adventures in dysthymia

Monday, May 18, 2009

FOR YEARS, the song 'Swagger Lee' (aka Stack O'Lee, Stag O'Lee, Stagger Lee, etc, etc!) has been a part of my repertoire. Y'all know the story, SL kills Billy Lyons over a gambling disagreement...at least in most versions. Anyway, there was yet another discussion of the song and its origins over at Mudcat last week and I decided to try my hand at writing up a set of lyrics that more or less told the actual story. With, of course, a paid-up poetic license. So here's the result; almost certainly subject to revision.

STACKER LEE

On Morgan Street, Saint Louis,
The roughest part of town,
Billy Lyons met Stacker Lee
And Stacker shot him down.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Though he knew he wasn't welcome,
Billy walked into Curtiss's saloon,
He was looking for trouble,
And trouble showed up soon.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy was drinking at the bar,
As bold as he could be,
When he saw that pimp Lee Sheldon,
Everyone knew as Stacker Lee.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Billy Lyons was a Republican,
Stacker Lee was a Democrat;
The two of them started to squabble
And Stacker knocked off Billy's hat.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

You busted up my derby,
I want six bits from you;
I'm gonna get satisfaction
If it's the last thing I ever do.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Yes he wanted satisfaction,
That's what Billy Lyons said;
Then he went and grabbed Stacker's Stetson,
Snatched it right from his head.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Now give me back my Stetson,
And we'll say it's all in fun;
But if you don't I'll kill you,
Stacker growled and pulled his gun.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

One hand held that Stetson,
And one hand held his knife;
If you want your goddamn hat
You'll have to take my life.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee shot Billy,
Shot him with his forty-four;
Picked up his Stetson hat
And walked right out the door.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stacker Lee killed Billy Lyons
On account of a five dollar hat;
The twelve men of the jury
Said you can't get away with that.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

They locked up Stacker Lee Sheldon,
And he should have learned his lesson --
You can't go ending your quarrels
With a Smith and Wesson.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Soon as he was a free man
Stacker got in trouble again,
And ended his life behind bars,
A prisoner in the state pen.
A bad one was he,
That Stacker Lee!

Stephen Brooke ©2009

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