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Stagger lee



recording date elvis: Thursday, 16 July 1970; Concert
first release: Hear Elvis's version on: Get Down And Get With It (unofficial CD)

originally by: Archibald And His Orchestra

recording date: 1950
originally written by: L.T Gross,Sr
catalognumber: 5068
label: imperial

What a pity Elvis didn't record this properly—his brief performance during an informal jam session promises so much ("Screw Stagger Lee")! How many titles can a song have? This number probably wins the competition with many variations of "Stagger Lee," including "Stack O'Lee," "Stack-a-Lee," "Stagolee" and several others. The song might well relate to an actual event, though the real story has probably been lost in the retelling. Some versions trace the song back to the James Lee House at 239 Adams, Memphis—another Elvis link! Perhaps a more likely origin is the killing of William "Billy" Lyons by Lee Sheldon (who was also known as Stag Lee) after an argument in a saloon in St. Louis in 1895. The first recorded version of the song was probably "Stack O' Lee Blues," a foxtrot by the Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the tune we know today, so I've discounted it. The first record to be based on the actual killing of Lyons was called "Original Stack O' Lee Blues," made in 1927 by Long Cleve and Little Harvey Hull, the Down Home Boys. This is a great blues number, similar to Mississippi John Hurt's "Louis Collins" (another song about a murder), but again it does not resemble the modern tune. Indeed, despite many sung variations on the theme of the Stagger Lee legend, it was not until Archibald's 1950 recording of his own take on the Stagger Lee myth, called "Stack-A'Lee" ("Stack-A-Lee" on some labels), released as Part 1 and Part 2 on Imperial 5068, that we hear the song with which we are now familiar. Archibald was the performing name of Leon T. Gross. Confusingly, writing credits on the original label show L. T. Gross Sr.; later labels show simply L. Gross. (Lloyd Price's 1958 recording of "Stagger Lee" was clearly the same song, but his releases show writing credits for Price and Logan.) Leon Gross was born in either 1912 or 1916 (sources vary). His biggest success was with "Stack-A-Lee." Gross died on 8 January 1973.

performed by:
Archibald And His Orchestra

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Stagger Lee
performed by:
Elvis Presley

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