A lavish presentation of 208 folksongs collected throughout Alabama in the 1940s
Alabama is a state rich in folksong tradition, from old English ballads sung along the Tennessee River to children’s game songs played in Mobile, from the rhythmic work songs of the railroad gandy dancers of Gadsden to the spirituals of the Black Belt. The musical heritage of blacks and whites, rich and poor, hill folk and cotton farmers, these songs endure as a living part of the state’s varied past.
In the mid 1940s Byron Arnold, an eager young music professor from The University of Alabama, set out to find and record as many of these songs as he could and was rewarded by unstinting cooperation from many informants. Mrs. Julia Greer Marechal of Mobile, for example, was 90 years old, blind, and a semi-invalid, but she sang for Arnold for three hours, allowing the recording of 33 songs and exhausting Arnold and his technician. Helped by such living repositories as Mrs. Marechal, the Arnold collection grew to well over 500 songs, augmented by field notes and remarkable biographical information on the singers.
An Alabama Songbook is the result of Arnold’s efforts and those of his informants across the state and has been shaped by Robert W. Halli Jr. into a narrative enriched by more than 200 significant songs-lullabies, Civil War anthems, African-American gospel and secular songs, fiddle tunes, temperance songs, love ballads, play-party rhymes, and work songs. In the tradition of Alan Lomax’s The Folk Songs of North America and Vance Randolph’s Ozark Folksongs, this volume will appeal to general audiences, folklorists, ethnomusicologists, preservationists, traditional musicians, and historians.
Folk-Songs of the South:Collected Under the Auspices of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society is a collection of ballads and folk-songs from West Virginia. First published in 1925, this resource includes narrative and lyric songs that were transmitted orally, as well as popular songs from print sources. Through 186 ballads and songs and 26 folk tunes, this collection archives a range of styles and genres, from English and Scottish ballads to songs about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the opening of the American West, boat and railroad transportation, children’s play-party and dance music, and songs from African American singers, including post-Civil war popular music. The original introduction by Cox contains vibrant portraits of the singers he researched, with descriptions of performance style and details about personalities and attitudes. With a new introduction by Alan Jabbour, this reprint renews the importance of this text as a piece of scholarship, revealing Cox’s understanding of the workings of tradition across time and place and his influence upon folk-song research.
As the heyday of the lumber camps faded, a young scholar named Franz Rickaby set out to find songs from shanty boys, river drivers, and sawmill hands in the Upper Midwest. Traveling mostly on foot with a fiddle slung over his shoulder, Rickaby fell into easy conversation with the men, collecting not just the words of songs, but the tunes, making careful notes about his informants and their performances. Shortly before his groundbreaking and much-praised Ballads and Songs of the Shanty Boy was published in 1926, Rickaby died, leaving later folklorists, cultural historians, and folksong enthusiasts with little knowledge of his life and other unpublished research.
Pinery Boys now incorporates, commemorates, contextualizes, and complements Rickaby's early work. It includes an introduction and annotations throughout by eminent folklore scholar James P. Leary and an engaging, impressively researched biography by Rickaby's granddaughter Gretchen Dykstra. Central to this edition are Rickaby's own introduction and the original fifty-one songs that he published—including "Jack Haggerty's Flat River Girl," "The Little Brown Bulls," "Ole from Norway," "The Red Iron Ore," and "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor"—plus fourteen additional songs selected to represent the varied collecting Rickaby did beyond the lumber camps.
Supplemented by historical photographs, Pinery Boys fully reveals Franz Rickaby as a visionary artist and scholar and provides glimpses into the past lives of woods poets and singers.
Stagolee Shot Billy
Cecil BROWN Harvard University Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS478.B76 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Although his story has been told countless times--by performers from Ma Rainey, Cab Calloway, and the Isley Brothers to Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, and Taj Mahal--no one seems to know who Stagolee really is. Stack Lee? Stagger Lee? He has gone by all these names in the ballad that has kept his exploits before us for over a century. Delving into a subculture of St. Louis known as "Deep Morgan," Cecil Brown emerges with the facts behind the legend to unfold the mystery of Stack Lee and the incident that led to murder in 1895.
How the legend grew is a story in itself, and Brown tracks it through variants of the song "Stack Lee"--from early ragtime versions of the '20s, to Mississippi John Hurt's rendition in the '30s, to John Lomax's 1940s prison versions, to interpretations by Lloyd Price, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett, right up to the hip-hop renderings of the '90s. Drawing upon the works of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison, Brown describes the powerful influence of a legend bigger than literature, one whose transformation reflects changing views of black musical forms, and African Americans' altered attitudes toward black male identity, gender, and police brutality. This book takes you to the heart of America, into the soul and circumstances of a legend that has conveyed a painful and elusive truth about our culture.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Tradition of Stagolee
I. STAGOLEE AND ST. LOUIS
1. Stagolee Shot Billy 2. Lee Shelton: The Man behind the Myth 3. That Bad Pimp of Old St. Louis: The Oral Poetry of the Late 1890s 4. "Poor Billy Lyons" 5. Narrative Events and Narrated Events 6. Stagolee and Politics 7. Under the Lid: The Underside of the Political Struggle 8. The Black Social Clubs 9. Hats and Nicknames: Symbolic Values 10. Ragtime and Stagolee 11. The Blues and Stagolee
II. THE THOUSAND FACES OF STAGOLEE
12. Jim Crow and Oral Narrative 13. Riverboat Rouster and Mean Mate 14. Work Camps, Hoboes, and Shack Bully Hollers 15. William Marion Reedy's White Outlaw 16. Cowboy Stagolee and Hillbilly Blues 17. Blueswomen: Stagolee Did Them Wrong 18. Bluesmen and Black Bad Man 19. On the Trail of Sinful Stagolee 20. Stagolee in a World Full of Trouble 21. From Rhythm and Blues to Rock and Roll: "I Heard My Bulldog Bark" 22. The Toast: Bad Black Hero of the Black Revolution 23. Folklore/Poplore: Bob Dylan's Stagolee
III. MAMMY-MADE: STAGOLEE AND AMERICAN IDENTITY
24. The "Bad Nigger" Trope in American Literature 25. James Baldwin's "Staggerlee Wonders" 26. Stagolee as Cultural and Political Hero 27. Stagolee and Modernism
Notes Bibliography Index
Reviews of this book: In Stagolee Shot Billy...Brown revisits the archetypal story of "someone who was willing to defend himself if transgressed against, if his dignity was at stake." Songs about Stagolee have long been a staple of African-American music, with recordings by Ma Rainey, Duke Ellington, and Fats Domino...To analyze the legend, Mr. Brown draws on structuralist and formalist thinkers such as Mikhail Baktin, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Vladimir Propp...But where another scholar might explicate a few symbols and call it a day, Brown has pursued the tale to its origins--a bar fight in St. Louis in 1895, during which a saloonkeeper named Lee Shelton shot William Lyons when a friendly game of cards went wrong. --Scott McLemee, Chronicle of Higher Education
Reviews of this book: In a St. Louis tavern on Christmas night in 1895 Lee Shelton (a pimp also known as Stack Lee) killed William Lyons in a fight over a hat. There were other murders that night, but this one became the stuff of legend. Songs based on the event soon spread out of whorehouses and ragtime dives across the country. Within 40 years, Stagolee had evolved into a folk hero, a symbol of rebellion for black American males. With commendable scholarship and thoroughness, Brown shows how we got from the murder to the myth. --Leopold Froehlich, Playboy
Reviews of this book: Novelist and professor Brown...delves into the historical and social underpinnings of the Stagolee myth, which has inspired numerous songs and shaped American culture. Tracing the source of the legend, he describes in detail the shooting and killing of bully Billy Lyons by flashy pimp Lee Shelton (a.k.a. Stagolee) for snatching his hat in a St. Louis bar...and Shelton's subsequent trial and imprisonment. He links the incident to the swirl of corrupt St. Louis politics embodied in violent and warring black social clubs that controlled bootlegging, gambling, and a flourishing prostitution trade...Thoroughly researched, fast moving, and well written, this is the first book to unearth the basis of the Stagolee legend (others mostly deal with its social implications) and will appeal to those interested in understanding American cultural history. --Dave Szatmary, Library Journal
Reviews of this book: You don't have to know the ballad about Stagolee, the black anti-hero who shot and killed his old friend Billy over a hat in a bar one Christmas night in 1895 in Deep Morgan, the vice district of St. Louis, to enjoy Cecil Brown's telling of the story behind the song...Brown, who grew up on the myth in the 1950s and 60s on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, reconstructs the very night when Lee Shelton dressed like a pimp in St. Louis flats and a "high-roller, milk-white Stetson"...wandered into the Bill Curtis Saloon in the Bloody Third District. Brown's reconstruction of the bordello culture in St. Louis is reminiscent of fin de siecle Vienna, portraying a kind of hysteria that played out on the stage and in the streets. --Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: In Stagolee Shot Billy, the novelist Cecil Brown tracks the history of the song "as a black oral narrative and the rich relationship it reveals between oral literature and social life." Along the way he has a lot to say about how music functions as a form of memory, advancing through the popular culture...Brown's industrious research begins at the primal event...In his reconstruction of the legal events that sent Shelton to jail, Brown shows how the black Tenderloin district functioned in white ward-heeling politics of the day...Brown also trains his lens on Stagolee as a mythical presence in literature...By surrounding the Stagolee figure in a constellation of ways, as part of folklore, music history, literary scholarship and culture studies, with a supporting cast of writers and scholars whose words are given fair and generous use, Brown puts on a good postmodern show. --Jason Berry, New York Times Book Review
Reviews of this book: Stagolee Shot Billy provides a fascinating biography of the song ['Stagolee'], from its shadowy birth in the ragtime era to its afterlife in the age of hip-hop--an evolution, by way of innumerable variants and alternative readings, that shows how vividly a single item of oral culture can reflect changing times. --Gerald Mangan, Times Literary Supplement
Reviews of this book: This entertaining book is the first to rigorously explore [the song's] origins in the St. Louis gang underworld. Brown paints a rich picture of the incident, traces the song's virus-like spread from blues to ragtime to pop, and figuring that it still moves people because, like most potent ancient black ballads, it is stark reportage with no moralising. Stagger Lee is not condemned, so he is free to live on in every badass to follow. --Paul McGrath, MOJO
Reviews of this book: [A] probing and prescient and staggeringly well researched study...The historical revelations here are consistently--and insistently--fascinating; the voices brought in as chorus to help Brown vamp into theoretical detour range from Walter Benjamin and Bob Dylan to James Baldwin and Schooly D. --Ian Penman, The Wire
Hip-hop scholarship has become an overcrowded industry, yet few have delved into the roots of this international phenomenon. Cecil Brown traces the roots of the black-gangster aesthetic to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century bad-nigger ballads, the most prominent of which was 'Stagolee.' This outstanding scholarship is marked by the unique analytical approach that we have conic to expect from Cecil Brown. --Ishmael Reed
This book sings like the sound beneath the song within the song about the song. Telling it like it 't - i - is! Like a literary griot (gree-oh !), Cecil Brown transfers this longenduring African-American song from oral tradition to the printed page. Along the way, lie places the song in the context of the times from which it sprang. The amount of artistry the book documents--touching all Americans but focusing on the African-American contribution, or wellspring-is formidable and awe-inspiring. --Taj Mahal
Stagolee tanks among the most important figures in African-American folklore--the quintessential bad man' in black folklore. Brown makes a very compelling case linking Stagolee to the historical figure named Lee Shelton." --David L. Smith, Williams College
An infinitely fascinating exploration of nearly all facets of the Stagolee ballad, the archetype, the countless tales surrounding both, and their passage through time. --Greil Marcus
The story which went into the song, and the story of the song, required a big storyteller, willing to train on the fly in lots of disciplines, to do detective work, to make judgments, and to make startling connections. Brown writes learnedly and passionately on Stagolee and political infighting in a very particular St. Lotus time and place, as well as on hip-hop and long traditions of what Walter Benjamin called the 'destructive character. --David R. Roediger, University of Illinois
Migrants made up a growing class of workers in late sixteenth- and seventeenth- century England. In fact, by 1650, half of England’s rural population consisted of homeless and itinerant laborers. Unsettled is an ambitious attempt to reconstruct the everyday lives of these dispossessed people. Patricia Fumerton offers an expansive portrait of unsettledness in early modern England that includes the homeless and housed alike.
Fumerton begins by building on recent studies of vagrancy, poverty, and servants, placing all in the light of a new domestic economy of mobility. She then looks at representations of the vagrant in a variety of pamphlets and literature of the period. Since seamen were a particularly large and prominent class of mobile wage-laborers in the seventeenth century, Fumerton turns to seamen generally and to an individual poor seaman as a case study of the unsettled subject: Edward Barlow (b. 1642) provides a rare opportunity to see how the laboring poor fashioned themselves, for he authored a journal of over 225,000 words and 147 pages of drawings. Barlow’s journal, studied extensively here for the first time, vividly charts what he himself termed his “unsettled mind” and the perpetual anxieties of England’s working and wayfaring poor. Ultimately, Fumerton explores representations of seamen as unsettled in the broadside ballads of Barlow’s time.
This interdisciplinary study uncovers a fascination with women cross dressers in the popular literature of early modern Britain, in a wide range of texts from popular ballads and chapbook life histories to the comedies and tragedies of aristocratic literature. Dugaw demonstrates the extent to which gender and sexuality are enacted as constructs of history.
"One of the finest works to come out in recent years on cowboy songs,
in addition to being the first good collection of the cowboy's bawdy material.
. . . A must for anyone who is a student of cowboy music--or anyone who
just likes the sound of dirty subject matter rhyming." -- Hal Cannon, Journal of Country Music
"A brave and honest step toward increasing our understanding of
what cowboys really sing." -- Bob Bovee, Old Time Herald
"A thorough piece of scholarship and collectanea and a valuable,
welcome addition to cowboy song literature." -- Keith Cunningham, Mid-America Folklore
"Logsdon has written the book with a scholar's attention to detail.
But what shows through the scholarship is the collector's enthusiasm for
the material. . . . A superb job in a difficult area." -- Angus Kress
Gillespie, Journal of American History
"A major contribution to the folklore and popular culture, history,
and social psychology of American cowboy culture." -- Kenneth S.
Goldstein, former president, American Folklore Society