Discussion:
The Number Ones: Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee”
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Bob Roman
2018-11-08 23:05:24 UTC
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A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Lloyd Price – “Stagger Lee”
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks

Like previous #1-hit subject Tom Dooley, Stagger Lee (or “Stagolee,” or “Stack-O-Lee,” depending on which version you prefer) was a real person. Lee Shelton was a St. Louis pimp and gambler who, in 1895, killed a man named Billy Lyons in a barroom argument, possibly because Lyons took Shelton’s hat and wouldn’t give it back. Shelton lived until 1912, but he became a folkloric figure almost immediately; there were songs about the murder as early as 1897. “Stagger Lee” became a folk-blues standard, one that took various forms and told different versions of the story of the murder. And in 1959, the New Orleans R&B singer and former Army serviceman Lloyd Price took one of those versions to #1.

A fascinating thing about Price’s version of “Stagger Lee” is that it doesn’t sound like a murder ballad, or at least not like our idea of what a murder ballad should be. (It sure doesn’t sound like “Tom Dooley,” the murder ballad that the Kingston Trio had taken to #1 a few months earlier.) Instead, it’s a total blast of a song, a spirited New Orleans rumble with a honking sax solo and joyously oooh-waaahing backing singers.

In telling Stagger Lee’s story, Price sounds like he’s bursting with excitement. After setting the scene with a quick intro about a clear night and a yellow moon, Price just launches into it, giddily recounting all the things his character saw, like it’s a story he just can’t wait to tell. In Price’s telling, the killing is over a gambling dispute, and Stagger Lee is especially pissed that Lyons stole his hat. He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every tall-tale detail: “Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender’s glass.” (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a miscreant in this song.)

The funny thing about Price’s version of the song is the way it refuses to pass any sort of judgment. Billy pleads for his life — “I got three little children and a very sickly wife” — but Stagger Lee shoots him anyway. And the whole time, the beat is blasting along, and the backing singers are chanting: “Go, Stagger Lee!” There’s no moral to the story; it’s just a story, one told breathlessly and enthusiastically. Decades before rap music existed, a story like that was still able to top the charts. We’ve always wanted stories like that.

At Dick Clark’s request, Price recorded a cleaned-up version of “Stagger Lee.” In that one, Stagger Lee and Billy are just arguing over a girl, and nobody gets shot. It even has a happy ending. Maybe that version helped “Stagger Lee” get to #1, and maybe not. But nobody remembers that version. Instead, the raw version of “Stagger Lee” stands as a giddy, fun-as-hell piece of pop-music transgression, a piece of history that still moves.

GRADE: 9/10
Bill B
2018-11-08 23:15:10 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price – “Stagger Lee”
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every tall-tale detail: “Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender’s glass.” (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many bars, not a drinking glass.
Eric Ramon
2018-11-09 01:23:23 UTC
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Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price – “Stagger Lee”
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every tall-tale detail: “Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender’s glass.” (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-09 04:02:17 UTC
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Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
--
--md
_________
Remove xx's from address to reply
SavoyBG
2018-11-09 04:41:30 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Never really thought about it as I don't think about what lyrics mean, but I would disagree with you guys and say that it's supposed to be the bartender's drinking glass. That gag has been used in several movies and skits over the years, the glass being shot and the guy standing there just holding the handle with no more glass.
Roger Ford
2018-11-09 06:16:19 UTC
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On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.

I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!
SavoyBG
2018-11-09 14:42:37 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
And the mirror would not be the bartender's.

Figures the two guys who don't care about lyrics are the only ones who can analyze them properly. All the lyrics fans like to make up their own conclusions about what they mean.
Bill B
2018-11-09 15:40:04 UTC
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Post by SavoyBG
Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
In article <>,
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
And the mirror would not be the bartender's.
Unless the bartender was the owner, which he probably was in a local St. Louis saloon.
Post by SavoyBG
Figures the two guys who don't care about lyrics are the only ones who can analyze them properly. All the lyrics fans like to make up their own >conclusions about what they mean.
You've come a long way from not caring about lyrics to "analyzing" them. This is not a matter of analyzing, just stating what you visualize when you hear them.

By the way, the lyrics might make more logical and dramatic sense according to Roger, but I disagree on both counts.
Dennis C
2018-11-09 15:49:39 UTC
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The glass is in the bartender's hand, either the glass he uses for his own drinks or the one he's using to serve a patron. Those that say it's the mirror reflects their idiocy on this matter, baby!!
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-09 15:58:50 UTC
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Post by Bill B
Post by SavoyBG
Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
In article <>,
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every
song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price - 3Stagger Lee2
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: 3Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor
boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the
bartender1s
glass.2 (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
And the mirror would not be the bartender's.
Unless the bartender was the owner, which he probably was in a local St. Louis saloon.
Post by SavoyBG
Figures the two guys who don't care about lyrics are the only ones who can
analyze them properly. All the lyrics fans like to make up their own
Post by Roger Ford
conclusions about what they mean.
You've come a long way from not caring about lyrics to "analyzing" them. This
is not a matter of analyzing, just stating what you visualize when you hear
them.
By the way, the lyrics might make more logical and dramatic sense according to Roger, but I disagree on both counts.
Unless the song means to imply that breaking the mirror will bring
Stagger Lee a lot of bad luck, which he certainly has in the Archibald
two-sided version.
--
--md
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Remove xx's from address to reply
Roger Ford
2018-11-09 16:58:14 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
In article <>,
On Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 6:05:25 PM UTC-5, Bob Roman wrote=
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every s=
ong to
Post by Roger Ford
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price =C2=AD =C2=B3Stagger Lee=C2=B2
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
By the way, the lyrics might make more logical and dramatic sense according=
to Roger, but I disagree on both counts.
Of course they do

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
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SavoyBG
2018-11-09 14:57:35 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
I just asked Diane and she's with me and Roger.
Roger Ford
2018-11-09 17:01:38 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
Post by Roger Ford
On Thu, 08 Nov 2018 22:02:17 -0600, Mark Dintenfass
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every son=
g to
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
hit #1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price =C2=AD =C2=B3Stagger Lee=C2=B2
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in ev=
ery
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
tall-tale detail: =C2=B3Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that =
poor boy so
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartend=
er=C2=B9s
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
glass.=C2=B2 (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone i=
s a
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
miscreant in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind ma=
ny
Post by Roger Ford
Post by Mark Dintenfass
Post by Eric Ramon
bars, not a drinking glass.
I've assumed so, too.
Great minds . . .
Don't always think alike.
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
I just asked Diane and she's with me and Roger.
Sounds good but I prefer a FMF :)

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!
t***@iwvisp.com
2018-11-09 16:39:25 UTC
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Post by Roger Ford
I've always thought it's pretty clear that the bullet goes through
Billy and it breaks the bartender's (drinking) glass. Makes more
logical (and dramatic) sense to me than some mirror on a wall
ROGER FORD
Agreed. When I initially pictured this story song as a kid the bartender was holding a shot glass in his hand. Which now seems very extreme, but no matter what type of drinking glass, I don't see the dramatic effect being a mirror.

Ray
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-09 04:01:40 UTC
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Post by Bill B
Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit
#1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
He brings a cinematic sense of violence to the story, leaving in every
tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so
bad / Till the bullet came through Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s
glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking on the job! Everyone is a miscreant
in this song.)
The bartender's glass is, I assume, the mirror on the wall behind many bars, not a drinking glass.
I assume so, too.
--
--md
_________
Remove xx's from address to reply
Mark Dintenfass
2018-11-09 04:06:59 UTC
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Post by Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit #1
in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price ­ ³Stagger Lee²
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
Like previous #1-hit subject Tom Dooley, Stagger Lee (or ³Stagolee,² or
³Stack-O-Lee,² depending on which version you prefer) was a real person. Lee
Shelton was a St. Louis pimp and gambler who, in 1895, killed a man named
Billy Lyons in a barroom argument, possibly because Lyons took Shelton¹s hat
and wouldn¹t give it back. Shelton lived until 1912, but he became a
folkloric figure almost immediately; there were songs about the murder as
early as 1897. ³Stagger Lee² became a folk-blues standard, one that took
various forms and told different versions of the story of the murder. And in
1959, the New Orleans R&B singer and former Army serviceman Lloyd Price took
one of those versions to #1.
A fascinating thing about Price¹s version of ³Stagger Lee² is that it doesn¹t
sound like a murder ballad, or at least not like our idea of what a murder
ballad should be. (It sure doesn¹t sound like ³Tom Dooley,² the murder ballad
that the Kingston Trio had taken to #1 a few months earlier.) Instead, it¹s a
total blast of a song, a spirited New Orleans rumble with a honking sax solo
and joyously oooh-waaahing backing singers.
In telling Stagger Lee¹s story, Price sounds like he¹s bursting with
excitement. After setting the scene with a quick intro about a clear night
and a yellow moon, Price just launches into it, giddily recounting all the
things his character saw, like it¹s a story he just can¹t wait to tell. In
Price¹s telling, the killing is over a gambling dispute, and Stagger Lee is
especially pissed that Lyons stole his hat. He brings a cinematic sense of
violence to the story, leaving in every tall-tale detail: ³Stagger Lee shot
Billy / Ooh, he shot that poor boy so bad / Till the bullet came through
Billy / And it broke the bartender¹s glass.² (Even the bartender is drinking
on the job! Everyone is a miscreant in this song.)
The funny thing about Price¹s version of the song is the way it refuses to
pass any sort of judgment. Billy pleads for his life ‹ ³I got three little
children and a very sickly wife² ‹ but Stagger Lee shoots him anyway. And the
³Go, Stagger Lee!² There¹s no moral to the story; it¹s just a story, one told
breathlessly and enthusiastically. Decades before rap music existed, a story
like that was still able to top the charts. We¹ve always wanted stories like
that.
At Dick Clark¹s request, Price recorded a cleaned-up version of ³Stagger
Lee.² In that one, Stagger Lee and Billy are just arguing over a girl, and
nobody gets shot. It even has a happy ending. Maybe that version helped
³Stagger Lee² get to #1, and maybe not. But nobody remembers that version.
Instead, the raw version of ³Stagger Lee² stands as a giddy, fun-as-hell
piece of pop-music transgression, a piece of history that still moves.
GRADE: 9/10
He seems to think Price wrote the thing and it's obvious he never heard
Archibald's version, which I now like better than Price's over-produced
one.
--
--md
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SavoyBG
2018-11-09 04:38:07 UTC
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Post by Mark Dintenfass
He seems to think Price wrote the thing
Maybe because Price claimed to have written it:

Loading Image...
Roger Ford
2018-11-09 06:10:16 UTC
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On Thu, 8 Nov 2018 15:05:24 -0800 (PST), Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit =
#1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price =E2=80=93 =E2=80=9CStagger Lee=E2=80=9D
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
At Dick Clark=E2=80=99s request, Price recorded a cleaned-up version of =E2=
=80=9CStagger Lee.=E2=80=9D In that one, Stagger Lee and Billy are just arg=
uing over a girl, and nobody gets shot. It even has a happy ending. Maybe t=
hat version helped =E2=80=9CStagger Lee=E2=80=9D get to #1, and maybe not. =
But nobody remembers that version. Instead, the raw version of =E2=80=9CSta=
gger Lee=E2=80=9D stands as a giddy, fun-as-hell piece of pop-music transgr=
ession, a piece of history that still moves.
Here's the "cleaned up" Bandstand "U" rated version



ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
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Roger Ford
2018-11-24 17:06:08 UTC
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On Thu, 8 Nov 2018 15:05:24 -0800 (PST), Bob Roman
A writer named Tom Breihan has been reviewing, in order, every song to hit =
#1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Lloyd Price =E2=80=93 =E2=80=9CStagger Lee=E2=80=9D
HIT #1: February 9, 1959
STAYED AT #1: 4 weeks
Here's how it did in the 1958 Singles Battle

R1 Price 27
Chris Kenner - Will You Be Mine 3

2 Price 27
Ray Charles - I Had A Dream 2

3 Crests - 16 Candles 15
Price 15
(Price wins on previous results)

4 Earl Grant - The End 6
Price 27

5 Chuck Berry - Sweet Little Sixteen 24
Price 9

ROGER FORD
-----------------------

"Spam Free Zone" - to combat unwanted automatic spamming I have added
an extra "m" in my e-mail address (***@mmail.com).
Please delete same before responding.Thank you!

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