Monday, December 03, 2007

Stagger Lee’s Return: Jazz/Blues/R&B

The story of Stagger Lee, originally sung in the late 1890s, and revived in the late 1920s, was not told again, at least on record, until a rolling piano player from New Orleans revived (and revised) the song in1950. Leon T. Gross, who performed under the simple name Archibald, added a few new twists in the story that made the song’s anti-hero (Stack A Lee, in this case) into a more vile person than previous versions.

Why the song faded from popularity for over twenty years is a bit of a mystery. My own speculation is that the world had plenty to concern itself with during the Depression, dust bowl, and WWII. By the 1950s the good times were back and R&B was one expression of those good times.

“Stagger Lee” is one of those rare songs that can easily be adapted to just about any genre or musical style. Over the next few days the Bus will be traveling through a few of the various styles in which “Stagger Lee” has been interpreted.

Let’s start with the third revival of the song in 1950, with jazz pianist Archibald and his influence on jazz, blues, and R&B artists.

Archibald - Stack A Lee.mp3

Lloyd Price - Stagger Lee.mp3

James Brown - Stagger Lee.mp3

Henry Gray - Stagger Lee.mp3

Fabulous Thunderbirds - Stagger Lee.mp3


Anonymous Richard said...

Ed, this is a great collection! You DO realize that this can become a sickness, no? If you wanna check out how addictive stuff like this can get, visit WFMU's site and see how many versions of 'Tico Tico' they're up to now ... last time I checked, it was around 63 or so ... Archibald's playing and Dr John's got a lot in common, too ... some of them licks, I coulda sworn Mac was the session man playin' ... great stuff!

December 03, 2007 10:19 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Richard, At last count there were around 260 versions of "Stagger Lee" (the link to the list is in my original post from January.)

I had considered including Dr. John's version in this post, but with so many to choose from, I have leave many out.

December 04, 2007 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy the tunes you post. You should also check out Big Al Downing's version of Stagger Lee. It has become an all time favorite of mine. Keep up the great blog! Thanks.

December 04, 2007 9:10 AM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Just seeing that logo on that record took me WAY back!

December 05, 2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Leslie, I understand completely. I still get the same feeling whenever I search through my old records.

December 06, 2007 8:55 PM  

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