Grateful Dead

Stagger Lee

Lyrics By: Robert Hunter
Music By: Jerry Garcia

Nineteen forty, Xmas eve, with the full moon over town (note 1)
Stagger Lee shot Billy DeLyon and he blew that poor boy down
Do you know what he shot him for, what do you make of that
'Cause Billy DeLyon threw lucky dice, won Stagger Lee's stetson hat

Baio, Baio, tell me how can this be
You go arrest the girls for turning tricks but you're scared of Stagger Lee
Stagger Lee is a mad man, and he shot my Billy dead
Baio go get him, or give the job to me

Delia, Delia, dear sweet Delia D
How the hell can I arrest him, when he's twice as big as me
Well don't ask me to go downtown, I wouldn't come back alive
Not only is that mother big, he packs a forty five

Baio, Delia said, just give me a gun
He shot my Billy dead and now I'm gonna see him hung
She waded to DeLyon's club through Billy DeLyon's blood
Stepped up to Stagger Lee at the bar, said buy me a gin fizz love

As Stagger Lee lit a cigarette, she shot him in the balls (note 2)
Blew the smoke off her revolver, had him dragged to City Hall
Baio, Baio, see you hang him high
He shot my Billy dead and now he's got to die

Delia went a-walking down on Singapore Street
Three piece band on the corner played 'nearer my God to thee'
But Delia whistled a different tune, what tune could it be
The song that woman sang was look out Stagger Lee
The song that Delia sang was look out Stagger Lee

Based on the traditional song "Stagger Lee", "Stagolee" or "Stack O'Lee." Robert Hunter wrote a version that he performed solo, and Jerry Garcia subsequently re-ordered the lyrics and rewrote the music for the Grateful Dead's version. More recently Bob Weir has also been performing some of the older traditional versions with Ratdog.

This is the version as performed by the Grateful Dead.

(1) on at least some occasions (eg the version from 1 Nov 1985 on Dick's Picks 21), Jerry sang "Christmas Eve" rather than "Xmas eve". (thanks to Brian Schnapp for pointing this out)

(2) on 16 Sep 1990, Jerry sang "As Delia lit a cigarette ..." (thanks to Dan Franzen for pointing this out)

Stagger Lee