Friday, August 30, 2013

Frankie & Johnny & Albert & Stack & Billy, part 1

Here’s another occasional series—or convocation if you will . . . clearly non-definitive, poorly researched, emotionally unbalanced . . . but good fun and good records. So, ahem, we venture into the Stack-O-Lee Symposium, with a panel composed of such illustrious names as Furry Lewis, Dave Van Ronk (special citation for funniest closing stanzas), Mississippi John Hurt (UFO award for most perplexing pre-song narrative, although all the story lines converge somewhere out in Deep Space, exact location unknown. You figure out: [1] who was wearing what and how was it magical, [2] where the whole cold thing went down, [3] what the participants’ real names were, as well as the names of spouses and various friends and family, [4] etc.), and Dion! We also have Archibald’s fine and rockin’ two-part New Orleans version from 1950. And Lloyd Price’s classic will do its own battle with Dion’s fine and dandy 1962 cover.

As a bonus big time Charley Patton checks in with Part I of his “Jim Lee” two-parter. Story: The Lee Line of Mississippi riverboats were named after, if I remember correctly, the sons; there was the Jim Lee, the Bob Lee Junior, and the Stacker Lee. Now guess which infamous murdering Stetson-wearing legend took his nickname from the third-mentioned boat. Somewhere in here you have a badass white guy who has been transmogrified by folk legend into a badass black guy. . . . 

And then there’s the Frankie and Johnny mythology, about which more later.


So here, to get us started off are:

Frank Hutchison • Stackalee • 1927




David Miller • That Bad Man Stacklee • 1927




Mississippi John Hurt • Stagolee • 1964


2 comments:

  1. Have you ever read "Stagolee Shot Billy" by Cecil Brown? It's an in-depth exploration of the roots of the Stagolee ballad. (Harvard University Press, 2003)

    I get a kick out of hearing different versions of these early ballads - hadn't heard "That Bad Man Stacklee."

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    1. Thanks, there's more rarities to come, Stack, Billy, Frankie, Johnny, the whole lot.

      I've known about the book since it came out, but still haven't gotten a round tuit!

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