Stagger Lee lyrics by Lloyd Price, 1 meaning, official 2023 song lyrics |
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Lloyd Price – Stagger Lee lyrics
The night was clear, and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumblin' down. ..

I was standin' on the corner
When I heard my bull dog bark.
He was barkin' at the two men
Who were gamblin' in the dark.

It was Stagger Lee and Billy,
Two men who gambled late.
Stagger lee threw a seven,
Billy swore that he threw eight.

"Stagger Lee," said Billy,
"I can't let you go with that.
"You have won all my money,
"And my brand-new Stetson hat."

Stagger Lee went home
And he got his. 44.
He said, "I'm goin' to the ballroom
"Just to pay that debt I owe."

Go, Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee went to the ballroom
And he strolled across the ballroom floor.
He said "You did me wrong, Billy."
And he pulled his. 44.

"Stagger Lee," said Billy,
"Oh, please don't take my life!
"I've got three hungry children,
"And a very sickly wife."

Stagger Lee shot Billy
Oh, he shot that poor boy so hard
That a bullet went through Billy
And broke the bartender's bar.

Go, Stagger Lee, go, Stagger Lee!
Go, Stagger Lee, go, Stagger Lee!
(to fade)

Lyrics taken from /lyrics/l/lloyd_price/stagger_lee.html

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Stagger Lee lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Downtown Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Stagger Lee meanings

  • U
    + 12
    The meaning (to me) of this song and its many variations is that folk-music singers love murder ballads and that they can change any story by misremembering lines or by confusing the details from other songs they know. Eventually the story resembles a stereotyped universal version.
    This song is about a real murder. Lee Shelton (Stagger Lee, Stacker Lee, Stag-o-Lee, etc.) was a pimp, a gambler, a flashy dresser, a leader of a "social club" of toughs, and a political organizer of Democrats in 1895 St. Louis. Billy Lyons was an organizer for the Republicans. Were they friendly with each other? Possibly, but according to the newspaper account and the trial transcript, they were drunk in Bill Curtis's saloon and the bar room "discussion" got physical. "Shelton had first crushed Lyons' Derby hat, after which Lyons grabbed Shelton's hat and demanded restitution; Shelton then drew his gun and smacked Lyons on the head with it. Lyons lunged for Shelton and Shelton shot him" in the stomach, retrieved his hat and left the bar. Billy died a few days later and Stag was arrested, tried, found guilty of murder and sent to prison. He was pardoned after 12 years but committed another crime, went back to prison and died there in 1912 of tuberculosis.
    This murder story and its outrageous characters appealed to the public and songs were written, and morphed and changed into many forms. One version had the victim named something else and the JUDGE was named Billy Lyons. One had him sentenced to death and executed, where he went to Hell and was such a badass that he defeated Satan and took over. Sometimes the quarrel was over gambling, sometimes over a woman, or something else, but usually the Stetson hat played a part. In one, sung to the tune of Frankie and Johnny, It's essentially the "He done her wrong" story told with the men named Stagger Lee and Billy.
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    • U
      + 12
      The meaning (to me) of this song and its many variations is that folk-music singers love murder... Read more →

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