Stagger Lee

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Ma Rainey
Ma Rainey

1920 - 1930

1923. The first two recordings of the song. Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians make it a hit record. Frank Westphal & His Regal Novelty Orchestra record it as a jazz instrumental on the 18th of October in Chicago.

1924. First recording with lyrics by black artist, Lovie Austin "Skeeg-a-Lee Blues."

1925. Ma Rainey & her Georgia Band (including Louis Armstrong on Cornet).

1926. First Hawaiian version by Sol Ho’opi’i. Hawaiian versions are uniformly instrumental.

1927. The recording by Long Cleeve Reed & Little Harvey Hull of "Original Stack O’Lee Blues" will go on to become the 5th most valuable record to collectors. There is only one known copy in existence. The owner, Joe Bussard, was offered $30,000 and he laughed it off with no intention of ever selling. He wants to be buried with it.

Stag Lee was a bully, he bullied all his life.
Well he bulled to Chicago town with a ten cent pocket knife.
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington

1927. Duke Ellington records "Stack O’Lee Blues. He and his band became a permanent fixture at the Cotton Club and made weekly broadcasts from there on radio station WHN. We don’t yet know if "Stack O’Lee Blues" was included in a broadcast.

1927. Frank Hutchison. A white hillbilly but respected bluesman. This is the version Bob Dylan would cover in 1993.

1928. Mississippi John Hurt. The classic. This is the version that is the most respected as definitive. Beck covers this version in 2001. Rumor has it that there were verses Hurt regularly sang but did not record as they were "unsuitable" for general release. In ’63, after Hurt’s rediscovery, he adds a lengthy introduction describing a robbery by Stagolee and Jesse James of a card game in a coal mine. He insists that Stagolee was a white man.

Furry Lewis


Gambling's good when you're winning. Gambling's bad when you lose. But a new gambling story is always good to hear. In "Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee" Furry Lewis, popular Vocalion blues star, tells us a story of two gamblers you won't want to miss. On the other side, he sings and plays "Good Lookin' Girl Blues," a mighty good number, too. Be sure to listen to this record today!

"Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee" by Furry Lewis as advertised in The Chicago Defender April 21, 1928.

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