Songs Of Their Own | To Lay It Down – Stagger Lee

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, JamBase teamed with Telefunken to produce the Songs Of Their Own video series. We began with a list of 100 Grateful Dead original songs (exclusively their tunes, not covers they often played) and tapped many of our favorite artists to record a cover version either at the JamBase office in San Francisco or at one of the many venues around town and beyond. No song was allowed to be covered twice, and today’s participants To Lay It Down shot up “Stagger Lee.”

Many songs have been written about “Stag” Lee Shelton and his shooting Billy Lyons in St. Louis, dating back to the earliest American folk singers. Variations on tale and title (“Stack-a-Lee,” “Stack O’Lee,” “Stagolee”) have resulted in many different songs, including Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia’s attempt to pick up the story after the murder of “Billy DeLyon” and vengeful shooting “in the balls” of Stagger Lee by the recently widowed Delia DeLyon. Recorded for the 1978 album Shakedown Street, The Dead first played “Stagger Lee” on August 30, 1978 at Red Rocks outside Denver, Colorado. Played often in 1978 and 1979, by the 1980s and 1990s it was sporadically played, often going long stretches (even years) between performances. After just under 150 times played, the final Grateful Dead live rendition of “Stagger Lee” appeared in the first set of their June 18, 1995 show at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

To Lay It Down funk night at Terrapin Crossroads bar in San Rafael, California is a monthly session hosted by multi-instrumentalist Eric DiBerardino who leads an all- star cast of musicians through groove-heavy versions of tunes in The Dead songbook as well as funk, Motown, R&B, and soul classics. Offering a taste of what one of those nights in the Terrapin Crossroads bar offers, DiBerardino along with guitarist Sean Leahy, keyboardist Scott Guberman and drummer Ezra Lipp laid it down thick at the JamBase offices with their head-bob-inducing recording of “Stagger Lee.”

Watch all of the Songs Of Their Own entries including Jackie Greene, Strangefolk, Midnight North, Anders Osborne & Luther Dickinson, Keller Williams and more via the YouTube Playlist below.