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David Hines [userpic]

SPN: Sam and Dean vs. Stagolee!

February 27th, 2007 (09:09 pm)

A while back, cereta asked folks about urban legends that they'd like to see on SUPERNATURAL. I mentioned the stories in the late 19th-century version of WEIRD AMERICA, Charles Skinner's MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF OUR OWN LAND, but there was something else tickling my brain. There were a couple of times I remembered, but I didn't have anything to write it down, and then I couldn't remember what I'd meant to write about.

But I just remembered right now, and I'm posting before I forget: they've already done Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil, so there's precedent for episodes based on music -- and I would kvell to see SUPERNATURAL's take on Stagolee.

Stagolee (also known variously as Stack Lee, Stacker Lee, Stack O' Lee, Stack O Dollars, et cetera) is the epitome of what Julius Lester called the "bad [n-word]" school of songs, and the folk blues steppingstone between murder ballads and gangsta rap. He's the subject of a famous blues song, in which he callously kills a family man and small-time crook named Billy Lyons over a Stetson hat. Researcher Cecil Brown discovered the song was based on a real crime that occurred in St. Louis on Christmas Night, 1895.

Po-lice officer, how can it be?
You can 'rest everybody but cruel Stagolee
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee

Billy DeLyon told Stagolee, "Please don't take my life
I got two little babes and a darling, loving wife"
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee

"What'd I care about your two little babes and darling, loving wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat, I'm bound to take your life."
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee

Boom boom, boom boom,
Went the forty-four.
Well when I spied Billy DeLyon
He's lyin' down on the floor.
That bad man, oh cruel Stagolee

In the song, Stagolee is hung. In reality, "Stag" (or "Stack," or "Stacker") Lee Shelton unsuccessfully pled self-defense, served twelve years of his 25-year-sentence, and died of tuberculosis in 1912. It's interesting to think of his ghost stuck to the legend of Stagolee -- Lee Shelton was a bad man, but it's hard to imagine anybody being as hardcore as the legend of Stagolee became. He doesn't need to have left any unfinished business, but Stagolee's reputation could sing any spirit out of the grave. He could well be *stuck* being the baddest ghost on the planet, whether he wanted to be or not. Ideal for a guest shot on SUPERNATURAL.


Posted by: Gummitch (gummitch)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 05:57 am (UTC)

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)

Oh, man, so many covers. From Mississippi John Hurt on down to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Good excuse for there to be a live performance, too: the various tributes to Stagolee in song and toast could well act as invocations.

Posted by: Lucy (cereta)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)

Now that? Would be seriously cool.

Fandom: fun and educational.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
pointy teeth

Even freakier: in some versions of the legend, Stagolee was so possessive of his white Stetson hat because he'd sold his soul to the devil to get it. The hat conveyed him with supernatural powers, including fire-eating and the ability to change his shape.

As far as I know, Stagolee's revolver had no mystical powers. But given that the caliber of the weapon changes depending on the rhyme required, it's impressive enough to know that the real-life Lee Shelton used a .44 Smith & Wesson revolver when he gunned down William Lyons. I *have* to get a copy of Cecil Brown's book.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: February 28th, 2007 06:32 pm (UTC)
cass groovy

I do! (Actually, I've said the same thing. I'm sure you're surprised.)

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