19 “Stackalee” by Frank Hutchison


April 1, 2009 by gadaya

Frank Hutchison’s World

“Frank Hutchison was born 1897 in Raleigh County, West Virginia; some sources quote 20th March 1897 as his date of birth. Soon after 1897 the Hutchison family moved to Logan County, West Virginia, a location commemorated by Hutchison’s classic guitar solo Logan County Blues. Prior to his musical and recording career Frank Hutchison had worked as a miner and according to a fellow Logan County musician, had a limp – one assumes this may have been due to an accident while working in the mines. He also worked at times as a cook, carpenter and general handyman. Photos show a serious looking man but by all accounts he was very friendly and an outgoing character. According to Ernest Stoneman, Hutchison was ”a big red-headed Irishman”, one who evidently had plenty of fun in him.

With regard to Hutchison’s contributions to the field of early country music (or if you prefer the term otm), it has to be said he was not only an innovative while country blues man but also someone who had a few ‘extra cards up his sleeve’ as compared to some of his contemporaries. Apart from his distinctive voice, albeit a trifle rough one, Frank Hutchison’s guitar playing was innovative, particularly in his use of the slide guitar on some of his recordings.frankhutchison
In September 1926 he travelled to New York to make his first recordings for the Okeh company with whom he would remain for his three-year recording career. The two sides he cut were made using the acoustic method of recording, as distinct from the electrical process that would eventually consign the earlier method to the history books. In fact it appears that when Hutchison re-recorded these two numbers they may have been the first Okeh issues to use the then new electrical recording system.
It seems obvious that the label must have been satisfied with the sales of his initial recordings because Frank Hutchison was called back for a 1927 date that provided nine fine performances. A two-day session in April produced five numbers, including the re-makes of Hutchison’s first two sides. Apart from them, two items are worthy of mention; The Last Scene of The Titanic is, as a song, a unique version about the Titanic disaster; an event that had occured fifteen years earlier but was still very much in the mind of the general public and record buyers. Hutchison’s version difters from all the many other ‘Titanic’ songs recorded by both black and white performers. The other piece of interest is Logan County Blues, a variation on the tune Spanish Fandango; it is played in open tuning and is a Hutchison ‘piece-de-resistance’. His picking makes the listener think it is a simple guitar solo – any would-be guitar player will tell you otherwise!
Having cut so many sides in 1927 it is perhaps not surprising that nearly eighteen months would elapse before he returned to the Okeh studios, once again for a two-day stint. On the first day Hutchison was in the company of fiddler Sherman Lawson; according to Lawson, Okeh had asked Hutchinson to bring along a fiddler player as they thought he was running low on material. The presence of Lawson is unusual as normally Frank Hutchison was a solo performer and reportedly not very good as an accompanist. While the sides cut on the first day, with fiddle player Sherman Lawson are excellent, the results of the second day’s work produced three superb Hutchison vocal /guitar solos plus the instrumental Hutchinson’s Rag. This last-named number being very akin to Riley Puckett’s 1927 recording, Fuzzy Rag. Disc
B commences with the conclusion of Frank Hutchison’s final solo recording session for Okeh. (He did record for the label again, in September 1929, as a part of the Okeh Medicine Show, a six-sided set that was a showcase for a selection of Okeh’s otm artists). Once again everything made at the July date can be described as either first-rate or outstanding. Some pundits consider these last recordings to be less original than earlier performances; even if this is true to an extent one cannot dismiss Hutchison’s ‘parting shots’ in the commercial recording world. Debatably, his final session proved he had more to offer. Cannonball Blues and K.C. Blues may well be re-works of earlier recordings but what a stunning exit for the end of a solo career. Hutchison may not have had a particularly attractive voice (some have even described it, perhaps unfairly, as ‘leather-throated’), but there can be no doubt as to its rough charm. Additionally, his grand guitar playing overrides any doubts about his vocal abillities. But, it may well have been simply, as mentioned in the notes to disc A, that Okeh had been correct and Hutchinson had just run out of new material.
After the Okeh Medicine Show recordings, Hutchison and his family moved briefly to Chesapeake, Ohio but soon ended up back in West Virginia. Here they ran a store from 1934 until 1942 when the premises burnt down, forcing the family to move to first Columbia, Ohio and then to Dayton. Frank Hutchison died on 9th November 1945, leaving behind a fine music legacy, a bequest that might have been enhanced with new material to give an extension to his recording career.” (Pat Harrison’s liner notes to “Worried Blues”, a JSP box-set that re-issued all Frank Hutchison and Kelly Harrell’s 78rpm records)
-I have compiled 22 tracks by Frank Hutchison here, so to complete all his recording output, you have 6 other tracks that i already posted in my Dick Justice compilation, the instrumental version of “Stackalee” is on the first part of “The Stackalee Variations” and his song about the Titanic will be featured in a future post. (I didn’t included some re-recordings he made of “Worried Blues” and “The train that carried my girl from town”)
1.Worried Blues
2.The Train That Carried My Girl From Townfrank_hutchinsonyong
3.The Wild Horse
4.Long Way To Tipperary
5.West Virginia Rag
6.C&O Excursion
7.Coney Isle
8.Lightning Express
9.Old Rachel
11.All Night Long
12.Alabama Girl, Ain’t You Comin’ Out Tonight
13.Hell Bound Train
14.Wild Hogs in the Red Brush
15.The Burglar Man
16.Back In My Home Town
17.Hutchison’s Rag
18.The Boston Burglar
19.Railroad Bill
20.Johnny and Jane (Part 1)
21.Johnny and Jane (Part 2)
22.Cannon Ball Blues
-In bonus i offer you the musical and humorous skit he recorded along with other Okeh artists, notably John Carson and Emmett Miller.
It’s called “The Okeh Medecine Show“, it appeared in 1929 on three 78rpm records.(You can here Frank in part 2,4 and 6 of the skit)
DOWNLOAD HERE (zip file of six mp3s)
-Frank Hutchison was originally a miner in West Virginia and i found this clip on YouTube that reminds us of the violent conflicts and strong social injustices that happened in 1920-1921, known as “The West Virginia Mine Wars”.

The Stackalee Variations

Excerpts from the Wikipedia page about Stackalee:

“William Lyons, 25, a levee hand, was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Shelton, a carriage driver. Lyons and Shelton were friends and were talking together. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits. The discussion drifted to politics, and an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Shelton’s hat from his head. The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Shelton withdrew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen. When his victim fell to the floor Shelton took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away. He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious. Lee Shelton is also known as ‘Stagger’ Lee. ” (St.Louis, Misouri, Globe-Democrat article from 1895)

Lee Shelton (also known as Stagger Lee, Stagolee, Stackerlee, Stack O’Lee, Stack-a-Lee and by several other spelling variants) was a black cab driver and a pimp convicted of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve, 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri. The crime was immortalized in a blues folk song that has been recorded in hundreds of different versions. Lee Shelton was not just a common pimp, but as described by Cecil Brown, “Lee Shelton belonged to a group of pimps known in St. Louis as the ‘Macks’. The macks were not just ‘urban strollers’; they presented themselves as objects to be observed.”

Shelton died in prison in 1912, of tuberculosis.

-Stackalee is, along with John Henry, the most important figure in afro-american oral traditions, one of the most persistent too, his legend being present in  almost every new stage of developement of afro-american music in the 20th century. In a way he is the opposite of John Henry, his negative side, surely a “bad” man, with all the clichés of violence, gambling, booze and women surrounding him, but nevertheless became a “hero” for the black community, a symbol of resistance against white supremacy and racism.

-I found some really great articles on the net about Stagger Lee: The Stagger Lee Files is a great place to start exploring the myth and the legend, Stagger Lee.com has a very complet historical page and also a list of  421 recordings!, from Early Blues.com, there’s a superb essay by Max haymes and here, another brillant essay by Angela Nelson who analyse the figure of Stagger Lee in rap music.

-Go there to read the long essay by writer Paul Slade “De Lyons Sleeps Tonight:Stagger Lee”

-There are two books also of interest on the subject, Cecil Brown’s “Stagolee shot Billy” and  Greil Marcus’s essay “Sly Stone and the myth of Stagolee” in his book “Mystery Train”.

-I’ve selected 60 performances, trying to represent all the musical traditions that shared the song and his legend. Once again, like “The John Henry Variations”, i’ve classed the tracks according to musical thematics but once you have download them all, it’s good to mix them, to make your own list of favorites,etc…

Afro-american musical traditions

(Hollers, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Soul, Funk, Rap, etc…)

-Part 1:

1.Stackerlee, Bama, from “Prison Songs Vol.1;Alan Lomax recordings”

2.Stack O’ Lee Blues, Ma Rainey, from “Black Bottom”

3.Stackolee, Mississippi John Hurt, from “Avalon Blues”

4.Stack O’Lee Blues, Cab Calloway, from “Complete Jazz Series 1931 – 1932”

5.Original Stack O’ Lee Blues, Long “Cleve” Reed & Little Harvey Hull, from “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Super Rarities & Unissued Gems Of The 1920s & 30s”

6.Stack O’Lee Blues,  Johnny Dodds, from “Complete Jazz Series 1928 – 1940”tee425-xxl

7.Billy Lyons and Stack O’Lee, Furry Lewis, from “First Recordings”

8.Stack O’Lee Blues,  Duke Ellington, from “Complete Jazz Series 1927 – 1928”

9.Stagolee, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, from “Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues “

10.Old Stack O’Lee Blues, Sidney Bechet, from “Shake It And Break It”

11.Staggerlee , John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, from “Classic African American Ballads”

12.Stagolee, Hogman Maxey, from “Angola Prisoners’ Blues”

13.Stack O’ Dollars Blues, James “Yank” Rachell, from “Legendary Country Blues Artists”

14.Stack O’ Dollars, Big Joe Williams, from “Big Joe Williams and the Stars of Mississippi Blues”

15.Stackolee, Dom Flemons,from “Dance tunes, Ballads and Blues”


-Part 2:

1.Stackalee, Margaret Walker, from “Anthology of Negro Poetry”

2.Stagger Lee, Lloyd Price, from “60s Soul Sessions”

3.Stack-O-Lee ,Champion Jack Dupree, from “Blues from the Gutter”6a00cd97849482f9cc01098151d599000d-500pi

4.Stack-A-Lee, Archibald, from “Archibald’s Crescent City Bounce”

5.Stagger Lee, Ike And Tina Turner, from “Soul Masters: Proud Mary”

6.Stagger Lee, James Brown, from “The Godfather Returns”

7.Staggolee, Pacific Gas & Electric , from “Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof”

8.Stagger Lee, Professor Longhair, from “Big Easy Strut: The Essential Professor Longhair”

9.The Great Stackalee, Snatch and The Poontangs, from “Snatch & The Poontangs”

10.Stackolee, Samuel L. Jackson, from “Black Snake Moan”

11.Stagger Lee, Henry Gray, from “Blues won’t let me take my rest”

12.Stagger Lee, Taj Mahal, from “Hanapepe Dream”

13.Wrong’em Boyo, The Rulers, from “Trojan Ska Box Set”

14.Stagolee, R.L. Burnside , from “Well…Well…Well”

15.Stack-O-Lee, Bruce Jackson, from “Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me! Narrative Poetry from the Black Oral Tradition”


White Musical Traditions

(String bands, country,folk,skiffle, rock, etc…)

-Part 3:

1.Stackalee (Instrumental version),Frank Hutchison, from “Worried Blues”

2.Stack-O-Lee, Fruit Jar Guzzlers, from “Old Time Music from West Virginia – Vol. 1”

3.That Bad Man Stackolee, David Miller, from “My Rough & Rowdy Ways Vol. 2”

4.Stack-O-Lee King,Queen, Jack, from “It’s Hotter in Hawaii”

5.Stagger Lee, Woody Guthrie, from “Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 2”

6.Stack O’Lee Blues, Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group, from “Pig Iron, Washboards, Freight Trains & Kazoos: The UK Skiffle Boom 1954-57”

7.Stack-O-Lee ,Tennessee Ernie Ford, from “Sixteen Tons”

8.Stack O’ Lee, Merle Travis, from “In the Jailhouse Now : Prison Songs & Murder Ballads”

9.Badman Stackolee, Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group Pig Iron, from “Washboards, Freight Trains & Kazoos: The UK Skiffle Boom 1954-57”

10.Stagger Lee, The Wayside Trio, from “Wayside Trio”staggerpic

11.Stack O’lee, Doc & Merle Watson, from “Ballads from Deep Gap”

12.Stack-O-Lee, Bert Garvin, Danielle Fraley & J.P. Fraley, from “Kentucky Old-Time Banjo”

13.Stagolee, Pete Seeger, from “American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 2”

14.Stagolee, Krüger Brothers, from “Behind the Barn”

15.Stagger Lee, Foghorn Stringband, from “Weiser Sunrise”


-Part 4:

1.Stagger Lee, Bobby Pratt & The Rockers,from “Wildcat Jamboree!”

2.Stackolee, Journeymen, from “New directions in folk music”

3.Stagger Lee, Dale Miller, from “Finger Picking Rags and Other Delights”

4.Stagger Lee ,Tim Hardin, from “This Is Tim Hardin”

5.Stackerlee, Tom Rush, from “Blues, Songs and Ballads”

6.Stagolee, Bert Jansch, from “Young Man Blues: Live In Glasgow 1962-1964”bob_dylan

7.Stack-O-Lee, Dave Van Ronk, from “On Air”

8.Stackerlee, Tom Paley, from “Old Tom Moore”

9.Mrs. Delion’s Lament,David Bromberg, from “Reckless Abandon/Bandit in a Bathing Suit”

10.Stagger Lee, Grateful Dead , from “Shakedown Street”

11.Stagger Lee ,Dr. John, from “All by Hisself (Live At The Lonestar)”

12.Stack O’ Lee ,Frank Morey, from “The Delmark Sessions”

13.Stack Shot Billy, The Black Keys, from “Rubber Factory”

14.Stagger Lee ,Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, from “Murder Ballads”

15.Stack A Lee, Bob Dylan, from “World Gone Wrong”



“What does the song say exactly? It says no man gains immortality thru public acclaim. truth is shadowy. in the pre-postindustrial age, victims of violence were allowed (in fact it was their duty) to be judge over their offenders- parents were punished for their children’s crimes (we’ve come a long wy since then) the song says that a man’s hat is his crown. futurologists would insist it’s a matter of taste. they say “let’s sleep on it” but they’re already living in the sanatorium. No Rights Whithout Duty is the name of the game & fame is a trick. playing for time is is only horsing around. Stack’s in the cell, no wall phone. he is not some egotistical degraded existentialist dionysian idiot, neither does he represent any alternative lifestyle scam (give me a thousand acres of tractable land & you’ll see the Authentic alternative lifestyle, the Agrarian one) Billy didn’t have an insurance plan, didn’t get airsick yet his ghost is more real & genuine than all the dead souls on the boob tube- a monumental epic of blunder & misunderstanding. a romance tale whithout the cupidity.” (Bob Dylan’s liner notes to “Stack a lee” on his album “World Gone Wrong”)


19 thoughts on “19 “Stackalee” by Frank Hutchison

  1. magus says:

    Congratulations on your latest triumph, gadaya!
    Merci bien!

  2. Barak says:

    Thanks he’s a great bluesman

    Do you by any chance have any Clayton McMichen not with Skillet Lickers?

  3. Jonathan Kamholtz says:

    Another wonderful compilation–thoughtful, and lots of great music. I enjoy and admire your work. By the way, did you have the chance to look at another excellent Stagolee archive online over on “Honey, Where You Been So Long”?

    • gadaya says:

      Thanks. yes i love the “Honey where you been so long” blog and i checked his nice compilation of “Stagolee”. We may even collaborate for one post in the future.

  4. Barak says:

    I know that’s where I found this guy, this album is very short and it seems that no company has released a modern disc by this artist.

  5. Andrew says:

    I’ve spent half the day listening to this. Very impressive compiling. Many thanks.

  6. Nicolas L says:

    That’s great !
    Thanks Garaya
    Lots of versions that I didn’t know, and evrey version that I know of is here
    Encyclopedical work.

  7. Vaughn says:

    I’ve always been a “Stackalee” fan in its many variations. But I had no there were so many!
    A recent personal favorite is Nick Cave’s hyper-violent, profane, and funny version from his MURDER BALLADS album.
    Thank you for all your hard work.

  8. what an amazing post! i only regret that i don’t have the time to listen through all of it right now. same goes for John Henry. but thanks for all your good work, at some point i’ll find the time to listen and it will be bliss!

  9. JoePass says:

    Stunning. Stunning. Stunning.
    Great work, thanks so much!!!

    (btw: Can’t wait on the Cuckoo/Coo Coo-Compilations….)

  10. Pat Rubbish says:

    oh man…you are a hero
    excellent collection!!!

    i love collecting various versions of the same song
    one day i tried finding all the versions of the song BRAZIL…i ended up with over 150!!! but still never found the version i have on an old 45

    more outlaw themed compilations!!!
    NED KELLY has a massive amount of songs about him
    and im sure JESSE JAMES does also
    have a NED KELLY collection part way collected for some future use that i have yet to figure out

  11. Ulrich Umlauf says:

    Thanx alot as always for your great work here – this is one of the best blogs in the world…

    But i am having trouble with downloading part 4 here – megaupload says the file is removed…any chance for a repost?

  12. gtrclktr says:

    Thanks so much for this historical record of this song. I am having trouble with downloading part 4 here – megaupload says the file is removed…any chance for a re-post?

  13. leif oldhart says:

    Yaaas Boss!
    Well, part four is deleted; and it’s a pretty sure bet that it wern’t Ma Rainy or Professor Longhair’s boys who done it. Probably one of Dylan’s private internet dicks. Anyhow, howsabaout a reup because this world-class historic collection suffers without the missing tracks! Thanks in advance.

  14. Sean Breadin says:

    We’ve been looking into The Anthology recently as part of the London conference (America Changed Through Song) back in September 2011 & have an album of Harry Smith songs (old style 12″ vinyl) coming out shortly on Folk Police. Here’s a demo / rehearsal of our take on Frank Hutchison’s Staggerlee.

    Amazing site by the way; sets a benchmark for an Internet Ideal: exhaustive, passionate, authoritative, celebratory, inspirational…

  15. someone says:

    Stackalee Variations 1

    Stackalee Variations 2

    Stackalee Variations 3

    19 Stackalee – Frank Hutchison

    and from the same neighborhood in the index, this music knocks me out
    Singers & Players – Staggering Heights (On-U LP23)

  16. WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for livejasmin credits hack v3.4

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