Stagger Lee / Stagolee / Stack O Lee / Etc.

Gary: “I have decided to look at a single song.  This is a song that I have always enjoyed. Now it’s history is also very interesting. 

The Song:  Stagger Lee or Stagolee or Stackerlee or Stack O Lee or Stack-a-lee. 

The first time that I paid any attention to it was in 1958 when Lloyd Price recorded it and it appeared on American Bandstand, Dick Clark insisted that the colourful terms be omitted; he did not want the mention of Murder and Mayhem on his show.

From what I can tell the song was written in 1910 by John Lomax and the version that reached #1 in 1958, by Lloyd Price was definitely the unedited version. 

It was a song that was well known in the African American communities along the Mississippi in the 1910 period.

I have searched and found many different recordings.  I hope that you will take the time to listen to each one, as they all bring something new to the table. 

I must admit that even white pop singer, Tommy Roe did a great version of the song.  I love that one, and Lloyd’s, but the folk version by Doc Watson and even Taj Mahal are great.

Lloyd Price

Videos: Stagger Lee

Lloyd Price on the PBS Special (Great Band) /
This is the Bandstand version by Lloyd / 
Jerry Reed /
Wilbert Harrison (of Kansas City Fame) /
Wilson Pickett /
Isley Brothers on Ready Steady Go in England /
Dale Storr /
Ken Colyer Skiffle Group /
Doc Watson (love this one) /
Sidney Bechet /
Neil Diamond /
Taj Mahal 1969, love this one /
  and live in Germany /
Tommy Roe (Gary I own this one, not bad for a white Pop Artist) /
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show /
Archibald / 1950 /parts 1 & 2
The Ballroom Rockets /
Bob Luman 1959 Town Hall Party /
Memphis “Piano” Joe /
Lloyd / Elton / Leon Russell /
Huey Lewis and the News (I own this one) /
Mississippi John Hurt /
1960 Bill Haley & the Comets (the Warner Bros Years) /
1927 / Furry Lewis / Billy Lyons & Stack O’ Lee
The two versions that made Billboards Top 40 were:
Lloyd Price / 1959 / #1 (4)
Tommy Roe / 1971 / #25

5 responses to “Stagger Lee / Stagolee / Stack O Lee / Etc.

  1. Did not realize so many versions of this song had been done….but you left out the one I always liked best… Charlie Pride, “The Pride of Country Music”.

  2. Vintage Spins

    Stagger Lee was collected from prisoners across the south by John Lomax and his son, but they definitely did not write it. See Cecil Brown’s ‘Stagolee Shot Billy’ (Harvard University Press, 2003.)

    • Hi Mr. Vintage… Wikipedia agrees with you.

      The earliest versions were likely field hollers and other work songs performed by African-American laborers. The first evidence for it is a reference to “Stack-a-Lee” being performed by “Prof. Charlie Lee, the piano thumper” in the Kansas City Leavenworth Herald in 1897. The song was well known in African American communities along the lower Mississippi River by 1910. That year, musicologist John Lomax received a partial transcription of the song.

      Thanks for your comment!
      – Russ

  3. Which is the best version ? ?

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