Casey Jones, Stagolee, Frankie and Johnny - Murder and Death Ballad Back Stories
September 23, 2004 2:56 PM   Subscribe

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?
posted by y2karl (10 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
dylanchords is my second home. john hurts version of frankie and albert is untouchable!
posted by Satapher at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2004

Bless you y2, you can post fantastic stuff. Thanks!
posted by jfuller at 3:34 PM on September 23, 2004

However, the hub of all things obsessively Dylan-related on the web is still Expecting Rain. Especially useful is their Bob Dylan Who's Who.
posted by Hildago at 3:55 PM on September 23, 2004

^ Expecting Rain.
posted by Hildago at 3:55 PM on September 23, 2004

I love this kind of stuff too. Nice post!
posted by scarabic at 3:57 PM on September 23, 2004

I first heard the Lloyd Price version of Stagger Lee and was fascinated by the story. Then I heard (I think) a leadbelly version, then a friend of mine played the Taj Mahal version and my interest grew. Then, in Greil Marcus' excellent book on the history of popular music 'Mystery Train' there is a whole chapter on it. Great stuff, good post.
posted by bdave at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2004

Have you read Paul Oliver's "Songsters and Saints"? Basically a rap sheet on a lot of the old ballads that made it into the American songster tradition on "race records".

My buddy named his daughter "Delia."

Rubber tire your buggy
Rubber tire your hack
You can rubber tire everything
It ain't gonna bring Delia back
She's all I've got, now she's gone...

posted by zaelic at 5:42 PM on September 23, 2004

Hurrah, y2k! mo' music, please!
posted by mwhybark at 5:53 PM on September 23, 2004

Ooops, forgot--Tom Dooley,.
posted by y2karl at 8:42 PM on September 23, 2004

There is indeed a fantastic Leadbelly version of "Stagger Lee," Bdave. I heard a version this summer--can't for the life of me remember who by--that switched the voice around and had Stagger Lee telling the story: "This is all about / My John B. Stetson hat."

Tracing blues ballad variations and common phrasings is a obsession of mine, but I didn't know "Delia" was such a standard--I've only ever heard the Blind Willie McTell version. For other people interested in that sort of thing, here are lyrics to a few Delia variations.

There's also a fun if sub-professional CD from Rykodisc called Blues Had a Baby and Its Name Was Rock N Roll! It includes versions of "See See Rider" by Lightnin' Hopkins and Big Bill Broonzy, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" by Mississippi Fred McDowell, and (joy of joys!) Leadbelly doing "New Orleans (Rising Sun Blues)," a precursor to "House of the Rising Sun."
posted by hippugeek at 3:26 PM on September 26, 2004

« Older Creme de Men   |   The 8,500 calorie manwich! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments