The Story of Stagger Lee originates from a shooting that occurred on Christmas night, 1895, near the Third ward, also known as "Chestnut Valley" or the "Bloody Third district." The central character was a main named Lee Shelton, variously referred to in legend as Stagger Lee, Stagolee, Stack-A-Lee, and Stack O'Lee.
On Dec. 28, 1895, the Globe-Democrat described him as a cab driver, identifying him as "Lee Sheldon" — also known as "Stag." Newspaper reports and death certificates refer to him as "Stag," "Stack" or "Stock" lee.
Shelton, it's said, owned a nightclub called the Modern Horseshoe Club. "Lee Sheldon belonged to an exotic group of pimps in St. Louis called 'Macks'," writes Cecil Brown.1 These men, Brown writes, were "not just 'urban strollers'; they presented themselves as objects to be observed."
Editor's note: In combination with this feature, Riverfront Times and Timothy Lane are producing a small number of bound and signed copies of the Stagger Lee story. A free copy will be sent to the first 50 readers who send a request, along with full contact info, to:
Timothy Lane "Stagger Lee" chapbook
c/o Riverfront Times
6358 Delmar Blvd., Ste. 200
St. Louis, MO 63130