STACK O' LEE BLUES

Latest update on 14/02/2018

Artist: Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians
Author: traditional
Label: Victor
Year: 1923

B-side of Stavin' Change by The Virginians (Paul Whiteman's jazz unit).

Covers:

1925:

Gertrude Ma Rainey [her version has more of Frankie & Johnny]

1926:

Papa Harvey Hull & Long 'Cleve' Reed [as Original Stack O'Lee Blues on Black Patti; to call this one of the rarest of all country blues records is an understatement; the only copy surviving belongs to collector Joe Bussard; reissued on Old Hat cd Down In The Basement: Joe Bussard's Treasure Trove Of Vintage 78s (1926-1937) and also on the English lp Country Blues: The First Generation (Matchbox Bluesmaster MSE201)]

1927:

Furry Lewis

1927:

Frank Hutchison [as Stackalee; white singer who learned it from a black neighbor]

1928:

Mississippi John Hurt [with more accurate lyrics, approaching the historical facts]

1940:

Lucious Curtis [John A. & Ruby T. Lomax recording in Natchez, MS]

1947:

Bama [as Stackerlee; Lomax recording on Prison Songs Vol. 1]

1950:

Archibald [as Stack-A-Lee Part 1]

1956:

Lonnie Donegan [as Stackalee]

1957:

Fats Domino [as Stack And Billy]

1958:

Lloyd Price [n°1 R&B & US as Stagger Lee]

1960:

Bill Haley & The Comets

1965:

Johnny Rivers

1965:

Ike & Tina Turner [as Stagger Lee & Billy]

1967:

Wilson Pickett [idem]

1969:

Taj Mahal

1970:

Pacific Gas & Electric [as Staggolee, used in Tarantino film Death Proof]

1971:

Tommy Roe

1972:

Dr. John

1974:

Professor Longhair [as Stag-O-Lee]

1978:

Big Bill [as Go Jean-Marie]

1979:

Neil Diamond

1985:

Fabulous Thunderbirds [in film Porgy's Revenge]

1993:

Bob Dylan [as Stack A Lee, the Frank Hutchison's way]

1994:

Huey Lewis

1995:

Hank Shizzoe

1996:

Nick Cave

1996:

Satan & Adam [as Stagga Lee]

2001:

Beck [as Stagolee on Mississippi John Hurt tribute Avalon Blues]

2007:

Samuel L. Jackson, Kenny Brown, Luther Dickinson & Cedric Burnside [as Stackolee in Craig Brewer film Black Snake Moan]

2008:

Eric Bibb [as Stagolee]

2018:

John Oates

Songs too can provide the stuff legends are made off. Just as Frankie & Johnny (see there) and Duncan & Brady, just as John Hardy and John Henry, Railroad Bill and Billy The Kid, Stagger Lee - or Stack o' Lee - was a real person at the end of the 19th century. An edition of the St. Louis Globe Democrat in 1895 reports the shooting in a saloon of a William Lyons by a Lee Sheldon, also known as Stag' Lee. Both were friends but had a serious argument when Lyons snatched Sheldon's stetson hat from his head. The latter, indignated, demanded restitution. Lyons refused and Sheldon shot him in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat back from the wounded man and walked away. Or how a trivial dispute fueled a musical legend. The story went into oral balladry and in no time Stag' Lee Shelton became a merciless killer, who not only shot Billy Lyons but also got involved in a gunfight with the police. He became so bad the Devil slammed hell's gate in his face. There's a version where his shot triggered the whole San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and Alan Lomax once recorded a version in New Orleans consisting of 41 stanzas, where Stagolee ends up in hell, chases the devil out and takes charge of the place! According to Dave Van Ronk, Stack O' Lee is a bad ass Paul Bunyon. Almost a century after the facts, New Orleans singer Lloyd Price still met controversy with his 1958 rhythm & blues version: he had to drop all the violence stuff before ABC Paramount considered release, but when it came out it became a millionseller. Over 200 recordings registrated; see Alan Lomax's Popular Songbook cd-booklet for part of that list. See also: Greil Marcus' Mystery Train, his essay in the January '96 Mojo, his book The Rose & The Briar (Norton), page 107 in Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey (DK) and finally: the book Stagolee Shot Billy by Cecil Brown (Harvard Univ. Press).

Contact


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
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B-2840 Reet (Rumst)

info@originals.be

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