Paul Slade tackles the story behind the American blues/folk song Frankie and Johnny, tracing the lyrics back to an 1899 St. Louis murder, and exploring the history of the song, its subjects, and its variations. [more inside]
The Handsome Family are an alt-country and americana band based in Albuquerque via Chicago, Texas and Long Island. They have currently finding a new audience thanks to having their song Far From Any Road used as the theme from True Detective on HBO. [more inside]
And it's my plan if some great man, Dies with a broken head, Sirs, With much bewail I does detail, His death before he's dead, Sirs!
You wouldn't think so from its trendy shops and restaurants today, but Seven Dials was once one of the worst slums in London. Intended as a smart residential area when its construction was completed in 1710, this cartwheel of streets between Charing Cross Road and Covent Garden quickly declined to become an over-crowded refuge for the city's thieves. It was here that London's thriving trade in gallows ballads made its home.A collaboration across more than 100 years, from the jobbing hacks writing ballads and selling them at the foot of the gallows to the historical investigation of the British Library's broadsheet collection by MeFi's own Paul Slade, to modern rock, folk, and blues musicians, and then to your ears. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
What do Cliff Edwards (1928), Lloyd Price (circa 1959), The Rulers (1967), R.L. Burnside (late 1980s/ early 1990s), Grateful Dead (live in 1993), and Nick Cave (live in 1996) have in common? If nothing else, they all sang some variation of the crime of Lee Shelton, also known as Stack O'Lee, Stagolee, Stack-a-Lee , Stackerlee, Stagger Lee and other names, with as many variations in the details of that fateful night. Join MeFite Paul Slade with his journalistic narrations of murder ballads, tales of Secret London (previously), and other works of long-form journalism (which may or may not be ideal for the web, previously). [via mefi projects; more clips and bits inside] [more inside]
My Back Pages--Interesting in his own right Eyolf Østrem still maintains the fan's fan tab, chords and music site, the standard by which all others are judged. I just revisited it the other night, while trying to recall how that little run in Dylan's version of Delia went, and dang, if it didn't have the back story of that ballad. I love this kind of stuff. The source of that account, John Garst, is the folklorist king of such research--he puts John Henry at a railroad tunnel near Leeds, Alabama, just east of Birmingham on September 20, 1887, for example. Murder and heroic death ballad back stories are of extreme interest to me, so I decided to post a few more here: Frankie and Albert, Frankie and Johnny, Casey Jones and Stagger Lee. Did I say I love this kind of stuff?