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Is it lunch yet? (video version)

Today I set up a tripod out on the deck so I could get some steady video of the robins in their nest. A party breaks out when one of the adult robins returns to the nest with some grub.

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Bad Man Stagger Lee

The tall tale of Stagger Lee has been recorded countless times in many styles. The bad man Stagger Lee has been Stacker Lee, Stack-O-Lee, Stack Pole and more. We all know what happened. That bad old Stagger Lee killed Billy Lyons over a $5 Stetson hat. There are a lot of murder ballads in American song, maybe even more that songs about trains and songs about cars, but I think Stagger Lee even tops Little Sadie and Pretty Polly for murder ballad most recorded.

Stag Lee Shelton murdered Billy Lyons in St. Louis Missouri at Christmas, 1895. Wikipedia tells me that the song was first published in 1911 and recorded in 1923 or 1924 by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians.

On Christmas night in 1895, Shelton and his acquaintance William “Billy” Lyons were drinking in the Bill Curtis Saloon. Lyons was also a member of St. Louis’ underworld, and may have been a political and business rival to Shelton. Eventually, the two men got into a dispute, during which Lyons took Shelton’s Stetson hat.[4] Subsequently, Shelton shot Lyons, recovered his hat, and left.[5] Lyons died of his injuries, and Shelton was charged, tried and convicted of the murder in 1897. He was pardoned in 1909, but returned to prison in 1911 for assault and robbery, and died in incarceration in 1912.

The first Stagger Lee I recall hearing was the R&B version by Lloyd Price. What a great recording that was. “I was standing on the corner, when I heard my bulldog bark – he was barkin’ at the two men who were gamblin’ in the dark…”. And those driving background vocals, “Go Stagger Lee, Go Stagger Lee”, and then the killer sax break. “Stagger Lee, cried Billy, oh please don’t take my life, I’ve got 3 little children and a very sickly wife.” But you all know what happened. That bad man, that pimp, that gambler, that bad old Stacker Lee pulled his 44 and it was all over.

The second version I recall hearing was Woody’s. “It was in a hustlin’ B joint where the Mississippi run, Stacker Lee killed Billy de Lyons with a smokin’ 41. He was a bad man, that mean old Stacker Lee”. Why hasn’t he been caught….”double up my fee, and I’ll bring back that bad man, name of Stacker Lee.”

Frank Hutchison’s performance gained some fame during the great folk music scare after it appeared on the Harry Smith anthology. Bob Dylan basically covered this version when he recorded Stagger Lee on World Gone Wrong. Here’s Frank Hutchison…

Let’s listen to one more. This is a wonderful old time version by Spencer Branch. That’s Martha Spencer on banjo, Kelley Breiding on guitar and Kilby Spencer on fiddle.

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Greening up



Each time I go out for a physio appointment, I see that the front garden is greening up more and more. I was a little worried about our Japanese Maple, as the leaves seemed to be appearing on some branches more than others, but as the days go by I see it’s going to be fine.

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Hey all you cowboys….

Good-bye old paint.

Here’s Meredith Axelrod

Also nice on squeezebox, from Sqwzbox

I also really like this performance by Bruce Molsky, with Brittany Haas and Paula Bradley…

Let’s go out with Tex Ritter…

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Buffalo Gals (again)

A few days ago I shared some different versions of the old time tune, Buffalo Gals. As is often the case, I was listening to various versions of the tune because I was learning to play it myself. At a recent practice session I recorded myself working on this one. I like to do that fairly regularly because how I think I play and how I think I sound isn’t the same as how I really play and how I really sound. When I listen to myself recorded it becomes obvious to me where I need to concentrate my practicing. I’m not one of those people who have some kind of natural knack for playing an instrument. To play at all decently, I really have to work at it. Fortunately, I love playing music so practice=fun for me.

This is a really bad video (and I’m not even talking about my banjo picking). I videotaped with a bright light in behind and I managed to cut off part of my head and my left hand. The one highlight is that my cat Shadow showed up at some point. You can see him in the bottom right corner, and he just hung out and watched me. Of all our cats, Shadow self-identifies as my cat. He is usually not far away, and when I first injured my ankle he often chose my cast as a reasonable place to sleep (I usually didn’t agree).

For those who care about these things, I’m playing a Bart Reiter Standard banjo, in open G tuning with a capo on the second fret, bringing it into the key of A. I’ve crammed together two different versions just to add some variety.

So here’s me, working on Buffalo Gals.