Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Four Examples Of The Song "Stagger Lee" (Wikipedia excerpt, and song lyrics as sung by Mississippi John Hurt & as sung by Lloyd Price)

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Most of the content of this post was published on pancocojams on November 30, 2012. Additional content in this post: song lyrics and one comment under Example #1]

This pancocojams post showcases sound files or videos of Mississippi John Hurt, Lloyd Price, Taj Mahal, and Wilson Pickett singing versions of the Blues/R&B classic "Stagger Lee".

Information about this song are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All rights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composer/s of this song. Thanks also to the vocalists, and musicians featured in these sound files and this video. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these sound files & video on YouTube.

" "Stagger Lee", also known as "Stagolee", "Stackerlee", "Stack O'Lee", "Stack-a-Lee" and several other variants, is a popular folk song based on the murder of William "Billy" Lyons by Stagger Lee Shelton...

The first published version of the song was by folklorist John Lomax in 1910. The song was well known in African American communities along the lower Mississippi River by the 1910s.

Before World War II, it was commonly known as "Stack O'Lee"... In Mississippi John Hurt's version, as in all such pieces, there are many (sometimes anachronistic) variants on the lyrics. Several older versions give Billy's last name as "De Lyons" or "Deslile".
Warning: That Wikipedia page includes profanity.
"The legend of Stagger Lee is one of the most important and enduring stories from American folklore. Although it has had some popularity with the white community, it is a story that comes from the African-American oral tradition. There are many different versions of the tale, but here is the general storyline. Stagger Lee (also known as Stagolee, Stackerlee, Stackalee etc.) gets into a dispute with a man named Billy DeLyon (also known as Billy the Lion or Billy Lyons) after losing his Stetson hat to Billy while gambling. Stagger Lee pulls a gun (sometimes identified as a .45, other times as a "smokeless .44") on Billy who then pleads to be spared for the sake of his wife and children. Showing no compassion at all, Stagger Lee cold-bloodedly shoots and kills his opponent."...
Click for multiple pages of information about Stagger Lee Shelton, including the following theory:
"Shelton may have taken his 'Stack Lee' nickname from a white man called Stacker Lee, whose father owned the famous Lee Steam Line of riverboats...Travelling up and down the Mississippi between St Louis and New Orleans, he became well-known as a gambler, a hell-raiser and a ladies' man. He made a habit of fathering illegitimate children wherever his boat put in, often by black or mixed-race women.

It's very unlikely that Shelton was really Stacker Lee's son - the dates and locations are all wrong for that - but he may well have adopted his nickname to hint at that possibility. Shelton's light skin, described by Jefferson Penitentiary as a “mulatto complexion”, would have made it easy for people to believe he had a white father. Who could blame him for hinting that father was the glamorous son of a powerful, rich family?"
Also, click for a list of hundreds of recordings of "Stagger Lee" ("Stack O Lee").

EXCERPT FROM WIKIPEDIA [added September 18, 2018]
" "Stagger Lee", also known as "Stagolee" and other variants, is a popular American folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons by "Stag" Lee Shelton in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas, 1895. The song was first published in 1911, and was first recorded in 1923 by Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. A version by Lloyd Price reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.

The historical Stagger Lee was Lee Shelton, an African-American pimp living in St. Louis, Missouri in the late 19th century. He was nicknamed Stag Lee or Stack Lee, with a variety of explanations being given: he was given the nickname because he "went stag", meaning he was without friends; he took the nickname from a well-known riverboat captain called Stack Lee; or, according to John and Alan Lomax, he took the name from a riverboat owned by the Lee family of Memphis called the Stack Lee, which was known for its on-board prostitution.[2] He was well known locally as one of the Macks, a group of pimps who demanded attention through their flashy clothing and appearance.[3] In addition to these activities, he was the captain of a black Four Hundred Club, a social club with a dubious reputation.[4]

On Christmas night in 1895, Shelton and his acquaintance William "Billy" Lyons were drinking in the Bill Curtis Saloon. Lyons was also a member of St. Louis' underworld, and may have been a political and business rival to Shelton. Eventually, the two men got into a dispute, during which Lyons took Shelton's Stetson hat.[5] Subsequently, Shelton shot Lyons, recovered his hat, and left.[6] Lyons died of his injuries, and Shelton was charged, tried and convicted of the murder in 1897. He was paroled in 1909, but returned to prison in 1911 for assault and robbery. He died in incarceration in 1912.[7]

The crime quickly entered into American folklore and became the subject of song as well as folktales and toasts. The song's title comes from Shelton's nickname—Stag Lee or Stack Lee.[8] The name was quickly corrupted in the folk tradition; early versions were called "Stack-a-Lee" and "Stacker Lee"; "Stagolee" and "Stagger Lee" also became common. Other recorded variants include "Stackerlee", "Stack O'Lee", "Stackolee", "Stackalee", "Stagerlee", and "Stagalee".[9]

Early versions
A song called "Stack-a-Lee" was first mentioned in 1897, in the Kansas City Leavenworth Herald, as being performed by "Prof. Charlie Lee, the piano thumper."[10] The earliest versions were likely field hollers and other work songs performed by African-American laborers, and were well known along the lower Mississippi River by 1910. That year, musicologist John Lomax received a partial transcription of the song,[11] and in 1911 two versions were published in the Journal of American Folklore by the sociologist and historian Howard W. Odum.[12]

The song was first recorded by Waring's Pennsylvanians in 1923, and became a hit. Another version was recorded later that year by Frank Westphal & His Regal Novelty Orchestra, and Herb Wiedoeft and his band recorded the song in 1924.[13] Also in 1924, the first version with lyrics was recorded, as "Skeeg-a-Lee Blues", by Lovie Austin. Ma Rainey recorded the song the following year, with Louis Armstrong on cornet, and a version was recorded by Frank Hutchison in 1927.[10]

Before World War II, it was commonly known as "Stack O'Lee". W.C. Handy wrote that this probably was a nickname for a tall person, comparing him to the tall smokestack of the large steamboat Robert E. Lee.[14] By the time W.C. Handy wrote that 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.

The version by Mississippi John Hurt, recorded in 1928, is regarded as definitive.[10] In his version, as in all such pieces, there are many (sometimes anachronistic) variants on the lyrics. Several older versions give Billy's last name as "De Lyons" or "Deslile". Other notable pre-war versions were by Duke Ellington (1927), Cab Calloway (1931), and Woody Guthrie (1941).[10]

Post-war versions
In 1950, a version of "Stack-a-Lee" by New Orleans pianist Archibald reached number 10 on the Billboard R&B chart.[15] Lloyd Price recorded the song as "Stagger Lee" in 1958, and it rose to the top of both the R&B and US pop charts in early 1959.[15] His version was ranked number 456 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, and also reached number 7 on the UK singles chart. Price also recorded a toned-down version of the song that changed the shooting to an argument between two friends for his appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand."...

[as sung by Mississippi John Hurt]

Police officer, how can it be?
You can 'rest everybody but cruel Stack O' Lee
That bad man, oh, cruel Stack O' Lee
Billy de Lyon told Stack O' Lee, "Please don't take my life
I got two little babies, and a darlin' lovin' wife"
That bad man, oh, cruel Stack O' Lee
"What I care about you little babies, your darlin' lovin' wife?
You done stole my Stetson1 hat, I'm bound to take your life"
That bad man, cruel Stack O' Lee
With the forty-four
When I spied Billy de Lyon, he was lyin' down on the floor
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O' Lee
"Gentleman's of the jury, what do you think of that?
Stack O' Lee killed Billy de Lyon about a five-dollar Stetson hat"
That bad man, oh, cruel Stack O' Lee
And all they gathered, hands 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


[as written {?) and sung by Lloyd Price]

The night was clear
And the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumbling down

I was standing on the corner
When I heard my bulldog bark
He was barking at the two men
Who were gambling in the dark

It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw seven
Billy swore that he threw eight

Stagger Lee told Billy
"I can't let you go with that
You have won all my money
And my brand new Stetson hat."

Stagger Lee started off
Goin down that railroad track
He said, I can't get you Billy
But don't be here when I come back

Go on, Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee went home
And he got his .44
Said, "I'm going to the bar room
Just to pay that debt I owe."

Stagger Lee went to the bar room
And he stood across the bar room door
Said, "Now nobody move."
And he pulled his .44

"Stagger Lee," cried Billy
"Oh, please don't take my life
I got three little children
And a very sickly wife."

Stagger Lee shot Billy
Oh he shot that poor boy so bad
Till the bullet came through Billy
And it broke the bartender's glass

Now look out, Stagg, come on

Example #1: Mississippi John Hurt - The Ballad Of Stagger Lee

Uploaded by JTgrimteam on Jul 20, 2010

In My Opinion ; One Of the Best And Most Genuine Musical Pieces Ever Recorded. Mississippi John Was an Amazing Musician And Human Being.
Here's a comment from this sound file's discussion thread:

Garett Russ, 2018
"It blows my mind how many racially-charged posts are derived from this music as I look through the comments.... The only thing that comes to mind is that if the shoe fits check yourself... You need to sit back take a deep breath and realize that you are smaller than what this man has done... Stop trying to build this imaginary Fortress of theology with your comments... And rather embrace the fact that amazing music came from a time of suffering.... bust the guitar out... try to jam along... and stop being a b** that is drowning in a time that wasn't even yours to drown in because you feel the need to be a voice for them.... Guess what!! These men and women were so strong they didn't need you... They use the strings (lightning Hopkins)... And they use their voice (Etta James)... Go ahead and pick up your pout box and take a walk home.... 😎"
This comment is given as it was found in that discussion thread.

Example #2: Lloyd Price - Stagger Lee

Uploaded by RoverTCB on Apr 29, 2008

The first censored rock n roll record to be a n°1 hit
The Wikipedia page whose link is given above includes information about how Dick Clark, the host of the television program "American Bandstand" made Lloyd Price change the lyrics of this song for that show's performance.

Example #3: STAGGER LEE (1969) by Taj Mahal

Uploaded by wilsonmcphert on Nov 5, 2009

...I have done a slideshow video for this song and to try and help tell the story.

Example #4: stagger lee - wilson picket

youknowstone, Uploaded on Mar 19, 2008

wicked live
This singer's nickname was "The Wicked Wilson Pickett".

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