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Encyclopedia > Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee (also known as Stagolee, Stackerlee, Stack O'Lee, Stack-a-Lee and by several other spelling variants) was an African American murderer whose crime was immortalized in a blues folk song, which has been recorded in hundreds of different versions. An African American (also Afro-American, Black American, or simply black) is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... Blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes and a repetitive pattern that most often follows a twelve-bar structure. ... Folk music, in the original sense of the term, is music by and of the people. ...

Contents

The crime

According to some sources, Stag Lee was a person named Lee Sheldon. A story appearing in the St. Louis, Missouri Globe-Democrat in 1895 says: This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... Year 1895 (MDCCCXCV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar). ...

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' Lee.[1]

Lyons eventually died of his injuries. Sheldon was tried, convicted, and served prison time for this crime. This otherwise unmemorable crime is remembered in a song. In some older versions of the song, the name of the other party is given as "Billy Deslile" or "De Lion". A levee, levée (from the feminine past participle of the French verb lever, to raise), floodbank or stopbank is a natural or artificial slope or wall, usually earthen and often parallels the course of a river. ...


The songs

The song has been recorded hundreds of times by a great variety of performers. The version recorded by Mississippi John Hurt is considered by some commentators to be definitive, containing all of the elements that appear in other versions. A cover with different lyrics was a chart hit for Lloyd Price in 1959; Dick Clark felt that the original tale of murder was too lowlife for his American Bandstand audience, and insisted that they be changed. This version of the song ranked #456 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Mississippi John Smith Hurt (March 8, 1892 , Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi - November 2, 1966, Grenada, Mississippi) was an influential blues singer and guitarist. ... Lloyd Price (born March 9, 1933 in Kenner, Louisiana) was an early rock and roll musician. ... 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Dick Clark redirects here. ... Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand American Bandstand was a long-running dance music television show that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989. ... This article is about the magazine. ... ...


There is speculation that "Stag O Lee" songs predated even the 1895 incident, and Lee Sheldon may have gotten his nickname from earlier folk songs. Other sources say that black roustabouts on Mississippi River docks were called "stack o lees" as they would stack cargo on the lee side of the docks. The first published version of the song was done by folklorist John Lomax in 1910. The song was well known in African American communities along the lower Mississippi River by the 1910s. Roustabout is a 1964 musical movie starring Elvis Presley. ... For the river in Canada, see Mississippi River (Ontario). ... John Avery Lomax (September 23, 1867 - January 26, 1948) was a pioneering musicologist and folklorist. ... 1910 (MCMX) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 13-day slower Julian calendar. ... An African American (also Afro-American, Black American, or simply black) is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... // The 1910s represent the culmination of European militarism which had its beginnings during the second half of the 19th Century. ...


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. Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... W.C. Handy photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1941 William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 - March 28, 1958) was an African American blues composer, often known as The Father of the Blues. ... Paddle steamers — Lucerne, Switzerland. ... The 1920s is a decade that is sometimes referred to as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, usually applied to America. ... Cliff Edwards (14 June 1895 – 17 July 1971), also known as Ukelele Ike, was an American singer and musician who enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, and also did voices for animated cartoons later in his career. ...


An early Blues recording of the song from 1928 was made by Mississippi John Hurt, a blues musician. His lyrics: Blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes and a repetitive pattern that most often follows a twelve-bar structure. ... Year 1928 (MCMXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar). ... Mississippi John Smith Hurt (March 8, 1892 , Teoc, Carroll County, Mississippi - November 2, 1966, Grenada, Mississippi) was an influential blues singer and guitarist. ... Blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes and a repetitive pattern that most often follows a twelve-bar structure. ...

Po-lice officer, how can it be?
You can 'rest everybody but cruel Stagolee
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee
Billy DeLyon told Stagolee, "Please don't take my life
I got two little babes and a darling, loving wife"
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee
"What'd I care about your two little babes and darling, loving wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat, I'm bound to take your life."
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee
Boom boom, boom boom,
Went the forty-four.
Well when I spied Billy DeLyon
He's lyin' down on the floor.
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee
Gentlemens of the Jury,
What you think of that?
Stagolee killed Billy DeLyon
'bout a five-dollar Stetson hat.
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee
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 Stagolee

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".


A 1959 variation, credited as "traditional", as originally recorded and performed by Lloyd Price, goes: Lloyd Price (born March 9, 1933 in Kenner, Louisiana) was an early rock and roll musician. ...

(intro) The night was clear, and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumblin' down. . .
I was standing on a corner
When I heard my bull dog bark
He was barking at two men
Who were gambling in the dark
It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw a seven
Billy swore that he threw eight
Stagger Lee he told Billy
"I can't let you go with that
You won all o' my money
And my brand new Stetson hat."
Stagger Lee started off walking
Down that old railroad track
He turned and told Billy
"Don't be here when I come back"
Then old Stagger Lee, he went home
And he got his forty-four
He said "I'm going down to the barroom
To pay that debt I owe"
bridge: Go, Stagger Lee!
Stagger Lee went to the barroom
Walked across that barroom floor
He said, "Now, nobody move"
And he pulled out his forty-four
"Oh, Stagger Lee," cried Billy
"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 went through Billy
And it broke the bartender's glass.

Lloyd Price also recorded another version of the song in 1958 at the request of Dick Clark, who felt the original lyrics were not appropriate for his American Bandstand audience. The subject was changed from gambling to fighting over a woman, and instead of a murder, the two yelled at each other, and made up the next day. The Stetson Cavalry Hat For the university, see Stetson University. ... The . ... Lloyd Price (born March 9, 1933 in Kenner, Louisiana) was an early rock and roll musician. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand American Bandstand was a long-running dance music television show that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989. ...


Other well known artists who have recorded it include Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, Duke Ellington, Woody Guthrie, Bill Haley & His Comets, Ike and Tina Turner, Fats Domino, Doc Watson, Dr. John, Travis MacRae, The Isley Brothers, and Huey Lewis And The News. The Fabulous Thunderbirds version is found on the soundtrack to Porky's Revenge. Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, musician, and poet who has been a major figure in popular music for four decades. ... Taj Mahal. ... Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (April 29, 1899–May 24, 1974) was an American jazz composer, pianist, and band leader who has been one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music. ... Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (July 14, 1912–October 3, 1967) was a prolific American folk musician. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... Tina Turner on the cover of her 1991 album Simply the Best Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939) is an African American R&B, pop, rock and soul singer, Buddhist and occasional actress probably best known for her scorching performances with the Ike and Tina Turner... Antoine Dominique Fats Domino (born February 26, 1928 in New Orleans, Louisiana), is a classic R&B and rock and roll singer, songwriter and pianist. ... Doc Watson Merle Watson, c. ... Dr. John is the stage name of Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. ... Travis MacRae is a Canadian singer/songwriter known for his folk (or folk blues) music, for his accomplished guitar and harmonica playing, and for his rough, somewhat Southern-styled vocals. ... The Isley Brothers are a hugely popular African-American music group from Cincinnati, Ohio, who hold the record for being the longest-running charted group in music history. ... ... The Fabulous Thunderbirds are a blues-rock band, formed in 1974 (see 1974 in music). ... Porkys Revenge VHS Cover Porkys Revenge is the 1985 third and final installment to the Porkys movie trilogy. ...


The Grateful Dead recorded a version of the tale which focuses on the fictionalized hours after the death of "Billy DeLion", when Billy's wife Delia tracks down Stagger Lee in a local saloon and shoots him in revenge for Billy's death. The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco, California. ...


The 1979 album London Calling by the Punk band The Clash includes a version (a cover of a song by the Jamaican rocksteady group The Rulers) titled "Wrong 'Em Boyo," in which Stagger Lee is explicitly the hero and Billy the villain. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Rocksteady is the name given to a style of music popular in Jamaica between 1966 and 1968. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, by contrast, present an even more violent and profane version of the song "Stagger Lee" [2]on their 1996 album Murder Ballads. (This version actually retakes a street "toast poem" on Stagolee. Toasts were 'pre-rap' poems and stories especially popular among those in the "life" and among prisoners. One famous toast "Duriella DuFontane" was covered by Jimi Hendrix and members of Harlem's Last Poets") Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. ... This article is about the Nick Cave album. ... Toasting, chatting, or DJing is the act of talking or chanting over a rhythm or beat. ... This article contains a trivia section. ... The Last Poets are a group of poets and musicians, arising from the late 1960s African American civil rights movement. ...


More recently, the Black Keys recorded a song entitled "Stack Shot Billy" on their 2004 album Rubber Factory. In 2005, Chris Whitley and Jeff Lang recorded their own arrangement of the song, called "Stagger Lee", ultimately released on their 2006 CD Dislocation Blues. The Black Keys are a blues-rock duo consisting of Daniel Auerbach (vocals and guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) from Akron, Ohio. ... Rubber Factory is the third album by blues-rock duo, The Black Keys. ... Chris Whitley Christopher Becker Whitley (August 31, 1960 – November 20, 2005) was a singer songwriter who recorded albums on various labels. ...


A version of Staggolee performed by Pacific Gas & Electric was included on the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino's film Death Proof, the second portion of the 2007 double-feature Grindhouse. This article or section needs to be wikified. ... Quentin Jerome Tarantino (born March 27, 1963) is an American film director, actor, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. ... Grindhouse is a 2007 film expected to be released in the United States on April 6, 2007. ... Grindhouse is a 2007 anthology film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. ...


Iowa hardcore band, Modern Life Is War, has recorded their own version of Stagger Lee for their album Midnight In America. Their song is not a cover, but rather a new take on an old tale.

Preceded by
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" by The Platters
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (Lloyd Price version)
February 9, 1959
Succeeded by
"Venus" by Frankie Avalon

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is a song written by American composer Jerome Kern for his 1933 Broadway musical Roberta. ... The Platters was a successful vocal group of the early rock and roll era. ... The Billboard Hot 100 is the United States music industry standard singles popularity chart issued weekly by Billboard magazine. ... This is a list of number-one hits in the United States by year from the Billboard Hot 100. ... February 9 is the 40th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Venus is the name of a song written by Ed Marshall. ... Francis Thomas Avallone (born September 18, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was an American actor and teen idol in the 1950s and early 1960s. ...

Other versions

Stagger Lee, a graphic novel based on the story, was published by Image Comics in May 2006, written by Derek McCulloch and drawn by Shepherd Hendrix (ISBN 1582406073). [2] Image Comics Logo Image Comics is an American comic book publisher. ... 2006 2005 in comics 2007 in comics Notable events of 2006 in comics. ...


Trivia

  • In the 2007 film "Black Snake Moan", Samuel L. Jackson's character sings a boastful version of the song from Stagger Lee's perspective.
  • Pro wrestler Junkyard Dog used the name (and theme song) Stagger Lee to surprise his rival Ted DiBiase, returning from a "Loser Leaves Town" match under a mask during an infamous feud in Mid-South Wrestling.
  • Stagg R. Leigh is the assumed name under which Thelonious Ellison, the protagonist of Percival Everett's novel Erasure writes his parody of blaxploitation literature My Pafology (later changed to Fuck).

Black Snake Moan is the title of a song by Blind Lemon Jefferson and a film by Craig Brewer. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ... The Universal Wrestling Federation was a regional professional wrestling federation founded by Leroy McGuirk, and later owned by Bill Watts. ... Greil Marcus (2006) Greil Marcus (born 1945) is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. ... Sly Stone on The Ed Sullivan Show performing Everyday People, December 28, 1968. ... Theres a Riot Goin On is the influential 1971 album by the soul/rock/funk band Sly & the Family Stone. ... Percival Everett (born 1956) is an American writer and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. ... Erasure is an English synth pop duo band consisting of keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer Andy Bell. ...

References

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Stagger Lee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (938 words)
Stagger Lee (also known as Stagolee, Stack O'Lee, Stack-a-Lee and by several other spelling variants) was an African American murderer whose tawdry crime was immortalized in a blues folk song, which has been recorded in hundreds of different versions.
There is speculation that "Stag O Lee" songs predated even the 1895 incident, and Lee Sheldon may have gotten his nickname from earlier folk songs.
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.
Core Dump (367 words)
Now the story of Stagger Lee will be the subject of a graphic novel by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix, which will be published in May. You can preview the first 16 pages of the book and see the cover on the blog.
The “real” Stagger Lee, if such a person can said to exist, was a man named Lee Shelton who, on Christmas night 1895, walked into a St. Louis barroom and had a quarrel with one Billy Lyons.
Lee Shelton was in and out of prison for the rest of his life, which ended in 1912.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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