From the Cold Case files.

Finding Stagger Lee (AKA” Stagolee”, AKA “Stackalee”)

‘Stagger Lee” is a song by Lloyd Price and a bunch of others.  The only thing true in it is that there WAS a ‘Stagger Lee”.  His real name was Lee Shelton , AKA Henry Wells, AKA ‘Stack Lee”. He was a pimp and he DID shoot “Billy”, whose real name was William Lyons and it WAS over Lee’s milk white Stetson hat.

It happened in a St. Louis tavern on Walker Street, Christmas night, 1895.

The first Murder Ballad I can find which recounts the event was composed soon thereafter and goes like this: (the refrain is shown):

STACKALEE

Come all you sporty fellows, and listen unto me. I will tell to you the awful tale of that bad man Stackalee.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

The night was dark and stormy, and the rain came pouring down; there was nary a police in that part of town. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

It was on this dark and old stormy night that Billy Lyons and Stackalee, they had that awful fight. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Billy Lyons on the sidewalk dropped the razor from his hand; In front of him a-shootin’ old Stackalee did stand. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

“O Stackalee O Stackalee please spare my life, for I have got two babies and a darling little wife” . (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

“I care not for your babies nor your darling little wife; you done ruint my Stetson hat and I am bound to have your life.” (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Then he leaned down right close and put that gun agin Billy’s breast, and fired two shots so close to him they sot fire to his vest. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Down Walker Street Old Stackalee did run, Holding in his right hand that smoking forty-one. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

He run into Ben Scott’s saloon and before the bar did stand, Saying “Take my pistol, bar boy, I done killed another man”. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

BenScott sent for the police and they came on the run; the bar boy up and told them What 0ld Stakalee dun done. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Says a police to the Sergeant “Now what do you think of that! Old Stackalee shot Billy Lyons about a damned old hat. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Says the Captain to the police, ” Just keep still as any mouse, and we will sure catch old Stackalee, at his woman’s house”. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Two police in the alley, hiding behind a tree; Two more out in the front yard for to catch old Stackalee. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

\A man run up the alley, splashing through the mud; He run right up against the tree where them two police stood– (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

“Your name is Henry Wells, but they call you Stackalee; You are my prisoner; come and go with me”.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

” My name’s not SWtackalee, nor is it Henry Wells; I am not your prisoner, you go get someone else”. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

They put the handcuffs on him and took him to the jail, and there they put him in a cell and wouldn’t take no bail. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Mrs. Stackalee, when she heard the awful news, was sitting in the bedroom a-takin’ off her shoes.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

She rushed down to the jailhouse and fell upon her knees, “I’ll give ten thousand dollars just to get the jailer’s keys.” (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Net morning in the jailhouse, Old SWtackalee in bed, a turnkey came and told him, that Billy Lyons was dead.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Then they took him into court to have him make his plea, the judge says ” Are you guilty?”; “I is” says Stackalee.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

“I cannot sleep, neither can I eat, since I shot poor Billy Lyons down in Walker Street”. (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

The judge put on the blacdk cap, his voice was stern and cold; ” Isentences you to be hanged–the Lord have mercy on your soul”.  (That bad, that bad man Stackalee).

Now all you sporty fellows, that have listen to my tale, do not shoot another man or they’ll hang you in the jail. (Like they did that bad man Stackalee)