While tapping your foot to “Stagger Lee” by post-war folk artist Lloyd Price, you might not have noticed it was inspired by a grueling Christmas crime.
“It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw seven
Billy swore that he threw eight
Stagger Lee told Billy,
I can’t let you go with that
You have won all my money and my brand new Stetson hat”
On Christmas Eve of 1895, driver Billy Lyons and pimp Lee Shelton got into a heated political argument, per Missouri Life. The intensity led Shelton to but a dent in Lyons’s derby. In response, Lyons allegedly snatched Shelton’s sleek Shetson hat from his head. Then, Shelton threatened to shoot him. Lyons is told to have pulled out a knife and yell, “i’m going to make you kill me!”
Shelton bopped Lyons on the head the a .44-caliber Smith & Wesson then shot him in the abdomen. “I told you give me my hat,” Shelton said before walking home. On Christmas Day, the pimp was arrested and, after two trials, sentenced to 25 years in prison.