“Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price

As a writer I am fascinated how small and seemingly insignificant events have, through oral repetition, come to play an important part in our culture.

One of these events is the (very real) murder of Bill Curtis by Lee Sheldon, also known as “Stag” Lee.  Down through time his name has become corrupted into Stagger Lee, or Stagolee, sometimes Stackalee, or any other variation you might think of.

I don’t know about you but when viewing this through the lens of a writer I find it fascinating. The acts are so simple and yet they carry so much power. This is a good lesson for a writer, I think.  Here we are with a barroom brawl, and a Stetson hat in 1895, and it becomes legendary in our culture and a mainstay of music.  Wow.  I just can’t wrap my head around that.

Most of us know this song either from the 1995 Nick Cave cover, or the 1959 hit by Lloyd Price. Speaking for myself I prefer the Lloyd Price rendition.  It’s more evocative and much the better constructed narrative.

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2 Comments

  1. Wonderful, isn’t it how those old Western brawls live on in our culture through popular music? Like you, the songwriters and the audiences are fascinated about what the dark places in the human soul trigger us to do!

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