I loved Mississippi John Hurt’s Stack O’Lee Blues long before I knew it was based on a real murder.

Click here to listen to Mississippi John Hurt’s Stack O’Lee Blues!

Police officer, how can it be?
You can arrest everybody
But cruel Stack O’ Lee
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

Billy DeLyon told Stack O’ Lee
Please don’t take my life
I got two little babies and a darling loving wife
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

What I care
About your two little babies and your darling loving wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat, I’m bound to take your life
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

Boom boom boom boom went that .44
When I spied Billy DeLyon
He was lying down on the floor
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

Gentleman of the jury, what you think of that?
Stack O’ Lee killed Billy DeLyon
About a five-dollar Stetson hat
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

Standing on the gallows, his head way up high,
At twelve o’clock they killed him
They was all glad to see him die
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’ Lee

Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John Hurt

The place was St. Louis, Missouri; the year, 1895. It was Christmas night and the air was frigid but it was warm inside the saloon where ‘Stack’ Lee Shelton was drinking with a friend.

Stack, whose nickname was derived from a riverboat with an unsavory reputation, was a flamboyant dresser and often seen in his white Stetson hat. When he was arrested the next day, Stack identified himself as a carriage driver, but that wasn’t true. He was actually a very successful pimp and a leader in the Democratic party.

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