Little Sadie

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

This was played half a dozen times in all by the Dead (and also by Garcia solo or with David Grisman). The lyrics below are a composite from versions in 1969/70 and on the "Pizza Tapes". They represent the fullest version sung: when played by the Dead in 1980 there were fewer verses.

Went out last night to take a look around
Met little Sadie and I blowed her down
Went right home, went to bed
Forty-four smokeless under my head

Woke up the next morning about half past nine (note 1)
The hacks and the buggies all standing in line
The gents and the gamblers standing all around
Taking little Sadie to her burying ground

Well I began to think what a deed I'd done
Grabbed my hat and away I run
Made a good run, but a little too slow
They overtook me in Jericho

I'm standing on the corner reading a bill (note 2)
Along came the sheriff from Thomasville
Says "Young man, is your name Brown?
Remember the night you blowed Sadie down?"

Oh, yes sir, my name is Lee (note 3)
I murdered little Sadie in the first degree
First degree and the second degree
Got any papers would you read 'em to me

Well they took me downtown all dressed in black
Put me on the train and sent me back
Sent me back to the county jail
I had nobody for to go my bail

The judge and the jury they took the stand
The judge held the paper in his right hand
Forty-one days, forty-one nights
Forty-one years to wear the ball and stripes
7 Walkers do a similar version which often appears in setlists as "Early In The Morning"
I went out one night to take a look around
I saw little Sadie, well I shot her down
Went right home, and I got into bed
Forty-nine shotgun under my head

I woke up the next morning at half past nine
Long black cadillacs standing in line
The girls and [hombres] standing all around
Taking little Sadie to her burying ground
Taking little Sadie to her burying ground

Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning

Well I got to thinking 'bout the deed I done
Grabbed my hat and away I run
Made a good run, but a little too slow
They overtook me down in Mexico

I'm standing on the corner just a-reading a bill
Along came the sheriff from [Romanter]ville
Says "Son, ain't your name Brown?
Remember the night you shot Sadie down?"
Remember the night you shot Sadie down?"

Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning

I said, yes sir, my name is Lee
I killed Sadie in the first degree
First degree and the second degree
You got any papers would you read 'em to me

Well they took me downtown all dressed in black
Put me on the train and carried me back
Put me back in that Nashville jail
I had money for to go my bail
I had money for to go my bail

Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning

Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Early in the morning
Notes
(1) this verse is on the "Pizza Tapes" but I don't think Garcia sang it with the Dead
(2) some lyric versions have this as "ringing my bell", but that seems to be a mis-hearing of "reading a bill" or "reading my bills"
(3) this is a verse the Dead sang in 1969/70. On the "Pizza Tapes", Garcia sings the "judge and jury" verse here (as well as at the end). I think this is a mistake - the verse about bail should come before the verse about the trial!

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     31 Oct 1980 Reckoning (note 1)

Recordings from dead.net Tapers Section
 
Jerry Garcia Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     28 Feb 1986 Pure Jerry: Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium Jerry Garcia/John Kahn
     4/5 Feb 1993 Pizza Tapes Garcia/Grisman/Rice

Notes
(1) issued as a bonus track in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)

Roots
This song seems to have its origins in the late 1800s. It is found under a variety of titles: "Bad Lee Brown", "Bad Man Ballad", "Late One Night" and several others.

Lyle Lofgren says:
"Versions of this song were found throughout the south, particularly in Appalachia and the Ozarks. The tunes vary, but the story is remarkably stable. Lee Brown shoots his woman, runs away, is caught, tried, and gets a long sentence. He has no remorse, other than that he is jailed. One writer says this song was very popular as early as 1885, but I couldn't find the source of that claim. There are lots of towns in America with the names given in the song, but Thomasville and Jericho, North Carolina are only 60 miles apart, which make them prime candidates for locale. There's no reason to believe this song is literal history, though. A cursory search shows no information on a real Lee Brown, or any evidence that the song describes an actual murder."
Alan Lomax collected a version under the title "Bad Man Blues" from a "tongue-tied Negro convict at Parchman, Mississippi" and published it in "American Ballads and Folk Songs" in 1934:
Late las' night I was a-makin' my rounds
Met my woman an' I blowed her down
Went on home an' I went to bed
Put my hand cannon right under my head

Early nex' mornin' 'bout de risin' o' de sun
I gets up-a for to make-a my run
I made a good run but I made it too slow
Got overtaken in Mexico

Standin' on de corno', readin' of a bill
Up step a man name o' Bad Texas Bill
"Look here, bully, am' yo' name Lee Brown?
B'lieve you are de rascal shot yo' woman down"

"Yes, oh, yes," says. "This is him
If you got a warrant, jes' read it to me"
He says: "You look like a fellow that knows what's bes'
Come 'long wid me you're under arres'"

When I was arrested, I was dressed in black
Dey put me on a train, an' dey brought me back
Dey boun' me down in de county jail
Couldn' get a human for to go my bail

Early nex' mornin' 'bout half pas' nine
I spied ol' jedge drappin' down de line
I heered ol' jailer when he cleared his th'oat
"Nigger, git ready for de deestreec' cote"

Deestreec' cote is now regin
Twelve big jurymen, twelve hones' men
Five mo' minutes up step a man
He was holdin' my verdic' in his right han'

Verdic' read murder in de firs' degree
I said, "O Lawd, have mercy on me"
I seed ol' jedge when he picked up his pen
Say, "I don' think you'll ever kill a woman ag'in

"This here kuhn' of women natchly got to stop
I don't know whether to hang you er not
Ninety-nine years on de hard, hard groun'
'Member de night you blowed de woman down"

Here I is, bowed down in shame
I got a number instead of a name
Here for de res' of my nachul life
An' all I ever done is kill my wife
Randolph, in Ozark Folksongs Vol. II, reported two fragments of early versions. The first was "Sung by Miss Billie Freese, Joplin, Mo., Apr. 17, 1922. Miss Freese learned it from her boy-friend, a native of West Plains, Mo."
Last night I was a-makin' my rounds
Met my old woman an' I blowed her down
I went on home to go to bed
Put my old cannon right under my head

Jury says murder in the first degree
I says oh Lord, have mercy on me
Old Judge White picks up his pen
Says you'll never kill no woman ag'in
The second Randolph fragments was "Contributed by Mr. Robert L. Kennedy, Springfield, Mo., May 3, 1934. Mr. Kennedy says that the song was popular in Springfiled fifty years ago."
Don't know whether to hang you or not
This killin' women jest nachelly's got to stop

Here I is bowed down with shame
Got a number instead of a name
Forty-nine years in prison for life
All I ever done was to kill my wife
The first recorded version seems to have been by Clarence Ashley in 1930 (but see also below), and is pretty similar to what Jerry Garcia sings:
Went out last night to take a little round
I met my Little Sadie and I blowed her down
I run right home and I went to bed
A forty-four smokeless under my head

I begin to think what a deed I done
I grabbed my hat and away'd I'd run
I made a good run, just a little to slow
They overtook me in Jericho

Standing on the corner a-ringing a bell
And up stepped the sheriff from Thomasville
Says, 'Young man, is your name Brown?
Remember the night you blowed Sadie down'

'Oh, yes, Sir, my name is Lee
I murdered little Sadie in the first degree
First degree and second degree
Got any papers, will you read 'em to me?'

Took me downtown and dressed me in black
They put me on a train and they sent me back
Had no one for to go my bail
Crammed me back in the county jail

Judge and the jury took their stand
Judge had his papers in his right hand
Forty-one days, forty-one nights
Forty-one years to wear the ball and the stripes
Johnny Cash sang a closely related version called "Transfusion Blues" (credited to Roy Hogsed) or "Cocaine Blues." The lyrics are recognisably similar, but the tune is very different.
Early one mornin' while makin' the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin' 44 beneath my head

Got up next mornin' and I grabbed that gun
Took a shot of cocaine and away I run
Made a good run but I ran too slow
They overtook me down in Juarez Mexico

Late in the hot joints takin' the pills
In walked the sheriff from Jericho Hill
He said Willy Lee your name is not Jack Brown
You're the dirty heck that shot your woman down

Said yes, oh yes my name is Willy Lee
If you've got the warrant just a-read it to me
Shot her down because she made me sore
I thought I was her daddy but she had five more

When I was arrested I was dressed in black
They put me on a train and they took me back
Had no friend for to go my bail
They slapped my dried up carcass in that county jail

Early next mornin' bout a half past nine
I spied the sheriff coming down the line
Ah, and he coughed as he cleared his throat
He said come on you dirty heck into that district court

Into the courtroom my trial began
Where I was handled by twelve honest men
Just before the jury started out
I saw the little judge commence to look about

In about five minutes in walked the man
Holding the verdict in his right hand
The verdict read murder in the first degree
I hollered Lawdy Lawdy, have a mercy on me

The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the San Quentin pen
99 years underneath that ground
I can't forget the day I shot my woman down

Come on you've gotta listen unto me
Lay off that liquor and let that transfusion be
In some versions, Johnny Cash sang the end as:
The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen
99 years in the Folsom pen
99 years underneath that ground
I can't forget the day I shot that bad bitch down

Come on you've gotta listen unto me
Lay off that whiskey and let that cocaine be
The Kingston Trio had a hit with a version of the song in 1960, under the title "Bad Man's Blunder"
Well, early one evening I was roaming around
I was feeling kind of mean, I shot a deputy down
Strolled along home, and I went to bed
Well, I laid my pistol up under my head

(He strolled along home) I took my time
(And he went to bed) Thought I'd sleep some
(Laid his pistol) Big twenty-two
(Up under his head) I keep it handy

Well, early in the morning about the break of day
I figured it was time to make a getaway
Stepping right along but I was steppin too slow
Got surrounded by a sheriff down in Mexico

(He was steppin' right along) I were a hot-footin' it
(But he was steppin' too slow) It was a sultry day
(Got surrounded by a sheriff) Boxed in
(In Mexico) I didn't even have a chance to see the country

When I was arrested, why, I didn't have a dime
The sheriff says, son, you're riding free this time
Where you're going you won't need a cent
'Cause the great state of Texas gonna pay your rent

('Cause where you're goin') I think he means jail
(You won't need a cent) When he knows I'm broke
('Cause the great state of Texas) Yippee
(Gonna pay your rent) I'm mighty grateful, fellas

Well, I didn't have a key and I didn't have a file
Naturally I stayed around until my trial
The judge was an old man of ninety-three
And I didn't like the way the jury looked at me

(Well the judge was an old man) Too old
(Ninety-three) Entirely too old
I didn't like the way the jury looked at me
I think they were suspicious

The judge and the jury, they did agree
They all said murder in the first degree
The judge said, saying, I don't know whether to hang you or not
But this here killing of deputy sheriffs, has just naturally got to stop
(You got a point there, judge)

It was a most unsatisfactory trial
They gave me ninety-nine years on the hard rock pile
Ninety and nine on the hard rock ground
All I ever did was shoot a deputy down

(Ninety and nine) It could have been life
(On the hard rock pile) They might-a hung me
(And all he ever did was shoot a deputy down)
This whole thing has sure been a lesson to me
Bang, you're dead
A rival for first recorded version is "Bad Lee Brown," recorded by John Dilleshaw in 1929. But while the story is similar, it doesn't bear much relationship either lyrically or musically to the Clarence Ashley/Jerry Garcia version:
Well I'll tell you a story, 'bout a railroad man
He rode the Red River, and the Rio Grande
Late last night when he came into town
He met his little woman with a man named Lee Brown

He went right home, and he got his gun
Shot the man and his woman, and away he run
He made a good run, but his run was too slow
The sherrif overtaken him in a day or so

Standing on the corner in a Southern town
[Talked] up to him, saying, son ain't your name Brown
Yes oh yes, sir, this must be he
If you have any papers, please read 'em to me

The sherrif arrested him, and he carried him back
The people all met him down at the railroad track
Down to the station, the people all did go
Late in the evening, I hear that whistle blow

Carried him back to that county jail
He didn't know no one that could go his bail
So one Tuesday morning, he spied a man
Holding up the verdict in his right hand

The verdict read murder in the first degree
Lee Brown, oh Lord, Lord have mercy on me
He looked at the judge with a quivering chin
Said ninety-nine years in a flat-top pen

Forty four feet down under the ground
You remember the day you shot your woman down
I said forty four feet down under the ground
You remember the day you shot your woman down

Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com
For sheet music, see:
          Jerry Garcia Songbook (vocal line and chords)

 


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