Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Stagger Lee Goes to the Islands

It may seem odd that a song about the murder of a gambler by a pimp in St. Louis would be of any interest in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, but once again we find that good music has no borders. Judging by the fact that I could only find instrumental versions of “Stagger Lee” done by Hawaiian artists, perhaps the story of Billy Lyons and Lee Shelton really wasn’t as appealing to the islanders as much as the tune was.

I found two stack key guitar versions; both entitled “Stack O’Lee,” in the collection on the Bus. King, Queen, Jack and Sol Hoopii perform our subject song with the traditional slide guitar style of the islands that we love here on the Bus.

For a few decades the world knew Cliff Edwards as Ukulele Ike, a vaudeville singer, musician, and actor. To those of us raised on Disney films he is known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket. For an earlier look at the seedier side of Ukulele Ike click here.

Cliff Edwards (aka Ukulele Ike) - Stack O'Lee - (Parts 1 and 2).mp3

Sol Hoopii - Stack O'Lee Blues.mp3

King, Queen, Jack - Stack-O-Lee .mp3


Blogger bigshoulders said...

love the connection!
have you heard the Nick Cave version on "Murder Ballads"?


December 05, 2007 10:29 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

B.S., I have heard Cave's version. You wouldn't believe how many versions I've listened to this week! Alas, I haven't got the bandwidth to post them all.

December 05, 2007 10:40 PM  
Anonymous genrlz said...


I'm loving the run down of all these different versions, and the stories to go along with them.

This is awesome. Thanks, and keep up the good work.


December 06, 2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Staggering Nick in a Hawaiian shirt as the icon for this post is brilliant.

December 06, 2007 4:52 PM  
Anonymous John/Jean said...

Hey Ed,

OMG, you’re a fanatic! Great hearing the lyrics evolve; kept going back to the Down Home Boys – my favorite version along with Hutchinson. Their rough, unselfconscious style, such a pleasure. Gone forever, sigh. And Archibald, so much piano fun.

(S Jackson, a pitiful scene. MF-ing is a sorry substitute for soul, white coal miners’ souls included.)

Yeah, facination with bad guy stories makes me think of film noir, especially the French stuff; but doesn’t get any more tragic and strange than the original St Louis newspaper story you posted in January. So glad you loop back. Otherwise would have missed that.

Your work is really appreciated by this new york city person.

John aka Jean

December 06, 2007 5:03 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Chris, Thank you for the kind words. I’m rather enjoying this series myself.

December 06, 2007 8:16 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Anonymous, Thanks! I wondered if anyone would find ol’ Nick’s mug shot as fitting for this post as I did.

December 06, 2007 8:20 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Jean, I’ve been called many things before, fanatic I’ll accept.

I tend to lean towards the old time versions myself. Of course, I generally prefer the more natural, holistic sound of old time and string band anyway.

I am still considering posting Samuel L. Jackson’s version; in fact check tomorrow’s post to see my final decision. I agree that the obscenity-strewn version doesn’t hold much appeal for me, but it does appeal to a whole new generation of listeners that may not know of the long history of the song. Since it was first performed at the turn of the last century, each generation has added to the story and changed it to suit popular taste. This version and its young audience assure the continued evolution of the legend of Stagger Lee.

December 06, 2007 8:52 PM  

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