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"Little Sadie" is a 20th-century American folk ballad in D Dorian mode. It is also known variously as "Bad Lee Brown", "Cocaine Blues", "Transfusion Blues", "East St. Louis Blues", "Late One Night", "Penitentiary Blues" and other titles. It tells the story of a man who is apprehended after shooting his wife/girlfriend. He is then sentenced by a judge.
"Bad Lee Brown"
Last night I was a-makin' my rounds,
Met my old woman an' I blowed her down,
I went on home to go to bed,
Put my old cannon right under my head.
Jury says murder in the first degree,
I says oh Lord, have mercy on me!
Old Judge White picks up his pen,
Says you'll never kill no woman ag'in.
Carolina to Mexico
Some versions refer to the Sheriff of Thomasville, North Carolina apprehending the murderer "down in" Jericho, South Carolina (a large rice plantation in the lowlands). Other versions transpose Mexico (or Juarez, Mexico) for Jericho.
Clarence Ashley's recording
In the first sound recording (the 1929 recording by Clarence Ashley), Little Sadie may have been a prostitute:
I woke next morning 'bout half past nine,
The buggies and the hacks all (swarmed?) in line,
The gents and the gamblers all standing around,
They're gonna take Sadie to the burying ground.
The most common version in country and rock is attributed to T. J. 'Red' Arnall's 1947 Western Swing recording with W. A. Nichol's Western Aces. This version was covered by Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Crooked Still, Doc Watson, and George Thorogood, among others. The 1970 Bob Dylan versions are taken from either of Clarence Ashley's recordings.
Selected list of recorded versions
- 1929 Bad Lee Brown [unissued] - John Dilleshaw & The String Marvel (OKeh 402406-B)
- 1929 Little Sadie - Clarence Ashley (Columbia 15522-D)
- 1939 Bad Man Ballad - Willie Rayford, recorded at Cummins State Farm, near Varner, Arkansas by John Lomax and Ruby Lomax
- 1946-1948 Whisky Blues - Slim Dusty - Regal Zonophone Collection - Slim Dusty (8142472) Very rare. Exact date is not known.
- 1948 Cocaine Blues - Roy Hogsed, US Country #15. Music/lyrics attributed to T. J. 'Red' Arnall
- 1940s Chain Gang Blues - Riley Puckett
- 1940s Bad Lee Brown - Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston
- 1959 Badman Ballad - Cisco Houston The Cisco Special! album
- 1960 Transfusion Blues - Johnny Cash Now, There Was A Song album, and on 1968 album At Folsom Prison.
- 1960 Bad Man's Blunder - The Kingston Trio String Along album
- 1960 Whiskey Blues - Slim Dusty Songs for Rolling Stones album
- 1970 Little Sadie - Bob Dylan Self Portrait album
- 1970 Little Sadie - Doc Watson Doc Watson on Stage (Vanguard VSD 9/10)
- 1972 Little Sadie - John Renbourn Faro Annie (Reprise MS2082)
- 1978 Cocaine Blues - George Thorogood & The Destroyers
- 1979 Little Sadie - Tony Rice Unit, Manzanita album
- 1993 Little Sadie - Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, The Pizza Tapes
- 1996 Little Sadie - Freight Hoppers Where'd You Come From, Where'd You Go? album
- 1998 Little Sadie - The Sadies Precious Moments album
- 1999 Little Sadie - Mark Lanegan I'll Take Care of You album
- 2001 Little Sadie - Old Crow Medicine Show - The Troubles Up and Down the Road EP
- 2004 Little Sadie - The Radiators - Earth vs. The Radiators: the First 25 Live DVD
- 2006 Little Sadie - Crooked Still Shaken by A Low Sound album; featured in The Last of Us Part II trailer presented at E3 2018.
- 2011 Little Sadie/White-Wheeled Limousine/Just One More - Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers "Bride of the Noisemakers" album
- 2013 Little Sadie - Tim Timebomb
- Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle "Bad Lee Brown (Little Sadie) [Laws I8]]" Traditional Ballad Index
- "lyrics: LITTLE SADIE". Mudcat.org. Archived from the original on 2016-04-23. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- "Lowcountry Digital History Initiative | Jericho Plantation · Forgotten Fields: Inland Rice Plantations in the South Carolina Lowcountry". Ldhi.library.cofc.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-04-21. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Manfred Helfert (February 1996). "Creative ideosyncrasy - In Search of 'Little Sadie'". Bobdylanroots.com. Retrieved 2014-08-30.
- Kim Beissel. Liner notes to Original Seeds Vol. 2: Songs that inspired Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Rubber Records Australia, 2004.
- Roud Folk Song Index 780
- Laws Ballad Index I8
- The Traditional Ballad Index LI08
- Lyle Lofgren "Remembering The Old Songs: Little Sadie" Inside Bluegrass, January 2002
- Little Sadie by The Rosinators - lyrics, song history and tab links
- Miller Jr., E. John; & Michael Cromie Folk Guitar, Quadrangle, (1968), p109
- Sing Out! Reprints, Sing Out, (196?), 9, p35
- Bailey, Hobart. Rosenbaum, Art Old-Time Mountain Banjo, Oak, (1968), p56