—— folk family and jam


A year ago November, on a rainy night
Billy Lyons and Stagolee had a great fight
That bad man, that bad man, o cruel Stagolee.

Oh Mr Stagolee, please don't take my life
I've got two loving children, and a darling loving wife
That bad man ...

Well the devil take care of your children, I'll take care of your wife
You done take my stetson hat, now I'm gonna take your life
That bad man ...

Down in New Orleans, in Billy Lyons' club
Every step you're stepping, you're stepping in Billy's blood
That bad man ...

Oh Mr officer, How can it be
You're 'resting everybody, 'ceptin' Stagolee
That bad man that bad man, cruel Stagolee. 

 This version is mostly from The New Lost City Ramblers, a group of instrumentalists (Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Tom Paley, formed in 1958) who rooted out old country and hillbilly songs from 78 records and suchlike and did them more or less in the traditional style. An influential group, who were still going in the 90's.
But there was a little help from Jesse Fuller - a one man band, not generally well-known, but one of my favourites.
Some of the words I got from Paul Banks' version.

Based on a true story!
A story appearing in the St. Louis Missouri Globe-Democrat in 1895 says:

"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 Shelton, a carriage driver. Lyons and Shelton 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 Shelton's hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Shelton withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Shelton 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 Shelton is also known as 'Stag' Lee."
Lee was (apparently) not just a carriage driver, but a pimp and a street gangsta with attitude.  And he was black.
Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 version is considered definitive.  But everybody else has a different version.  The Grateful Dead recorded a version which is more about Billy's wife - who goes after Stagolee and shoots him in the balls.