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Happy Missouri Day, Stagger Lee!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 20, 2010 05:35pm | Post a Comment


Stagger Lee
is one of Missouri's most celebrated characters in song. Loads of people have sung about the seemingly amoral anti-hero, but here are the facts, ma'am.


Lee "Stag" Shelton
was born on March 16, 1865. As a young man he drove a carriage cab and pimped. He also operated a "sporting club," the Modern Horseshoe Club in St. Louis's "Bloody Third" Ward, in an area known as Chestnut Valley. Chestnut Valley and the sporting clubs located there were instrumental in the development of ragtime. Shelton was part of a pimp clique called The Macks. His trademarks included a high roller stetson, rings, an ebony cane, spats and St. Louis flats -- mirrored shoes with pointy, upturned toes. Oh yeah, and a .44 Smith & Wesson.


On St. Stephens Day, 1895, Shelton and Billy Lyons were at a the Bill Curtis Saloon (described by the paper as "the envy of all its competitors and the terror of the police") together, in the "Deep Morgan" neighborhood. Initially they were cordial, but after more drinks, began smacking each others' hats after the conversation turned to politics. First, Shelton grabbed Lyons' derby. Lyons then removed Shelton's stetson. According to witnesses, Shelton demanded either the hat be returned or Lyons pay with his life. Lyons pulled out a knife he'd borrowed in advance from his friend and companion at the bar, Henry Crump. Shelton then shot Billy Lyons.

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