Poor Lazarus (Bad Man Lazarus) [Laws I12]
DESCRIPTION: Lazarus breaks into the commissary and flees. The sheriff orders that he be taken dead or alive. Deputies shoot Lazarus and bring him back. He asks for a drink of water and dies. Lazarus's sister tells his mother, who recalls how troublesome he was
EARLIEST DATE: 1934
KEYWORDS: robbery death family
FOUND IN: US(SE,So)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Laws I12, "Poor Lazarus (Bad Man Lazarus)"
Lomax-FSUSA 86, "Po' Laz'us" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 91-93, "Po' Laz'us (Poor Lazarus)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-SInging, pp. 342-345, "Po' Laz'us" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 303, "Po' Lazarus" (1 text, 1 tune, composite)
Frye, p. 185, ("Go and bring me old bad Lazarus") (1 text)
GarrityBlake, p. 61, ("Didn't Lazarus shit on the commisary counter") (1 text)
Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 909-910, "Po' Laz'us (Poor Lazarus)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Courlander-NFM, pp. 179-181, "(Lazarus)" (1 text)
DT 661, (POLAZRUS?)
ADDITIONAL: Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 400-402, "Poor Lazarus" (1 text)
Bright Light Quartet, "Po' Lazarus" (on LomaxCD1701) (on LomaxCD1705)
James Carter & prisoners, "Po' Lazarus" (on LomaxCD1705)
Vera Hall, "Po' Laz'us" (AFS 1320 A2, 1937) [Note: Dixon/Godrich/Rye also identifies this AFS number with a Vera Hall recording of "John Henry"; one of them is clearly in error, but I don't know which] (AFS 4050 A1, 1940)
Menhaden Fishermen, "Lazarus" (on USMenhaden01)
Henry Morrison, "Lazarus" (on LomaxCD1705)
William Thompson and Group, "Lazarus" (on VaWork)
NOTES [187 words]: The two Bright Light Quartet citations are different versions, recorded on separate dates. - PJS
The Menhaden01 version ends with the "every mail day," "ready made money," and "gonna roll here" verses from "Goin' Home."
At the beginning of the ballad -- before he "walked away" -- "Lazarus sit(ted) (USMenhaden01,VaWork)/ shit (GarrityBlake)/ walked (Lomax-Singing) / up (Morrison LomaxCD1705) on the commissary counter," he "broke in the commisary window (Lomax-ABFS)," or "commissary man swore out warrant for Lazarus (Harold Courlander, A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore)." As always, there is the question of censorship by singers or collectors.
As an example of how bits float from chantey to chantey Frye has this meld of "Mule on the Mountain" and "Poor Lazarus": "Old Lazarus the mule ... he shit on the commissary counter! ... he just walk away." Not knowing the prison song, Frye thought "Lazarus could have been the Biblical character, more likely the mule that plowed the garden at home, or a mine mule he [the singer] remembered if he had actually been to the mountains to dig coal." (pp. 184, 188). - BS
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