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American Ballads and Folk Songs_____________
inently known in Memphis, I was told, the unfortunate Stagalee belonging to the family of the owners of the Lee line of steamers, which are known on the Mississippi from Cairo to the Gulf. I give all this to you as it was given to me. The effect of the song with its minor refrain is weird, and the spoken interpolations add to the realism. It becomes immensely personal as you hear it, like a recital of something known or experienced by the singer."
In August, 1933, a visit to the Memphis levee district and the renowned Beale's Street region failed to uncover the tune of this text of "Stagalee" or any additional stanzas that would fit the particular rhythm. What echoes of "Stagalee" remained were badly mixed with the Blues and jazzed almost beyond recognition. A special inquiry among several thousand Negro convicts in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee was likewise fruitless.
Twas a Christmas morning, The hour was about ten, When Stagalee shot Billy Lyons And landed in the Jefferson pen. O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
Billy Lyons' old woman, She was a terrible sinner, She was home that Christmas mornin' A-preparin' Billy's dinner. O Lordy, po' Stagalee!
Messenger boy came to the winder, Then he knocked on the door, An' he said, "Yer old man's lyin' there Dead on the barroom floor." O Lordy, po' Stagalee!