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Quiz about Stagger Lee Its the End in the Blues
Quiz about Stagger Lee Its the End in the Blues

Stagger Lee: It's the End in the Blues Quiz


The Blues are often about intimate sorrows, fury or desperation. In these Blues tales someone meets an end. Non-blues fans may not know them, unless by the many modern versions in a wide range of genres. The photo will help you if you know the song.

A photo quiz by Godwit. Estimated time: 4 mins.
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Author
Godwit
Time
4 mins
Type
Photo Quiz
Quiz #
392,746
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
7 / 10
Plays
446
Last 3 plays: Guest 78 (6/10), Guest 15 (7/10), Guest 67 (7/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. Some Blues songs come straight out of real-life history, such as a legend about a Missouri man named Stagger Lee, who ended his friend over which small but salient item? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now" is a 1961 song about a man's heartache and fury that he feels badly treated. Which Blues royalty is going to end his baby "in a casket" if she doesn't shape up? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. In the 1965 "Death Letter Blues" by Son House, a man receives a letter with news that his good ole gal is dead. The narrator is distraught, yet his story goes on to confess she came to a bad end how? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. There's a 1930 deeply moving melody about the words a girl's parents say to her before their lives end. Geechie Wiley mourns in which Blues death song? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. Abel Meeropol's 1937 anti-racism poem "Bitter Fruit" became what profound Blues song for Billie Holiday, about horrific endings? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. In which catchy Blues beat does an ardent lover proclaim love so large it's going to roll over, blow up, inject, shoot, churn and otherwise overwhelm the beloved? Or, he might just put an end to her. Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. This 1929 song called "Little Sadie" has many names and versions, including "Cocaine Blues" that cheered an unusual crowd. Where did Johnny Cash famously live-perform this hit? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. At just 17 Laura Nyro wrote "And When I Die" about meeting her own end. "And when I die, and when I'm _________". What's the missing word? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. Some Blues songs are about a different kind of ending, be it a relationship, leaving home or suffering a tragedy. Amy Winehouse covered which sad song about the Nashville Christmas flood of 1926? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. "In the Pines" was covered by Blues legend Lead Belly. In his versions a woman is interrogated about a dead man found over at the railroad tracks. How did he come to his end? Hint



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Most Recent Scores
May 20 2024 : Guest 78: 6/10
Apr 25 2024 : Guest 15: 7/10
Apr 14 2024 : Guest 67: 7/10

Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Some Blues songs come straight out of real-life history, such as a legend about a Missouri man named Stagger Lee, who ended his friend over which small but salient item?

Answer: Stetson hat

Stetson hat is the answer, as sported by the photo's dapper attack dinosaur.

The origins of "Stagger Lee" are long and fascinating, like so many Blues creations. It seems that in 1895 two real-life friends, Lee Shelton--nicknamed Stagger Lee--and Billy Lyons, sat at a card table in St. Louis, Missouri. Both were underworld types and political organizers, but for opposite parties. Billy took Stagger's Stetson hat, which enraged Stagger so much he shot Billy dead.

Stagger's first jury was hung, he was re-tried in 1896 but soon pardoned, as impromptu songs about the events circulated. In 1910 the Library of Congress got word that "Negroes are singing the story as they work on the levee in Texas"--this is called a "field holler" or a "work song"--and they named their tune "The Ballad of Stagalee".

Amazingly in 1911 "Stag-O-Lee" killed a second man but received another pardon. He died in 1912. In the 1920s this song was favored by the likes of Ma Rainey ("Stack O'Lee Blues" with Louis Armstrong playing cornet), and Duke Ellington--later Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and Bob Dylan took a shot at it, too. Today the tune has been covered over 400 times, with no end in sight. Here's a bit of Ma Rainey followed by two other versions:

"Stack O'Lee Blues" Ma Rainy with Louis Armstrong, 1920s:
"...Billy de Lyon told Stack O'Lee, "Please don't take my life,
I've got two little babies, and darlin' lovin' wife"
That bad man, oh, cruel Stack O'Lee
"What I care about you little babies, your darlin' lovin' wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat, I'm bound to take your life"
That bad man, cruel Stack O'Lee..."

"Stagger Lee" by the Grateful Dead, 1978:
"1948, Xmas eve, with a full moon over town, Stagger Lee shot Billy DeLions
And he blew that poor boy down.
Do you know what he shot him for? What do you make of that?
Cause Billy DeLions threw the lucky dice, Won Stagger's Lee's Stetson hat.
Bayo, Bayo, tell me how can this be?
You arrest the girls for turning tricks, But you're scared of Stagger Lee..."

"Stagger Lee" Tommy Roe, 2006:
"...Stagger Lee went to the bar room, And he stood across the bar room door,
He said, "Nobody move", and he pulled his forty-four
"Stagger Lee", cried Billy, "Oh, please don't take my life
I've got three little children and a very sickly wife"
Stagger Lee shot Billy, Oh, he shot that poor boy so bad..."
2. "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now" is a 1961 song about a man's heartache and fury that he feels badly treated. Which Blues royalty is going to end his baby "in a casket" if she doesn't shape up?

Answer: B.B. King

Riley B. King (1925-2015) was born on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, but decided as a boy he would become a musician. Nicknamed "Blues Boy" King was one of the three unrelated "Kings" of Blues guitar, B.B., Albert, and Freddie. King released "You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now" in 1961. It was covered by Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1981 and Kenny Wayne Shepherd in 2014.

The photo is of a blue King Crab.

"Oh
You done lost your good thing now
Well, the way I used to love you
Baby, that's the way I hate you now...
So please don't try to mistreat me
Yes, you know where I'm from, baby
So please don't try to mistreat me
Yes, because I'll make your mother a present
Baby, of you and your casket too"
3. In the 1965 "Death Letter Blues" by Son House, a man receives a letter with news that his good ole gal is dead. The narrator is distraught, yet his story goes on to confess she came to a bad end how?

Answer: I murdered her

"Death Letter Blues" is a haunting and anguished Delta Blues song covered by musicians as diverse as Grateful Dead and the Canadian punk rock band Eamon McGrath & the Wild Dogs. It was composed by Son House in 1965, based on his 1930 "My Black Mama, Part 2".

The story goes that a man gets a letter saying his woman is dead. He hurries to her side and spends the day in palpable grief. But we learn in the lyrics that his "wicked soul" very likely killed her because of her "low-down ways". It seems like she had a back door man--she was cheating on him. He expects he'll see her on "Judgment Day". House played the song masterfully on slide guitar.

The photo is of an "eye", as in "I killed her". Here's some of the incriminating lyrics:

"I loved you baby, like I love myself
You don't have me, you won't have nobody else
I loved you baby, better than I did myself
I said now if you don't have me, I didn't want you to have nobody else
You know, it's hard to love someone that don't love you
Ain't no satisfaction, don't care what in the world you do..."
4. There's a 1930 deeply moving melody about the words a girl's parents say to her before their lives end. Geechie Wiley mourns in which Blues death song?

Answer: Last Kind Words

In "Last Kind Words" (1930) a deep and throaty Geechie Wiley sings about a girl's father who rightly foretells his coming death in the war, and asks his daughter to care for his dead body. The kindness in the title is portrayed by this furry couple. Her dying mother warns her to stop her wild ways. One wonders if the girl feels there will be no more such concern and kindness for her once her parents are gone. Or if the kindness is about the intimacy and trust they share with her:

"...My mama told me, just before she died
Lord, precious daughter, don't you be so wild
The Mississippi river, you know it's deep and wide
I can stand right here, see my babe from the other side..."
5. Abel Meeropol's 1937 anti-racism poem "Bitter Fruit" became what profound Blues song for Billie Holiday, about horrific endings?

Answer: Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday first sang "Strange Fruit", a protest against racism and lynching written by poet Abel Meeropol in 1937, in 1939. Holiday told a reporter she was afraid to sing it initially, and did so only in safer locations, though eventually it became her signature song. It is on the Recording Industry of America's "Songs of the Century" list. The "fruit" are the gruesome and tragic bodies of the lynched hanging from the trees.

The photo is a fruit peeled with eyes added, making it a very strange and for me a disconcerting fruit:

"Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies Swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees..."
6. In which catchy Blues beat does an ardent lover proclaim love so large it's going to roll over, blow up, inject, shoot, churn and otherwise overwhelm the beloved? Or, he might just put an end to her.

Answer: Steamroller Blues

"Steamroller Blues" was released by Blues artist James Taylor in 1970, intended to parody the grandiose and heavy-handed "white" Blues bands of the day. Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Billy Dean and Shelby Lynne covered it with aplomb.

The photo is natural steam in the northern lands.

"...Yeah, I'm a Napalm bomb for you, baby, Guaranteed to blow your mind,
And if I can't have your love for my own, Sweet child,
Won't be nothing left behind."
7. This 1929 song called "Little Sadie" has many names and versions, including "Cocaine Blues" that cheered an unusual crowd. Where did Johnny Cash famously live-perform this hit?

Answer: Folsom Prison

"Cocaine Blues" was performed by Johnny Cash for wildly enthusiastic prisoners in Folsom Prison. Originally titled "Little Sadie" by Clarence Ashley in 1929, the jaunty murder and its repercussions appears as "Whisky Blues" (Slim Dusty), "Chain Gang Blues" (Riley Puckett), "Bad Lee Brown" (Woody Guthrie), "Transfusion Blues", "East St. Louis Blues", "Penitentiary Blues" and others. But in all covers poor Sadie comes to a violent end.

The photo shows a person wearing black and white stripes, as in prison garb, and suggested projectile points, like the folsom tools made in ancient America.

But Cash's album and song "Folsom Prison" is hugely popular all over the world, so I trust you got it right. B.B. King performed live in Cook County jail. Here's an older and then the Cash version:

Older version:
"Last night I was a-makin' my rounds, Met my old woman an' I blowed her down,
I went on home to go to bed, Put my cannon right under my head.
Jury says murder in the first degree, I says 'Oh, Lord have mercy on me!'..."

Johnny Cash version:
Early one mornin' while making' the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin' forty-four beneath my head...

The verdict read murder in the first degree
I hollered, "Lordy, Lordy, have mercy on me"
The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the Folsom pen, 99 years underneath that ground
I can't forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.
Come on you've gotta listen to me
Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be."
8. At just 17 Laura Nyro wrote "And When I Die" about meeting her own end. "And when I die, and when I'm _________". What's the missing word?

Answer: Gone

"...And when I die and when I'm gone,
There'll be one child born and this world to carry on, to carry on.
My troubles are many, they're as deep as a well,
I can swear there ain't no heaven and pray there ain't no hell,
Swear there ain't no heaven and pray there ain't no hell,
But I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell..."

Peter, Paul and Mary recorded this well-known song first, in 1966, but the most well-known version is by Blood, Sweat and Tears, 1969. Weirdly perhaps, it's been used for a number of zombie, vampire and horror shows in the 2000s, and moves fluidly between many genres. Laura Nyro (1947-1997) died of cancer at 49, but was a strong influence on Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Barbara Streisand, Cyndi Lauper, Carole King, Bette Midler, Rickie Lee Jones, Elvis Costello and even Alice Cooper. Not strictly a Blues (or any genre) artist, Nyro understood depth, beauty and a troubled soul, expressed with voice, piano and guitar.

Whoever had been sitting in the chair in the photo is now gone.
9. Some Blues songs are about a different kind of ending, be it a relationship, leaving home or suffering a tragedy. Amy Winehouse covered which sad song about the Nashville Christmas flood of 1926?

Answer: Back Water Blues

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011) sang "Back Water Blues" about an end to a farm home and community after a five-day torrential rain floods out "thousands". The amazing Bessie Smith wrote and sang it in 1927. It conveys the agony of a woman in a Tennessee flood at Christmas, though it is often mistakenly thought a later plains flood instead.

The photo is the bluish back of a hand.

"Back water blues that calls me, To pack my things and go
'Cause my house fell down, And I can't live there no more
Ooh, I can't live there no more
Ooh, I can't live there no more
There ain't no place for a poor woman to go..."
10. "In the Pines" was covered by Blues legend Lead Belly. In his versions a woman is interrogated about a dead man found over at the railroad tracks. How did he come to his end?

Answer: Decapitated

"In the Pines", also called "Black Girl" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?", was not composed by the great Lead Belly, though it is often attributed to him.
A man is killed over by the railway tracks, but only his head is found. The head of cabbage in the photo is the hint--sorry, brutal I know. That's the hard core life-is-gritty and rough Blues for ya.

The songs origins are lost but it likely came out of the American Appalachians, a source of many Blues tales. Lead Belly created skillful renditions in 1944-1948, often changing the lyrics. In some versions the girl was raped and the man subsequently loses his head to the train; in others the man was beheaded by the train when he and the woman jumped it, but the woman is suspected and questioned. Here the woman claims the man was her "hardworking" husband and she's in despair over losing him. But was he instead murdered? Did she shove him off the platform? Were they lovers and hobos "jumping the blinds"? Or is the interrogator trying to set up the Black girl? Trains are rich with mystery and ends of all kinds:

"My husband, was a hard working man, Killed a mile and a half from here
His head was found in a driving wheel, And his body hasn't ever been found.
My girl, my girl, don't you lie to me, Tell me where did you sleep last night?
In the pines, in the pines, Where the sun don't ever shine
I would shiver the whole night through..."

Bluegrass musician Bill Monroe created a version void of racism, mystery or suspicion, a common fate for Blues songs. It's instead a "mash-up" where you combine two songs, about a man's lonesome heart and loss:

"In the pines, in the pines, Where the sun never shines
And we shiver when the cold wind blows
Who who hoo hoo hoo, who who hoo hoo hoo
Little girl, little girl, what have I done, That makes you treat me so?
You caused me to weep, you caused me to mourn
You caused me to leave my home."
Source: Author Godwit

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