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Author Topic: Versions of "Stackerlee"  (Read 2002 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Versions of "Stackerlee"
« on: May 25, 2014, 07:13:55 AM »
Hi all,
The Down Home Boys recorded "Original Stack O'Lee Blues" in May of 1927.  Part of the performance's notoriety derives from something that has nothing to do with its musical qualities:  it is considered by many people who would know such a thing to be the rarest Country Blues record that has been found.  It is the only one of the Down Home Boys recordings to be played in D position in standard tuning, and hits a surprising III chord (F#) in the fifth and sixth bars.  It is in the rarely encountered "Ballad Blues with refrain" category, like John Hurt's Frankie" and Mance Lipscomb's "Freddie".  It is notable for having Stack O'Lee kill Billy with a knife rather than shooting him, and the unusual reversal of who is begging for his life in the third verse, which I believe to have been done in error.  The harmonizing on the refrain has a real Hillbilly sound to me.



   Stack O'Lee was a bully, he bullied all his life
   Well, he bullied through Chicago town with a ten cent pocket knife
   REFRAIN:  Let it go, Stack O'Lee

   Stack said to Billy, "How can it be?
   You arrest a man just as bad as me, but you won't 'rest Stack O'Lee"
   REFRAIN

   SPOKEN, DURING SOLO:  A bad man!

   Stack said to Billy, "Don't you take my life.
   Well, I ain't got nothin' but two little chirrens and a darlin' lovin' wife."
   REFRAIN

   "One is a boy and the other 'un is a girl."
   "Well, you may see your children again but it'll be in another world."
   REFRAIN

   Standing on the corner, well, I didn't mean no harm
   Well, a policeman caught me, well, he grabbed me by my arm
   REFRAIN

   Stack O'Lee and Billy had a noble fight
   Well, Stack O'Lee killed Billy Lyon with a four dollars pocket knife
   REFRAIN

   SPOKEN, DURING SOLO:  Oh, play it, boys!

   Standin' on the hilltop, his dog began to bark
   Well, it wasn't nothin' but Stack O'Lee come creeping in the dark
   REFRAIN

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 10:06:45 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2014, 07:18:04 AM »
Hi all,
Frank Hutchison recorded two versions of "Stackalee" at his session in New York City on January 28, 1927.  The first, an instrumental version featuring his guitar and harmonica played off a rack opened the session and the second, with the same instrumentation but with a vocal added, closed the session.  It may be the most complete telling of the "Stackalee" story on a 78 era recording. For both takes, Frank Hutchison accompanied himself out of C position in standard tuning, with a simple boom-chang accompaniment. Boy, was he a good harmonica player!  He really was a kind of triple threat instrumentalist--a great harmonica player off a rack, a fine fingerpicker in the conventional fretted style and a strong slide player.  Add in his singing and the way his personality came across on his recordings and it's no mystery why he recorded as many titles as he did.  He sounds like he's saying John B Stetson hat right through the rendition, rather than John D Stetson hat as most people sang it.  I'd appreciate help with his first spoken interjection.



   All in the alley, one dark and drizzly night
   Billy Lyons and Stackalee had one terrible fight
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   Stackalee walked to the barroom, and he called a glass of beer
   He turned around to Billy Lyons, said, "What are you doin' here?"
   "Waitin' for the train, please bring my woman home."

   "Stackalee, oh Stackalee, please don't take my life
   I've got three little childern and a weepin' lovin' wife
   You're a bad man, bad man, Stackalee."

   "God bless your childern, I'll take care of your wife.
   You stole my John B, now I'm bound to take your life
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   Stackalee turned to Billy Lyons and he shot 'im right through the head
   Only taken one shot to kill Billy Lyons dead
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   Sent for the doctor, well, the doctor, he did come
   "Good mornin', ol' Stackalee, now what have you done?
   You're a bad man, bad man, Stackalee."

   Six big horses and a rubber-tired hack
   They taken him to the cemetery, they fail to bring him back
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   SPOKEN: Lookin' for old Stackalee then

   All in the alley, thought I heared a bulldog bark
   It musta been old Stackalee, stumblin' in the dark
   He's a bad man, gonna land 'im right back in jail

   SPOKEN:  How'd they catch old Stackalee?

   Five police walked on to Stackalee, he's lyin' fast asleep
   Five police took Stackalee, he jumped for forty feet
   He's a bad man, gonna land 'im right back in jail

   Got old Stackalee, they lied him way back in jail
   They couldn't get a man around to go Stackalee's bail
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   Stackalee said to the jailer, "Jailer, I can't sleep
   'Round my bedside, Billy Lyons begin to creep."
   All about that John B Stetson hat

   SOLO

Edited, 5/28 to pick up correction from Gumbo

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 10:04:59 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2014, 07:21:43 AM »
Hi all,
Furry Lewis recorded "Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee" on October 9, 1927, at a session in Chicago.  He backed himself out of C position in standard tuning for the song, which has some eccentric solos in which Furry seems to be channeling bygone marches.  In the next-to-last verse, I think the Judge speaks in the first line and the Sheriff responds in the second line.  There are a couple of places where I'm not at all sure I have the lyrics right, and I'd very much appreciate corroboration or correction of what I have currently.



I remember one September, on one Friday night
Stack O'Lee and Billy De Lyons had a great fight
Cryin', when you lose your money, learn to lose

Billy De Lyons shot six bits, Stack, he bet he passed
Stack O'Lee out with his .45, said, "You done shot your last."
When you lose your money, learn to lose

Lord, a woman come a-runnin', fell down on her knees
Cryin', "Oh, Mr. Stack O'Lee, don't shoot my brother, please!"
When you lose your money (guitar finishes line)

Now, you talkin' 'bout some gambler, oughta seen Richard Lee
Shot one thousand dollars and come out on a three
Cryin', when you lose your money, learn to lose

Lord the Judge told the Sheriff, We want 'im dead or alive."
"How in the world can we bring him, when he totes a .45?"
When you lose your money, learn to lose

Lord, a woman told the Judge, "My husband's named Jack, Sheriff."
Want to 'rest poor Stack O'Lee, better go somewheres else
When you lose your money, learn to lose

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 10:03:24 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2014, 07:24:29 AM »
Hi all,
Mississippi John Hurt played his 1928 version of "Stack O' Lee" out of D position in standard tuning.  Despite Okeh's way of spelling the title character's name, John Hurt pronounced it "Stagolee" throughout his rendition.  He was certainly one of the most adroit players in the style in D position in standard tuning, a position altogether avoided by a good portion of the most famous players in the style.




   Police officer, how can it be,
   You can arrest everybody but cruel Stagolee?
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

   Billy DeLyons told Stagolee, ?Please don?t take my life.
   I got two little babes and a darlin? loving wife.?
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

   ?What I care about your two little babes, your darlin? loving wife?
   You done stole my Stetson hat, I?m bound to take your life.?
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

   (Two verses and refrains hummed)

   Boom-boom, boom-boom, went a .44
   Well, when I spied Billy DeLyon he was lyin? down on the floor
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

   Gentlemens of the jury, what you think of that?
   Stagolee killed Billy DeLyon ?bout a five dollar Stetson hat
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

   Standin? on the gallows, his head way up high
   At twelve o?clock they killed him, they?s all glad to see him die
   REFRAIN:  That bad man, old cruel Stagolee

Edited 2/5 to pick up corrections from ScottN

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 10:01:49 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2014, 07:26:01 AM »
Hi all,
I found this version of "Stackerlee", recorded by Alan Lomax at Parchman Farms in 1947, and sung by an inmate identified only as 'Bama.  The song is delivered a capella, and 'Bama had the vocal instrument and presence to bring it all off so strongly.  One expects to hear different verses in different versions of a song like this, and 'Bama does not disappoint, singing several verses I've not heard done elsewhere.  I particularly admire the taglines to the third and sixth verses.  After eight verses, 'Bama makes a left turn into "Alberta", but it is all so much of a piece in his rendition that it doesn't make sense to excerpt the verses that deal specifically to Stackerlee.  The rendition is over four minutes long, and 'Bama's concentration doesn't flag one bit.



Now Stackerlee, he was a bad man
He wanted the whole round world to know
He toted a .32-20 and a smokeless .44

Now Stackerlee, Lord, and Billy Lyon
They was gamblin' early one day
Stackerlee losin' money and he th'owed the cards away

Now Stackerlee, he told Billy Lyon,
"Billy, I'm sure gon' take your life.
You have win my money, jack, and I found a foul dice."

Now Billy Lyon, he told Stackerlee,
He said, "Stack, please don't take my life.
I have two little child'en and my poor little weakly wife."

"Now, one of them is a boy, Stack,
And the other one is a girl."
"But if you love your child'en, Billy Lyon, you will have to meet them in the other world."

Now Stackerlee, he told Billy Lyon,
"Billy, I thought you were the gamblin' man.
You know you passed leads in the second, and you know you done fouled your hand."

Now Stackerlee, he shot Billy Lyon
'Way down on that ballroom floor
It was early one mornin', just about fifteen to four

Now Billy Lyon mother, she come runnin'
She said, "Lord have mercy on my son.
Poor Billy Lyon done got murdered, and I know he didn't have his gun."

Alberta, Lord, Alberta
Baby, don't you hear me callin' you?
But you're three times seven, Alberta, and you know what you want to do

I'm gonna call up the undertaker
Lord, I'm gonna ring up Mr. Moss
I'm gonna ask those people, "What will Alberta's funeral cost?"

I wants a two hundred dollar coffin
Lord, I wants a hundred dollar hearse
And that will put Alberta, I know, six feet in the earth

Now give me water, Lord, when I'm thirsty
Honey, give me whiskey when I'm dry
Give me Alberta when I need her and Heaven when I die

Now, when I gets all up in Glory
Lord, I'm gonna sit down on the Golden Stool
And I'm gonna ask St. Gabriel to blow me the worried blues

(SPOKEN: That's enough, boy, ha)

Edited 5/24 to pick up correction from Laura

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2014, 09:46:16 AM »
Hi all,
I just came across this thread that I somehow missed when it first was posted and thought it would be neat to see if we could complete the lyric transcription.  I know nothing about the performers, but an .mp3 of the performance can be downloaded from earlier in the thread.  The guitarist does a nice job accompanying the song out of C position in standard tuning.  Of the various versions of "Stagolee" I've heard, this one seems closest, lyrically, to that of the Down Home Boys, and it's not all that close to that one.  Here is what I have for the lyrics and in the bent bracketed places I would certainly appreciate correction or corroboration.



Stagolee-Blind Pete & Partner

SPOKEN:  Stagolee, now, right on Stagolee

Stagolee, oh Stack, what do you think about that?
Killed poor Billy De Lyon 'bout a five-dollar Stetson hat
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

By Sunday Stack was arrested, Monday he was in jail
Tuesday morning, he was out on a hundred-dollar bail
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

"Stagolee", says Billy, "Please don't take my life.
I've got two little children and a dear little lovin' wife."
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

"My one was a boy, other is a girl."
"You'll never see your father's face 'til you meet him in another world."
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun

Stack said to his woman, like some rounder would do
"Get me out of this cellar, girl, no tellin' what I'll do for you."
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

"Why, some call me Stack, my name is Billy Wills.
I am not your prisoner, go and hunt somebody else."
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

Stagolee and Billy had a noble fight
Hey, I would call that a awful, real bad night
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun?

Stack shot poor Billy, Billy fell against the trees
He cried, "Look-a-here, Stack done murdered me!"
REFRAIN: Ain't he a bad man with his gun

Edited 12/2 to pick up corrections from jphauser2000 and Johnm

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 09:59:57 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2014, 09:48:26 AM »
Hi all,
Lucious Curtis and Willie Ford were recorded by Alan Lomax doing their version of "Stagolee".  Like Hogman Maxey's version, it is of the 8-bar variety, without a refrain, though it has an altogether different melody and rhythmic feel than Maxey's version.  It's remarkable how different these versions of "Stagolee" have been from each other.  It's a shame that a train wreck in the second solo may have made the duo give up on the rendition sooner than they might otherwise have done.  Here is the performance, with an exceedingly strange accompanying video.



It was late last night, I heard my bulldog bark
Stagolee and Billy De Lyons, they was arguin' in the dark

Stagolee, he told the devil, "Come on, let's have some fun.
You get your pitchfork, I'm gonna get my .41."

Stagolee, he was a bad man, now boys, if you don't know
Stagolee, he would get you wherever you may go

Now I looked last night, at Stagolee when he comes
He told his girls, "Come on, let's have some fun."

Stagolee went runnin' to his mother, holding up his right hand
Said, "Look-a-here, Mother, I got to kill me another man."

SOLO

Stagolee, he was a bad man, and he did not live in town
Stagolee had a good woman, didn't allow nobody around

SOLO

Come on, now people, let's go down to Stagolee's home
If he's startin' his thing I sure ain't gonna be there long

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2014, 09:50:09 AM »
Hi all,
Hogman Maxey recorded a terrific version of "Stagolee", backing himself on a 12-string guitar out of E position in standard tuning.  I don't know for certain, but I believe all of Maxey's recordings were made by Dr. Harry Oster at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana where Maxey was an inmate.
This version of "Stagolee" differs from those of the Down Home Boys, Blind Pete & Partner and John Hurt in that it has no refrain.  Basically, it is a variety of 8-bar blues, though Hogman Maxey phrased it more loosely than that.  It really is closer to the Lloyd Price version from the '50s or early '60s than any of the other versions named here.  Maxey has a lot of strong verses I've never heard elsewhere, and his concluding one is a beauty.  His time on the guitar is terrific, what a pulse!  He seems to hit I and IV7 chords interchangeably and never goes to a V chord.  I'm including the performance here



I was standin' on the corner when I heard my bulldog bark
He was barkin' at the two men who gamblin' in the dark

It was Stagolee and Billy, two men who gamble late
Stagolee th'owed seven, Billy swore that he th'owed eight

Stagolee told Billy, "I can't let you go with that.
You have winned my money and my brand new Stetson hat."

Stagolee went home and he got a .44
Says, "I'm goin' to the barroom to pay that debt I owe."

Stagolee went to the barroom, stood four feet from the door
Didn't nobody know when he pulled his .44

Stagolee found Billy, "Oh, please don't take my life.
I got three little children and a very sickly wife."

Stagolee shot Billy, oh, he shot that boy so fast
Well, the bullet came through 'im and broke my window glass

Some folks don't b'lieve, oh Lord, that Billy dead
You don't b'lieve he gone, just look what a hole in his head

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2014, 09:52:44 AM »
Hi all,
Champion Jack Dupree did a really nice version of "Stack-O-Lee" on an album called "Blues From the Gutter".  He's joined on the track by a bass player, drummer and tenor saxophonist (no personnel for the recording date was shown at youtube).  Jack accompanied himself out of Ab here, and he employs a really pretty 8-bar chord progression, like so:

   |    Ab    |    C7/G    |    Db    |    Bdim7|

   |   Ab/C  |    Eb7      |    Ab    |     Eb     |

Jack's version of the fracas between Staggerlee and Billy has some different twists, among them, the Stetson hat starting out as Billy's, rather than Staggerlee's.  The last verse gives the rendition a real New Orleans feel.  Though the song is titled "Stack-O-Lee" on the album, Jack pronounces it "Staggerlee" in his vocal, so I've chosen to spell it as he pronounced it.



Staggerlee and Billy Lyons, they was gamblin' in the dark
Staggerlee told Billy, "Billy Lyons, let's take a walk."

Staggerlee won Billy Lyons' money, and he took Billy Lyons' Stetson hat
Billy Lyons said, "Staggerlee, Lord, why'd you do me like that?"

Now Billy Lyons begged Staggerlee, said, "Please give me back my hat.
'Cause you know you won my money, please don't take my hat."

Now Billy Lyons said to Staggerlee, said, "Please, please don't take my life.
I got two little children and a poor little homeless wife."

SAXOPHONE SOLO

Billy Lyons said to Staggerlee, "Would you do your friend like that?
Saying, you won all my money, and you took my Stetson hat."

Staggerlee shot Billy Lyons, and he fell down on his knees
He said, "Lawd, have mercy, Lawd, have mercy, if you please."

Staggerlee run to the corner, and he look up and down
Said, "I'd rather see you, Billy, six feet in the ground."

Now the people started to weepin', and some of them begin to moan
Everybody was worried about poor Billy Lyons was gone

Tee-nah, tee-nah-nah, tee-nah-nah-nee-nah
Tee-nah-nah-nah, tee-nah-nee-nah-nee-nah

"Say, I want Louis Armstrong and his band to play the blues, after they lay my body down.
I want ten thousand women to be at my buryin' ground."

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2014, 09:55:41 AM »
Hi all,
Jesse Fuller did a really nice version of "Stagolee".  In many respects his version brings John Hurt's version of the same song to mind:  both were played out of D position in standard tuning, and Jesse Fuller used many of the same lyrics as did John Hurt, but then most versions of "Stagolee" have some verses in common.  The different thing about Jesse Fuller's version is that he is very long at the back end of the form, once he gets past the first verse.  From that point on, he treats what would normally be the verse as a lyric break, holding the I chord, and then goes into a long, variable refrain, at which point he hits his IV chord.  Jesse Fuller had such terrific time, he gets a churning quality to his groove, and when his kazoo solo comes in it is a pleasant surprise.  Here is his performance.



SPOKEN:  Here's old Stagolee!

Police officer, how can it be?
You can arrest everybody but cruel Stagolee
That bad man, that bad man
REFRAIN: That bad man, that bad man
Old cruel Stagolee

Billy DeLyon told Stagolee, "Please don't take my life.
I got two little babies and a darlin' lovin' wife."
Lord-Lord, Lord-Lord
Lord, La-mmmm, that bad man
REFRAIN: That bad man, that bad man
Old cruel Stagolee

"What do I care about your two little babies, your darlin' lovin' wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat and I'm bound to take your life."
Lord-Lord, hey-hey
That bad man, old Stagolee
REFRAIN: Oh-oh, yeah-yeah
Old cruel Stagolee

Boom-boom-boom went a .44
When I spied old Billy DeLyon, he was lyin' down on the floor
Lord-Lord, hey-hey
That bad man, Stagolee
REFRAIN: That bad man, that bad man
Old cruel Stagolee

SOLO (humming during solo)

"Gentlemen of the jury, what do you think of that?
Stagolee killed Billy deLyon 'bout a five-dollar Stetson hat."
Lord-Lord, hey-hey
That bad man, Stagolee
REFRAIN: That bad man, that bad man
Old cruel Stagolee

KAZOO SOLO

He's hangin' on the gallows, head 'way up high
At twelve o'clock they killed him, all glad to see him die
Lord-Lord, oh yeah
Oh yeah mmmmm, Stagolee
REFRAIN: That bad man, oh Stagolee
Old cruel Stagolee

All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2014, 09:57:24 AM »
Hi all,
Ma Rainey's "Stack O'Lee Blues" can be found on the Yazoo CD "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", Yazoo 1071.  It is a unique treatment of the Stackerlee story, I think, because it borrows its melody and phrasing from "Frankie and Johnny", and even keeps the "He was my man, but he done me wrong" refrain.  It makes no mention of Stackerlee and Billy De Lyons' set-to.  I find I tend to forget about all of that when Ma starts to sing.  If I can find it on youtube, I'll post it here.  I'd appreciate help with the one line in bent brackets.





Stack O'Lee was a bad man, everybody know
And when they seed Stack O'Lee comin', they'd give him the road
He was my man, but he done me wrong

Stack O'Lee Stack O'Lee, was so desperate and bad
He'd take everything his women would bring and everything they had
He was my man, but he's done me wrong

Stack O'Lee's on the warpath, and you'd better run
'Cause Stack O'Lee holds a bad man and he'll kill you just for fun
He was my man, but he's done you wrong

Stack O'Lee's in jail now, with his face turned to the wall
Thirty women and old corn whiskey was the cause of it all
He was my man, but he's done you wrong

A hundred-dollar coffin and a eighty-dollar hack
Carried him to the cemetery but it did not bring him back
He was my man, but he's done me wrong

All best,
Johnm

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2014, 10:10:46 AM »
Hi all,
I realized that the various versions of "Stackerlee" that have been transcribed and entered here were scattered throughout a variety of player-specific lyric threads, and it is so much easier to compare the different versions when they're all collected in one thread, like the "Titanic", "John Henry", Poor Boy" and "Railroad Bill" threads.  So I thought I'd make such a thread for "Stackerlee".  More of the versions have been posted on YouTube since many of the versions were first transcribed, so it's now possible to hear each of the transcribed versions as you look at the lyrics.  Hooray for YouTube!
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 01:04:38 PM by Johnm »

Offline btasoundsradio

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2014, 12:35:54 PM »
Charlie is the Father, Son is the Son, Willie is the Holy Ghost

Offline alyoung

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2014, 04:14:33 AM »
Hi all,
Champion Jack Dupree did a really nice version of "Stack-O-Lee" on an album called "Blues From the Gutter".  He's joined on the track by a bass player, drummer and tenor saxophonist (no personnel for the recording date was shown at youtube). 

Jack Dupree, piano, vcl; Pete Brown, alto sax; Larry Dale, gtr; Wendell Marshall, bass; Willie Jones, dms. Recorded in New York; February 4; 1958. It's a nice album.

Offline RobBob

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Re: Versions of "Stackerlee"
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2014, 06:32:58 AM »
The Down Home Boys version sounds like an adaptation of Railroad Bill for the melody and tune shape.  A very nice collection of versions.  Thanks!

 


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