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Don't you ever take a married woman to be your friend. She'll take all your money and go back to her other man - Sleepy John Estes, Diving Duck Blues

Author Topic: historical figure behind Po' Lazarus  (Read 297 times)

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Offline jphauser

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historical figure behind Po' Lazarus
« on: January 04, 2020, 10:32:57 AM »
Has a historical figure behind the legendary badman ballad Po' Lazarus (aka Bad Lazarus) been identified?  The real life individuals who inspired badmen Stagolee and Railroad Bill have been identified, but I don't believe I've ever come across the name of the badman who inspired Po' Lazarus.

Offline TenBrook

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Re: historical figure behind Po' Lazarus
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2020, 06:56:05 AM »
A google search didn't turn up much but this link has some possibly useful info:
http://www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/ballads/LI12.html

Offline jphauser

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Re: historical figure behind Po' Lazarus
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2020, 04:32:49 AM »
Thanks for your input.  I've checked some of the sources listed in the link (Lomax and Courlander) and came up with an interesting recording of Lomax talking to the performers of his recording of the song, but nobody seems to have truly nailed down exactly what real life person or event inspired the song. 

I imagine that there were a good number of real life individuals who fit the mold of Lazarus by collecting the backpay they were due with a pistol or rifle.  I do recall a Po' Lazarus-like figure from my reading years ago who I believe was called Blacksnake, and I imagine the story surrounding him was part factual and part mythical.  If my memory is correct, the story was collected by John Work who collaborated with Lomax.

I will do another post today or tomorrow with more details.


Offline jphauser

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Re: historical figure behind Po' Lazarus
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2020, 01:21:03 PM »
1.  The first link below is the recording of Lomax questioning performers of the song about Lazarus which I referenced in my prior post.

http://research.culturalequity.org/rc-b2/get-audio-detailed-recording.do?recordingId=4413



2.  The link below takes you to a page in the John and Alan Lomax book Folk Song USA.  It includes lyrics and the story of the badman.

https://folksongusa.tumblr.com/


This next link is from Harold Courlander's book Negro Folk Music USA.  It includes lyrics which reveal Lazarus's motivation for robbing the commissary: He been paid off.

https://books.google.com/books?id=XxidDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA180&lpg=PA180&dq=%22paid+off%22+courlander+negro+folk&source=bl&ots=dd9uljGYOT&sig=ACfU3U30t_NuOpOLISqJv9z5P6DbFCDStw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD68_Dt_fmAhULvVkKHejqCiEQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22paid%20off%22%20courlander%20negro%20folk&f=false



Offline jphauser

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Re: historical figure behind Po' Lazarus
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2020, 01:28:44 PM »
One last link is below.  This is from an article by Lomax titled "Sinful Songs of the Southern Negro." 
https://books.google.com/books?id=iqsoOWIqIAsC&pg=PA27&lpg=PA27&dq=laz%27+us+muddy+alan+lomax&source=bl&ots=ZQABSDDce_&sig=ACfU3U3r_IT2oPE3yMQnw8nGvN23T7OTwA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjX6IvpuffmAhVRrlkKHTLRDyIQ6AEwA3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=laz'%20us%20muddy%20alan%20lomax&f=false


I haven't been able to locate the story about "Black Snake," but I'll come across it again one day and post it here.

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