Tune Tuesday: Lloyd Price 1959

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Lloyd Price Image One
Photo Credit: youtube.com

Sixty years ago, today, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts was Stagger Lee. The song references a murder that took place on December 27, 1895 (though some accounts say Christmas night). “Stag” Lee Shelton, born in Texas on March 16, 1865 (the same year John B. Stetson started his famous cowboy hat company), owner of the Modern Horseshoe Club, shot William “Billy” Lyons at the Bill Curtis Saloon after an argument.

From the St. Louis Globe-Democrat December 28, 1895:

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 [sic], a carriage driver. Lyons and Sheldon [sic] 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 [sic] hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon [sic] withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon [sic] 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 [sic] is also known as ‘Stag’ Lee.

Quote from Cecil Brown (author of Stagolee Shot Billy):

“Lee Shelton belonged to a group of pimps known in St. Louis as the ‘Macks’. The Macks were not just ‘urban strollers’. They presented themselves as objects to be observed.”

Lloyd Price Image Two
Image Credit: amazon.com

Shelton’s first trial in July, 1896, ended in a hung jury. The second trial in October 1897 returned a guilty verdict and a sentence of 25 years in prison at Jefferson Penitentiary. Shelton was pardoned and released from prison by Governor Folk on Thanksgiving in 1909. He returned to prison in May of 1911 for robbery & assault. He was granted an additional parole by Governor Hadley on February 8, 1912 but, died in the prison hospital of tuberculosis in March as Missouri’s Attorney General, Elliot Major, objected.

The original version of this song was the Stack O’ Lee Blues from 1924. It has some shocking lyrics and has absolutely nothing to do with the Stagger Lee version penned by Price and Harold Logan.

This song has been covered by Pat Boone (can you imagine?), Ike & Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Doc Watson, The Youngbloods and, even, Huey Lewis and the News.

[I grew up dancing to this song. It was a shagging staple. Have you ever seen Shag: The Movie? ~Vic]

Analog Version

Shag: The Movie

Fellow blogger Badfinger always lists lyrics. I will take his lead.

The night was clear and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumblin’ down…

I was standin’ on the corner
When I heard my bull-dog bark.
He was barkin’ at the two men
Who were gamblin’ 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,” said Billy,
“I can’t let you go with that.
You have won all my money,
And my brand-new Stetson hat.”

Stagger Lee went home
And he got his. 44.
He said, “I’m goin’ to the ballroom
Just to pay that debt I owe.”

Go, Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee went to the ballroom
And he strolled across the ballroom floor.
He said “You did me wrong, Billy.”
And he pulled his. 44.

“Stagger Lee,” said Billy,
“Oh, please don’t take my life!
I’ve got three hungry children,
And a very sickly wife.”

Stagger Lee shot Billy
Oh, he shot that poor boy so hard
That a bullet went through Billy
And broke the bartender’s bar.

Go, Stagger Lee, go, Stagger Lee!
Go, Stagger Lee, go, Stagger Lee!

30 thoughts on “Tune Tuesday: Lloyd Price 1959

    badfinger20 said:
    February 19, 2019 at 10:26 PM

    I have always loved this song. I knew it had some connection to a real-life event but I didn’t know it was that old.
    Thanks for the link… You wouldn’t believe how many people have thanked me for showing the lyrics.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 19, 2019 at 11:54 PM

      I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before.

        badfinger20 said:
        February 20, 2019 at 9:21 AM

        I did it to make the post a little longer…cheating a bit I guess

    hawkfeatherstories said:
    February 19, 2019 at 10:34 PM

    I love everything about this post! One of my favorite blog posts since October when I started coming to WordPress.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 19, 2019 at 11:57 PM

      I am glad you enjoyed it. 😁🤗❤

    hawkfeatherstories said:
    February 19, 2019 at 10:40 PM

    Reblogged this on Hawkfeather Stories and commented:
    I loved reading this post from fellow blogger Cosmic Observation. History and music, what’s not to like?

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 19, 2019 at 11:58 PM

      Thank you. You are very kind! 😊🤗❤

        hawkfeatherstories said:
        February 20, 2019 at 12:01 AM

        I tried to reblog it but it didn’t work. I think it’s because I have a self supported website. I truly enjoyed it though.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          February 20, 2019 at 12:07 AM

          wordpress.org? Yeah. Toggling back & forth between that & the WP app and/or reader is problematic.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          February 20, 2019 at 12:14 AM

          And, your short code is showing in your posts on the reader.

            hawkfeatherstories said:
            February 20, 2019 at 12:16 AM

            That’s a bummer! I wonder how that can be fixed?

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              February 20, 2019 at 12:18 AM

              WP help. Chat with them. They have helped me many times. It may have something to do with the Jetpack.

    hanspostcard said:
    February 20, 2019 at 5:44 AM

    The Rulers- Wrong ‘Em Boyo- most famously covered on The Clash’s London Calling- takes on the legend of Stag O Lee.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 20, 2019 at 8:49 PM

      Is there a video I can see?

    JT Twissel said:
    February 20, 2019 at 2:28 PM

    Pat Boone – that is a shocker. Interesting story. Thanks.

    badfinger20 said:
    February 20, 2019 at 10:14 PM

    Pat Boone sucked the soul out of every song he sang. My Dad got into a fight with Boone when they went to the same school…over a girl. I wish I would have asked him more about it.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      February 21, 2019 at 12:10 AM


      Your dad went to school with Pat Boone? That’s quite a trivia piece, there.

      As a side note, my only claim to “knowing fame” is graduating high school with Rachael Oliver:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Black_America (1986)
      I was in the HS school pageant with her that started her career.
      She was in the “Masterpiece” video.

        badfinger20 said:
        February 21, 2019 at 12:23 AM

        That is really cool. She was really pretty.

        No one from my class was famous. Had one guy that played guitar with some country artists. Mark Stewart.

        Yes my dad didn’t like him. He told me he was fake. My dad didn’t like fake people or people who thought they were better.

          The Hinoeuma responded:
          February 21, 2019 at 12:51 AM

          And, she knew it, too. Plus, she was a racist…and just as fake as Boone.

            badfinger20 said:
            February 21, 2019 at 12:54 AM

            I was hoping she would be nice. That is too bad. When women know they are pretty….that makes them ugly to me…that is a strong statement but I’ve always felt that way.

              The Hinoeuma responded:
              February 21, 2019 at 2:19 PM

              The last time I saw her was 2009 @ our 25th reunion. She & another lady were co-head cheerleaders and those two…hm. They ran all over the class prez. Then, they got into a power struggle. Rachel won the “I get to be the star of the class” competition & Beverly won the “I get to control the finances & arrangements” competition.

              Nothing like two aging ex-cheerleaders (or aging beauty queen) trying to one-up each other. Rachel was a little better at the backstabbing part.

              Oh, I could tell you stories about that pageant.

                badfinger20 said:
                February 21, 2019 at 3:15 PM

                Wow… looks only last for so long and they know it. I have a cousin who I swear was a Heather Locklear look alike… now she wasn’t a snob but she was too pretty for her own good. She would play it for all it was worth.
                I LOVE your competetion titles! That is the truth…I didn’t go to mine…the people I wanted to stay in touch with I did.

                I’ve seen enough documentaries on pageants…if I would have had a daughter I would not have pushed her into that. Just vicious.

                  The Hinoeuma responded:
                  February 21, 2019 at 6:54 PM

                  In my particular case, it was just the opposite. I entered the pageant on my own because I wanted to see if I could do it. I had a good friend at the time that was interested in it, too. We joined together. My parents had split by that time and neither were very interested. I got my maternal grandmother to help me with a talent costume and, my evening gown, that my mom got on sale at Belks, became my prom gown. Neither parent attended but, both of my grandmothers did (this is but one example of my parents’ indifference to anything I did).

                  Pageants can be vicious either by the contestants or the parents. I’m glad I did it. It was a wonderful experience in terms of what I accomplished for myself. I danced, sang & spoke a poem in front of a live audience. My ideas were my own and I crafted my own show. I knew going into it that I wouldn’t win. So did my buddy Marcie. I was actually shocked when Rachael won. The biggest talent in our group was a little thing with a big voice named Christi. She was actually a bigger ‘star’ in school and had a better singing voice than Rachael’s. She died in a single car crash in 2005, tragically.

                    badfinger20 said:
                    February 21, 2019 at 7:30 PM

                    That stinks that your parents didn’t come. Parents should get how important things like that are to their children.

                    That is great that you did it all by yourself. Well, it’s a shame but was good for you I’m sure.

                    Did you enjoy it? The parents are the ones I see causing the misery the most.

                    A few out of our class have died. Three of them within two years of graduation in car wrecks.

                    My parents made it to some of my baseball games…my dad made it to some of the bars the bands I played in…he wasn’t a drinker…he was a pill taker. He had this bag he took around with him that jangled… he had 70 kidney stones in his life…he lived like Elvis basically…one to get up, one to get down etc.

                      The Hinoeuma responded:
                      February 21, 2019 at 10:40 PM

                      My parents were very young when I came along and they were together for all the wrong reasons (me). My early years were with my grandmothers and I bonded with my maternal grandmother. There is a plethora of psychology choking both sides of my family. I try to stay out of it.

                      I was nervous as hell but, it was fun. Given the same circumstances, I’d do it, again.

                      My graduating class is an odd thing. My small hometown only had two high schools and two middle (the county was completely different). From 1971 to 1981, an old, black high school in the middle of town was opened for 9th grade, only, as a make-shift ‘junior’ high. All of us had to be bused in as it was out of the way from the east side and the west side. So, for one year, all the kids from opposite sides of the city went to school together. In the middle of the school year (second semester), my mother re-married and I, suddenly, got moved to the west side of town. I wound up going to the west side’s HS for a semester…until the 13 month marriage crashed. BACK to the other side of town and the kids I grew up with. Our ‘group’ was the last to go to the ‘junior’ HS. They closed the school down after ten years.

                      As a complete group, there were only about 450 of us…probably less. I graduated with 212 (I was #42…HA, the answer to the Universe). We, all, still keep up with each other to a degree. During our 25th reunion, my grad. class crashed their party across town as there were simultaneous gatherings. As of August of last year, 27 are dead out of the total 400+, the first one dying of cancer while we were still in school and the last one in July 2018.

                      Seventy kidney stones? OY. I can’t even imagine. My dad has had his ‘alcoholic’ days but, those are long gone. Now, he is in poor health. My mom? Not sure. I broke contact with her when I was in my early 20s. I saw her at my uncle’s for Christmas in 2015. She had no idea who I was.

                      badfinger20 said:
                      February 21, 2019 at 11:15 PM

                      We were too small to bus. We had one high school in the county at that time. Now there is like 5. Our high school…same one my son goes to was cool. It was built in 1970 and was pods…very space age then.

                      Yea he got the kidney stones in the early seventies and was prescribed everything…was a bible thumper and then mom caught him in the hospital bed with a nurse….didn’t go over too well.

                      Mom was a nervous woman…they got a divorce…after 2 step dads…one good one bad…she worked all of her life though.. but mom started to get dementia when she was like 48 and died when she was 64. She still loved my Dad…he died and she died 6 months later in 2005….hell of a year.

                      But…saying all of that…I can’t say they didn’t try to make my life good…even when apart. Damn that is terrible about your mom. I was fortunate not having that.

                      The Hinoeuma responded:
                      February 22, 2019 at 11:51 PM

                      The HS I graduated from was opened in 1970. It was very square & boxy-looking. The other HS (my dad went to that one) was opened in 1951 and had dual spiral staircases and glass blocks…and no air conditioning. If I remember my history correctly, Elvis Presley performed there in February, 1956.

                      Oh, my…(on the nurse incident).

                      Oh, my…(on 2005).

                      I truly believe that my mom is on the autism spectrum…somewhere. She was just an odd bird. She had that unfiltered honesty, trouble with humor and was emotionally distant as some autistics display. She also had unresolved issues and anger regarding her home life growing up. My maternal GM was very religious…Primitive Baptist. She was hard on her five kids. By the time I came along, she had softened quite a bit. My mother got pregnant with me on purpose to get out of the house. It blew up in her face. When I got to 14, she pretty much stopped being a parent. She cared for me very well, physically, when I was young. As I aged, she could not relate at all.

                      I walked away from her very angry but, over the years, I have come to terms with it. We are strangers but, she was never outright abusive.

                      badfinger20 said:
                      February 23, 2019 at 12:06 AM

                      I’ve heard that story before about getting pregant on purpose to get out. I’m glad you have a healthy attitude about it. It made you stronger but not the idea way to do it.
                      I was happy/sad when my parents divorced…I just remember mom chasing around the house with some object…but he deserved it.

                      It made me more independant and I can tell you have that also…what you did in the pageant showed it.

                      Elvis….that is cool. The famous person we had was Pat Head Summit went to our school. Also the bass singer of the Oak Ridge Boys performed a show in the theater and our band outdrew him the next week lol…

                      The Hinoeuma responded:
                      February 23, 2019 at 1:02 AM

                      It took me a while. I was pretty messed up in my 20s & early 30s. It was a relief when mine separated. My dad is a brat (that’s another story) and his behavior played off of hers. Power struggle, 24/7. There was physical abuse on his part, ending with him throwing her over a rocking chair and firing a pistol into the floor next to her head (I was not there; he admitted it to me as if it wasn’t his fault). She is a neat-freak, workaholic. He is a stubborn, lazy slob (you should see his apartment). She has had trouble, too. She was arrested and charged with stalking the wife of an ex-boyfriend. She meant no harm (remember the autism thing). She was just outside staring at the house, that she had lived in, once…came to the door and asked for money & furniture. The wife called the SO. Honestly, I think she got stuck in the past and was losing it. When I asked my uncle what she thought had happened to her ‘daughter’, he just shook his head and said something along the lines of “she remembers her ten-year-old and that’s about it.”

                      Lord, I have been an independent critter since I was little (curse of the only child). I freaked my parents out when I was six or seven. I took off, with a friend from up the street, and walked two miles to a fire station to hang out. My GF had been a FF and I used to go with my GM to take him lunch when he was dispatch at HQ. It never occurred to my little-kid brain that I had done something wrong. The FFs gave us cookies and soft drinks and, we wandered back home. I got a spanking for that and was so confused. My friend didn’t fare any better. She wasn’t allowed to be my friend, anymore (my bad influence, I guess).

                      I just looked her up. She died young.

                      You got any band video?

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