay,
Bill


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: John Nolan
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 03:15 PM

A extra couple of verses I know go:
Bond shot one and Louis shot two,
Bond shot Louis, shot him through and through,
Angels etc.

When the women of the town heard Louis was dead,
They went upstairs, came down dressed in red,
Angels blah, blah, blah

Now the people of the town they sure took it hard,
To have Louis Collins buried up in their new graveyard,
Angel, etc.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Jon W.
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 05:48 PM


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Bob Schwarer
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 06:03 PM

Three sources for this song:

Mississippi John Hurt "1928 Sessions" Doc Watson Jerry Garcia "Shady Grove" (with Dave Grisman"

Don't know the name of the Doc Watson Album.

Bob S.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: bigj
Date: 22 Oct 97 - 06:46 PM

See also MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT - TODAY, Vanguard CD VMD 79220 re-released 1995.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 09 Nov 97 - 09:34 PM

I am not sure this addition to the thread got properly posted, so I will do it again.

Thanks for the answers. I think Doc Watson was a red herring. Anyway, it was Mississippi John Hurt that I was looking for.

Here is a related question. In the song is a mention of all the people getting dressed in red (which is interpreted in a later version as all the woman people.) There is another mention to getting dressed in red in a leadbelly song called Po' Howard where he says

Ol' Howard he is dead and gone, pretty little girl with a red dress on.

What is the significance of getting dressed in red?

Murray


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Jon W.
Date: 10 Nov 97 - 01:31 PM

Someone else could probably answer this better than I, but in the Victorian era I believe that a woman dressed in red was considered to have loose morals. Another reference is from Furry Lewis' version of "John Henry":

When the womens in the West heard of John Henry's death
They couldn't stay at home in their beds
Some were dressed in white, some where dressed in red
Sayin Take me where John Henry fell dead...


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: murray@zeus.mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 14 Nov 97 - 12:00 AM

Thanks JonW. I can sort-of understand the John Henry lyrics as meaning some of the women were of loose morals and others were of tight :-) morals; but in "Louis Collins" they get dressed in red after they here he is dead.

Perhaps I can refine the question to ask what getting dressed in red has to to with someone dying.

Murray


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: bfabbro@cp.duluth.mn.us
Date: 14 Nov 97 - 05:00 AM

2 additional recordings of Louis Collins

Mike Dowling: Beats Workin' 1996 Strictly Country Records

David Grizman/Jerry Garcia


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Nov 97 - 11:30 AM

From a pragmatic but folky viewpoint-- One reason--maybe THE reason-- women in songs dressed in red after someone's demise is that it rhymes with DEAD. Consider what the chillun' dressed in in many spirituals:

white---Israelite black---turning back red--- Moses led etc. As Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Bob Schwarer
Date: 14 Nov 97 - 11:32 AM

But as another man said "A cigar is a smoke"

Bob S.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Jon W.
Date: 14 Nov 97 - 02:44 PM

Here's another stab at the "dressed in red" thing. Women would put on their best red dresses to go to a party, right? And what better excuse for having a party than a funeral, that is, a wake? For example, the black New Orleans funeral celebrations are legendary to the point of being cliches, as are the Irish wakes.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 17 Nov 97 - 10:06 PM

I think the combination of jonW and Dick Greanhaus' answers give a pretty good guess.

Namely the fact that they used to get dressed up for funerals, and given that "red" rhymes with "dead".

The answer, although probably correct, disappoints me. I was hoping to find out if the people were happy or sad at Louis's death from the fact that they got dressed in red.

I hope that some of the people who answered this question will read a new thread I am about to create about some elusive Billie Holiday songs.

Murray


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: John Nolan
Date: 18 Nov 97 - 08:40 PM

I always took it to be that Collins' death was some sort of cause for celebration with the womenfolk in those parts, and that red signified, "Let's party," but that's only a hypothesis. Did they also smoke cigars? We need to know.


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Subject: the real Louis Collins?
From: GUEST,Matthew
Date: 01 Aug 00 - 12:22 AM

Hi, Folks-

I'm new here -- I just found the site while looking for info about the REAL Louis Collins (of Mississippi John Hurt fame). Does anyone know the story? Supposedly John Hurt knew of the alleged incident first hand. I'm wondering if the story is common knowledge [a'la Stagolee, Frankie and Albert (Johnny), Casey Jones, et. al.] and I've just missed it. Please email me directly if you have any info or can point me in the right direction. Thank you.

Matthew mrfox@uswest.net


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: GUEST,Bruce, Nonmember
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 07:13 PM

I went looking for the lyrics, some of which I could not quite understand from the recording. I found this explanation of the "dressed in red" business:

"A posting I found from Catherine Yronwode helpfully explains a bit more about the reference to "dressed in red":
"White folks, accostomed to black being the colour worn both for funerals and for post-funereal mourning, sometimes think that references in blues songs to dressing in red signify a party atmosphere or happiness over a person's death. Not so. In Africa, and among African-Americans in earlier times, drssing in red has been a funerary custom. As such, it is reminiscent of burial with red ochre pigment, which was used among neolithic poeople (the "red paint people") the world around. The religious idea behind this custom is that as a baby is born from the mother's womb through blood, so will rebirth occur (after interrment in Mother Earth) through blood."

I found this here. It seems to be a Grateful Dead website of some sort.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 07:47 PM

Is there a real Louis Collins back of this song? And if so does anyone know the story? It's a very specific kind of name, not the sort you'd just stick in to fill out the line, like Bill or Johnny for example.

And I'd think perhaps red might have more significance than just a rhyme. Dead is a pretty easy word to find a rhyme for - they could have taken to their bed, or shook their head, for example. It might mean celebrating his death, or his life, or maybe just going back to work.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 07:49 PM

Hapened to Casey Jones too:


When she heard that Casey was dead

She went home and she dressed in red

Said "Now children you can stop your crying

Cos you got another Daddy on the Rock Island Line"


This definitely seems to imply a cheerful angle to the red clothes, and not mourning at all.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: zac
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 08:23 PM


My wife has told me more than once that when I pass, she's not going to mourn long-- she's going to get her a red convertible to match her red dress-


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 08:39 PM

This Grateful Dead lyrics page has an interesting bit about this:

a posting I found from Catherine Yronwode helpfully explains a bit more about the reference to "dressed in red":
"White folks, accustomed to black being the colour worn both for funerals and for post-funereal mourning, sometimes think that references in blues songs to dressing in red signify a party atmosphere or happiness over a person's death. Not so. In Africa, and among African-Americans in earlier times, drssing in red has been a funerary custom. As such, it is reminiscent of burial with red ochre pigment, which was used among neolithic people (the "red paint people") the world around. The religious idea behind this custom is that as a baby is born from the mother's womb through blood, so will rebirth occur (after interrment in Mother Earth) through blood."

And it also passes on a comment relating to the question I raised: According to "Masters Of The Instrumental Blues Guitar", Louis Collins is a murder ballad which Mississippi John Hurt composed from hearing people talk about a shooting.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 04 Oct 02 - 10:10 PM

A couple of other recordings of Louis Collins:

I learned the song in 1975 from a recording by the Iron Mountain String Band. I do not know when the recording was made. Probably a Folkways recording though I don't have the catalog number.

Recorded by Lucinda Williams (as "Angels Laid Him Away) on Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt, Vanguard 79582, 2001


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 05 Oct 02 - 11:38 AM

McGrath of Harlow asked: "Is there a real Louis Collins back of this song?"

My friend Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, who was very close to Mississippi John Hurt, told me that "Louis Collins" was Hurt's favorite song and the real Collins was a cousin to him.

"The Angels Laid Him Away" is an alternate title.

In my own record library, I have at least four different recordings of Mississippi John Hurt doing the song. I also have versions by: Bill Bourne; Jerry Garcia & David Grisman; Jerry Garcia, David Grisman & Tony Rice; Last Forever; Bill Morrissey; Philadelphia Jerry Ricks; and Lucinda Williams.

Mike Regenstreif


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Subject: ADD: Louis Collins / The Angels Laid Him Away
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 02 - 12:47 PM

There was a thread that had a link to lyrics, but the link was dead. Maybe we ought to have them posted here. I found this at the Grateful Dead Lyrics and Song Finder. Great site.
-Joe Offer-

Louis Collins

Lyrics & Music: Mississippi John Hurt

Mrs Collins weep, Mrs Collins moan
What made her son Louis leave his home?
Angels laid him away

Chorus
Angels laid him away
Laid him six feet under the clay
Angels laid him away

Oh kind friends, now ain't it hard
To see poor Louis in a new grave yard
Angels laid him away

[chorus]

When they heard that Louis was dead (note 1)
All the women folk they dressed in red (note 2)
Angels laid him away

[chorus]

Bob shot one and Louis shot two
Shot poor Collins, shot him through and through
Angels have laid him away

[chorus]

Mrs Collins weep, Mrs Collins moan
What made her son Louis leave his home?
Angels laid him away

[chorus]
Notes
(1) this is the order of verses on "Shady Grove." On "The Pizza Tapes", Garcia reverses the order of the third and fourth verses, and then repeats the "Oh kind friends, now ain't it hard" verse before ending with the repeat of the first verse. Thanks to "CJ" for pointing this out.

Recordings
2 Jun 1992 Shady Grove (Garcia/Grisman)
Feb 1993 The Pizza Tapes (Garcia/Grisman/Rice)
Roots
According to "Masters Of The Instrumental Blues Guitar", Louis Collins is a murder ballad which Mississippi John Hurt composed from hearing people talk about a shooting. He first recorded it in 1928 for Okeh Records and then again in 1963 for Piedmont. Similarly, "Masters Of Country Blues Guitar" says that, according to Hurt, this song (his own composition) was based on a true episode.

If anyone knows more about the incident which inspired the song, do let me know.

Garcia sticks pretty closely to Mississipi John Hurt's version. These are the lyrics from "Mississippi John Hurt Today" (Vanguard 79220):
Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

Chorus
The angels laid him away
Laid him six feet under the clay
The angels laid him away

Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

Oh Bob shot one and Louis shot two
Shot poor Collins, shot him through and through
The angels have laid him away

Oh kind friends, oh ain't it hard
To see poor Louis in a new grave yard
The angels laid him away

[chorus]

Oh when they heard that Louis was dead
All the people they dressed in red
The angels laid him away

[chorus]

Mrs Collins weeped, Mrs Collins moaned
To see her son Louis leaving home
The angels laid him away

[chorus]
Further notes
(2) a posting I found from Catherine Yronwode helpfully explains a bit more about the reference to "dressed in red":
"White folks, accostomed to black being the colour worn both for funerals and for post-funereal mourning, sometimes think that references in blues songs to dressing in red signify a party atmosphere or happiness over a person's death. Not so. In Africa, and among African-Americans in earlier times, drssing in red has been a funerary custom. As such, it is reminiscent of burial with red ochre pigment, which was used among neolithic poeople (the "red paint people") the world around. The religious idea behind this custom is that as a baby is born from the mother's womb through blood, so will rebirth occur (after interrment in Mother Earth) through blood.

"Another old blues song with a similar lyric is "Ella Speed" as recorded by Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) circa the mid 1930s.
When the women all heard that Ella Speed was dead
They went on home and they re-ragged in red
"That is, the women went home and changed clothes to attend Ella Speed's funeral."

Bill Martin and Ella Speed in the Digital Tradition.

Here's the entry on this song from the Traditional Ballad Index:

Louis Collins

DESCRIPTION: Ms. Collins weeps to see son Louis leave home; he is shot to death in a gunfight. All the young women put on red clothing in mourning; he is buried in the new graveyard. Chorus: "Angels laid him away/Laid him six feet under the clay/Angels laid him away"
AUTHOR: probably Mississippi John Hurt
EARLIEST DATE: 1928 (recorded, Mississippi John Hurt)
KEYWORDS: grief fight violence parting crime homicide clothes burial death mourning mother
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 393-394, "The Ballad of Louis Collins" (1 text)
Roud #21815
RECORDINGS:
Mississippi John Hurt, "Louis Collins" (OKeh 8724, 1929; rec. 1928; on MJHurt01, MJHurt02) (on MJHurt03)
John Jackson, "Louis Collins" (on ClassAfrAm)

File: RcLouCol

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



Mississippi John Hurt recording:


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Mr Happy
Date: 31 Jul 08 - 06:28 AM

more info here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_John_Hurt


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Megan L
Date: 31 Jul 08 - 08:07 AM

It probably jist meant he wis an auld hoormaister whit hid beded evry wumin in the toon.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Arkie
Date: 31 Jul 08 - 12:30 PM

Other recordings of the song:

Mike Dowling
Jenny Scheinman using title Miss Collins.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: pdq
Date: 31 Jul 08 - 12:53 PM

Bill Clifton's version of Louis Collins dates to 1963 and, like most of his work, did not sell well. He was a folksinger who thought he was Country.

The song has one of the great guitar breaks in Folk Revival history, done by Mike Seeger.

Anything Bill Clifton did with John Duffey, Jimmy Gaudreau, Mike Seeger and Hedy West and Red Rector is classic and worth looking for.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: PoppaGator
Date: 31 Jul 08 - 12:54 PM

This thread was dormant from October '02 until today; we had a much more recent conversation about this song in another thread, featuring some debate/discussion about the line:
"Bob shot once / Louis shot twice..."
That line certainly pertains to the stated topic of this thread, the death of Louis Collins.
(When I say "much more recent," I mean within the last week or so ~ definitely during July '08.)

The Louis who shot twice was apparently not the victim Louis Collins, but a second assailant with the same first name ~ according to MJH himself.

This is probably one of the three "related threads" displayed at the top of this page. (Ought to be, anyway.) Anyone really interested in this song ought to check out all of those other threads


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Mr Happy
Date: 05 Aug 08 - 05:35 AM

PoppaGator,

'This thread was dormant from October '02 until today; we had a much more recent conversation about this song in another thread, featuring some debate/discussion about the line:

"Bob shot once / Louis shot twice..." '



I've checked those threads you mentioned, its not there.

That line variation you quoted seems to indicate that the rest've the verse maybe different too, so as to achieve a rhyme.

The version I have has:

Oh Bob, he shot one and Louis shot two
Shot poor Louis, shot him through and through
Angels laid him away

where the verse rhymes.

How does your variation verse go?


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 05 Aug 08 - 06:51 PM

I somehow associate this song with Tom Paley.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: evansakes
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 06:40 AM

Rachel Harrington, a country/folk singer from Oregon (who has just completed a long UK tour) does a great version of 'Louis Collins'.

She played it when she came to TwickFolk a month or so ago and I think it's on her "Bootlegger's Daughter" album (you can sample the song at iTunes along with all the others mentioned above)

Incidentally, I first heard and learnt this song off one of Stefan Grossman's 'Kicking Mule' guitar tutorial CDs back in the 70's. His version is the only one I've ever heard that uses an extra chord. Assuming you're in the key of C, over the "six feet" part of the melody he throws in an E7 where most versions maybe just have a C7 or even a plain C chord.

It's just a 'passing' chord but because that's the first version I ever heard that's the way I still hear it in my head...


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Doc John
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 10:54 AM

Dressind in red occurs in Lead Belly's Ella Speed; when the women all heard that Ella Speed was dead.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: PoppaGator
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 12:29 PM

I erred when quoting this lyric in my post of [05 Aug 08 - 05:35 AM] ~ Louis shot "two," not "twice," rhyming with "through." My bad. So, we're not talking about different versions, after all.

The Mudcat search function is not operative for anythng posted since the Big Crash of I-forget-how-long-ago. I've read messages from other members advising us that you can use the "filter" instead of the "search" to find more recent messages in the forum, but I don't know what that is, where to find it, how to use it, etc.

But please take my word for it ~ there WAS a recent thread, active in July '08, about this song, and the most recent discussions were in regard to the "Louis" who "shot two": this was not (it was argued) the victim Louis Collins, but another Louis (or Lewis) joining Bob WIllis in the assault upon Mr. Collins.

To add a bit more that I forgot to mention last week, there is one school of thought that further identifies this second assailant as one "Louis Angel," which would give added meaning to the line "Angel(s) laid him away. (In the original recording from the 20s, MJH omits the "S" sound from "angel" the first time he sings the line ~ "Angel laid him away" ~ giving a bit of credence to this theory.)

Look: I'm pretty sure that I didn't imagine reading that thread last month, and indeed that I couldn't have dreampt up all that detail about "Louis Angel." That discussion has to be somewhewre in the archives, and quite recently. Could anyone possibly add it to the list of "realted threads" at the top of the page? I'm sure that it is a more thorough discusion of this subject than the three related threads currently listed, which each consist of relatively few messages.


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Newport Boy
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 01:42 PM

Here's the thread you want. (click here)

Phil


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: PoppaGator
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 02:03 PM

Thanks, Phil!

I just checked, and the thread in question provides MANY more "related thread" links at the top of the page than does this one. That's a good reason for anyone interested in Mississippi John Hurt to take a look there, even those not especially interested in the identity of "the other Lewis."


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Mr Happy
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 06:15 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYUtTuxf5LU


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Subject: RE: The death of Louis Collins
From: Banjovey
Date: 12 Oct 10 - 08:51 AM

We have just recorded this on our CD which can be found at www.beachyheadbangers.co.uk


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