Monday, October 10, 2011

NCBS Murder Ballads Project. 2. Stagger Lee pt 1

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

- Stagolee, 1911, Journal of American Folklore

Stagger Lee. AKA Stackolee. Stack O'Lee.  Armed and extremely dangerous.  Shot a man over a Stetson hat.  A bad, bad, man.

Stagger Lee, like many of the songs on Murder Ballads has a wealth of lore and history that predates Nick Cave's gritty, often vulgar version.  There's even an (excellent) website dedicated to it.  For a more detailed history of the song, I recommend you go there.

 Mississippi John Hurt's version, which for some is the definitive Stagger Lee.

Another version recorded by Hurt in 1964


Lloyd Price's version, which was the first version of Stagger Lee that I ever heard.  It's a really upbeat version.  Nothing like a dancing the night away to a tune about cold blooded murder.

Even Woody Guthrie gave the tune a go.


The website lists 428 versions of Stagger Lee.  428.  To hell with "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."  This is the quintessential American song.  "So, if this is an American song," you might be thinking, "who does that fucking Australian think he is?"

Guess you'll have to wait for pt 2.

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