“Stagger Lee”

6 Jul


ds bacoverI’m posting video of a live performance we did of “Stagger Lee,” one of the great songs in American roots music. I first heard the Lloyd Price version way back when, but the song’s been recorded by everyone from Ma Rainey to Sonny Terry, to The Clash to Dylan, and about a zillion others. I never actually tried to learn the song; I just started singing it one day and found out I knew all the words. The three versions that probably most affected how I play it are by Lloyd Price, Johnny Rivers, and Taj Majal, just because I’ve listened to them the most.

No one knows who wrote the song, but whoever did, it was a long time ago. “Stagger Lee” was first published in 1911. It’s about an actual bar room murder: In St. Louis at Christmas, 1895, “Stag” Lee Shelton shot one Billy Lyons. I’ll let…

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