Talk:Stagger Lee

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Whittled down[edit]

This Wiki article was really interesting a year or more ago. It was one of my jumping off points to a far more thorough investigation of the history of the song. This article has been dumbed down from something astounding to something sort of interesting. Part of what makes the history of this song so fascinating is how it gets retold and refashioned. It is not merely 100s of people singing the same song with the same music and same lyrics. The story surfaces in a variety of media from pornographic film to graphic novel and is so iconic it was referenced in professional wrestling. This is almost certainly the only song to have been every genre of modern music since ragtime. This song traces the history of last century of music and the article used to give some sense of that. Now it's been whittled down to dullness.--Cameason (talk) 06:36, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

More needed[edit]

This article would be improved by a including sourced references to the written sources about the song; a chronoloagical list of selected recorded versions; and a discussion of the styles, i.e first recording, first blues version, first country version, first pop version, first reggae version, etc.--Design (talk) 14:01, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Nick Cave version[edit]

Nick Cave's funky version of the traditional "Stagger Lee" appears on the album Murder Ballads. It is based upon two sources: a risqué recording by Johnny Otis’ group Snatch & The Poontangs from their 1970 album For Adults Only!, and a 1967 'toast' recitation by a prison inmate known as Big Stick, transcribed in Auburn Prison, New York, 1967, published in the 1976 book The Life - The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler by Dennis Wepman, Ronald B. Newman, Murray B. Binderman, ISBN 0-87067-367-X. Cave edited the transcription slighty, while his band The Bad Seeds produced a funky groove. The Johhny Otis version is lyrically close to Cave's, but the Big Stick version is almost intact.--Design (talk) 14:01, 25 September 2009 (UTC)

Dick Clark didn't personally want the lyrics changed for broadcast on "Bandstand." It was ABC broadcast standards and practices that nixed the lyrics for broadcast. Hence, the network's own record subsidiary, ABC Paramount Records, issued a broadcast-only version for "Bandstand" and for any other radio or TV station in the country that might have problems with the "murder" version. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 64.125.72.33 (talk) 22:23, 9 August 2011 (UTC)


"Toasts are pre-rap poems and stories especially popular among those in "the life" and among prisoners. " Other than the "pre-rap poem" part, this is hardly an apt description of toasts. And what the hell is "the life"? Are there references for "the life"? Does this mean criminals? If it does, then this whole sentence is woefully inaccurate. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 96.227.232.77 (talk) 14:19, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Publication Date[edit]

The article states that this song was first published in 1911 and then later states that this was published by John Lomax in 1910. Which date is correct?Jtyroler (talk) 08:56, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

It appears that Lomax "received a partial transcription of what was called “The Ballad of Stagalee”, from a woman in Texas" in 1910 - [1] - which "he later [1934] published in his book American Ballads and Folksongs. In 1911, two versions were published in the Journal of American Folklore by the sociologist and oral historian Howard W. Odum." - [2]. So, 1911 is the correct publication date. I'll tweak the text. Ghmyrtle (talk) 09:29, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: moved to Stagger Lee. Bit of an odd one: consensus is pretty clear that the song is the primary topic of both names, but there's no consensus on which name should be used. As such, the old name will be retained but moved to the primary topic location. I'd probably recommend a new RM solely focussed on "Stagger Lee" vs "Stagolee" in a few months. Jenks24 (talk) 07:41, 20 March 2013 (UTC)



Stagger Lee (song)Stagolee – First, this is the clear primary topic of the three ambiguous articles; it gets over 10k page views, double the combined hits for Stagger Lee Shelton and Lee Marshall (announcer) (who was evidently only called "Stagger Lee" for the few years he was with WCW). Second, "Stagolee" appears to be the more common form of the name (though "Stagger Lee" is also quite common). "Stagolee" gets 9,810 hits on Google Books, compared to 7,770 for "Stagger Lee". This ngram suggests it's always been more common. This is also the the form used, for instance, in Cecil Brown's Harvard-published book on the subject, Stagolee Shot Billy and John and Alan Lomax's American Ballads and Folk Songs. "Stagger Lee" should redirect to the song, so I suggest the dab page be moved to Stagger Lee (disambiguation) Cúchullain t/c 20:01, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

  • Support I was just looking at this one the other day. My personal preference is for Stagger Lee, but recognizing the song as WP:PRIMARYTOPIC is the more important question here, and you've convincingly argued for doing so. --BDD (talk) 22:36, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Support this article as the primary topic (hence removing the disambiguator "(song)") but oppose (or, at least, am currently unpersuaded by the argument for) moving it to the spelling "Stagolee". I don't agree that "Stagolee" is now the most commonly used form. The Lomax reference is of historic interest - it dates from 1934, pre-dating the modern recordings that most readers would know. The Cecil Brown book specifically examines the historical and folklore aspects of the story, and in my view consciously uses a spelling that is old-fashioned if not archaic. (It would have been interesting to know the author's reasons for using that spelling, but he doesn't seem to explain it.) The most widely known and successful recording in the last sixty years is that by Lloyd Price, called "Stagger Lee", and that spelling has been used in most modern recordings. A pop and R&B number 1 record would in any case be expected to have its own article - renaming this article would in my view make it hard to resist the formation of Stagger Lee (Lloyd Price song), and I don't think that would be necessarily helpful. In fact, it would lead to confusion over whether other versions or variants of the song (particularly earlier versions), which use a different spelling, should be included in that new article, or this article, or both. The most authoritative websites on the song use the spelling "Stagger Lee" - http://www.staggerlee.com/ and https://sites.google.com/site/thestaggerleefiles/ - as does a popular award-nominated comic book by Derek McCulloch. I find the apparent Ngram results surprising, but they probably give relatively little weight to the name as used in modern popular culture. My personal preference is therefore for retaining the existing spelling for the article title. Ghmyrtle (talk) 23:05, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
I was somewhat surprised, too, and I could certainly live with the song at "Stagger Lee". However, the more I look at it it appears the "Stagger Lee" spelling was popularized by the Lloyd Price rendition and other mid-century versions, while "Stagolee" appears to be somewhat more common in the sources for the song tradition as a whole. This certainly seems to be true in the literature; again, it's used in Cecil Brown's Harvard-published book on the subject Stagolee Shot Billy, as well as the entries on the song in Axelrod & Oster's Dictionary of American Folklore and Leeming & Page's Myths, Legends and Folktales of America: An Anthology. Minus reviews, I find 128 works on JSTOR for "Stagolee" versus 51 for "Stagger Lee". The "Stagolee" form does also show up in pop culture as well. At any rate, I don't see any evidence that "Stagger Lee" is more common.--Cúchullain t/c 15:55, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
I accept that "Stagger Lee" wasn't the most common wording before Lloyd Price, and I don't really want to pursue an argument over which spelling is more common, now or historically. But, do you think there should be two articles - Stagolee and Stagger Lee (Lloyd Price song) - which is, unfortunately, where I think logic and guidance might take us if a renaming were to go ahead? We have a no.1 pop song, which is not called "Stagolee", covered by this article. I think a more logical option is to keep the existing spelling, so that the Lloyd Price record (and other records) can be covered here, in the context of all the other information about the song and its variants. Ghmyrtle (talk) 17:20, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
I have no opinion about the page move, one way or the other, but would oppose a split. All of the versions of the song, with the various spellings, should be discussed in one place. To do otherwise creates needless duplication. Lloyd Price's song cannot be understood without discussing the song's history and the many variations of it over the years. Whatever spelling we choose, all of the songs should be discussed in one place. ---The Old JacobiteThe '45 18:05, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
I think that's the point, though. A split only makes sense we adopt "Stagolee" for this article, so maybe we should avoid that. It's certainly a better reason than my personal preference. --BDD (talk) 18:08, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict)No, I don't think the Price version needs a separate article, and I don't see any problem with including it and all the versions in one article regardless of what it's called, as we do with many other songs with variant titles (including some with titles that are different altogether). It's just my estimation that the "Stagolee" spelling is the most common in the sources and therefore the one we should use.--Cúchullain t/c 18:18, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Firstly songs are sung, so the way it is written is secondary to the oral traditional. This is confirmed by the lead to the article which names some of the alternative spellings of the title. It should also be noted that the man the song is derived from is named at WP as Stagger Lee. Then we should have to consider the popular versions and how they are spelt, not much consistency there, although more recent versions seem to prefer Stagger Lee. There appears to be second debate here, whether the disambigation (song) should be removed because of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. Whether it is primary topic or not, what harm is done by adding the word {song} after the title? Why edit 100+ wikilinks just to remove a word which describes what the article is about - a song? Because there are so many different spellings, perhaps in this case the word (song) is a bonus and a benefit to readers and editors looking for this song! --Richhoncho (talk) 19:57, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
You misunderstand the proposal. The primary debate is whether to make the song the WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. The reasoning for this is that it's the article the vast majority of our readers are looking for when they type in or click on "Stagger Lee" *or* "Stagolee" or any other variant. The move gets the largest amount of readers to the article they want in the quickest fashion. There's a secondary debate over whether the song article should be "Stagolee" or "Stagger Lee"; I recommended "Stagolee" because it appears to be more common in the sources, though "Stagger Lee" is also common.--Cúchullain t/c 20:24, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
I fully understood your proposal, to rename Stagger Lee (song) to Stagolee, and I have counter argued both points. Cheers. --Richhoncho (talk) 20:58, 6 March 2013 (UTC)
I mean, would you object to moving the song article to "Stagger Lee", or just "Stagolee"?--Cúchullain t/c 13:53, 7 March 2013 (UTC)
I !voted oppose. I see no valid reason to move the article, this is after reading your well-reasoned proposal. I also note that nobody else but yourself supports Stagolee, either. I just went a stage further and said why delete (song)? --Richhoncho (talk) 17:35, 7 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Support this article as primary topic, recognize how links with (song) will then redirect, so need not be changed. LCS check (talk) 12:33, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

"stag o" meaning?[edit]

So the "stag o" part was just something they added to Lee's name to make the song sound right? It didn't imply anything? I've been misinformed! I'm going to kick that really old blues singer around for lying to me. Or maybe a re-check of the facts is in order here, like you need someone old for a reference instead of a book. Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 15:26, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

No. Lee Shelton was a pimp and gambler who was known as "Stag" Lee Shelton. "Stag" Lee became corrupted into "Stag-o-lee" or "Stagger Lee". Ghmyrtle (talk) 15:36, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
Hey Ghmyrtle, thanks for showing me this colon symbol trick for indenting, I'm new at this. OK, he's a stag...implying a man with no public girlfriend. At that time if someone said "he showed up stag" it meant he showed up alone, with no girl on his arm. I'm just saying what "stag 'o" implied should have been in the article, fairly close to the front. Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 15:49, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
It should definitely be in the article. According to Brown's book the sources are inconsistent as to whether he was known as "Stag" or "Stack". Both had meanings relevant to his lifestyle, and over time were corrupted into the more familiar forms.--Cúchullain t/c 16:03, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
Wow, what is implied with "stack"? Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 16:37, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
Explained in the article by W.C. Handy. Infrogmation (talk) 19:04, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
So Mr. Stack/Stag 'o Lee was a tall man with no public girlfriend! Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 01:12, 18 April 2013 (UTC)
I've added some text, drawn from the Cecil Brown book, and moved it into the main text. Ghmyrtle (talk) 08:28, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

related articles?[edit]

How about other related articles like "Stack-o-Lee"? I guess those should be altered too, if this works out. Pb8bije6a7b6a3w (talk) 01:27, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Same info now at Lee Shelton. Ghmyrtle (talk) 08:29, 18 April 2013 (UTC)