Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Stagger Lee: Invention and legend.

The legend of Stagger Lee has a mystery within it: Why was Billy shot? 
That can be discussed and pondered, though there probably isn't anything that can prove why he was killed. But there are things that aren't mysteries, they're just false, just made up.
Like Cecil Brown's book, Stagolee Shot Billy - it just made up the story that Lee Shelton was a pimp.
Shelton wasn't a pimp. And there is nothing that says he was other than Brown's book. Brown made it up. It's just that simple.
Many people assume Brown's book proved that Shelton was a pimp, but there are no footnotes to factual sources.

Starting with his very first mention of Stagolee Shelton 
as a pimp on page 8:

                 "The fact that Stagolee was a pimp…"

No footnote. That's just the author writing his own personal statement.
And everytime the word "pimp" is used with Shelton's name, no proof is provided. Each time is simply the author repeating his conjecture or making more things up:

  • p. 11; "...a real Stagolee, a well-known figure in St. Louis’s red-light district during the 1890s, a pimp…" No footnote. 
  • p. 12; "The hero of the ballad was a pimp…" No footnote.
  • p. 16; "…the black pimps in St. Louis” No footnote.
  • p. 23; "Lee Shelton belonged to a group of exotic pimps" No footnote.
  • p. 33; (Song lyrics, no footnote.)
  • p. 45; "...if Lee Shelton was a pimp even before arriving in St. Louis"  No footnote.
  • p. 46; "If he was a successful pimp..." No footnote.
  • p. 50; "Shelton, a pimp who became a legend" No footnote.
  • p. 84; "The Stags were probably the first party of pimps" No footnote. 
  • p. 103; "Shelton… owned a club called the Modern Horseshoe Club, drove a carriage, and was known to be a pimp."  No footnote.
  • p.104; "...since he was both a pimp and a gambler"  No footnote.
  • p. 116; "Shelton had been a pimp, a political figure, a saloonkeeper"  No footnote.
  • p. 218; "We have seen how the Stagolee narrative has been associated with the pimp and the prostitute, begining with ragtime music" No footnote.

Each of these statements are the author's musings. None of these statements have basis in historical fact. There was no pimp named Stagolee in St. Louis. There was no pimp club or pimp political party. Shelton was not a club owner, a maquereaux, mack, or pimp. Simply, there are no police arrests, legal documents, newspaper articles, or other factual sources that provide proof that Lee Shelton was a pimp.

There may be lyrics, opinions, and dreams that say Staggerlee was a pimp or whatever else, but those aren't facts.

And if I were to write that Lee Shelton was a laborer and footnote it to the Missouri State Penitentiary Register Book V, State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson City, Missouri, that then is a sourced fact.

This is a blogpost to correct inaccuracies concerning the incident of Billy and Staggerlee. An earlier post shows that a house said to be Shelton's house is the wrong house. It's important to note that made-up stuff is OK, that's the legend. But why make a swindle out of it?

Devil At The Confluence was written partly to correct assumptions and errors about the music history of St. Louis. Part of the reason this city's proud history isn't well-known is because many opinions and writings about the history are not, but are assumed to be, fact.

No comments:

Post a Comment