Duncan and Brady [Laws I9]

DESCRIPTION: Policeman Brady walks into Duncan's bar and attempts to arrest the latter. Duncan, unwilling to have his business ruined, shoots Brady. Neither Brady's family nor those around Duncan seem to care much; Brady's wife looks forward to getting his pension
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag)
KEYWORDS: homicide family
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Laws I9, "Brady (Duncan and Brady)"
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 248, "Brady" (1 text)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore4 248, "Brady" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, pp. 85-87, "Duncan and Brady" (3 texts; the second is incomplete and may well be a version of "Joseph Mica (Mikel) (The Wreck of the Six-Wheel Driver) (Been on the Choly So Long)" [Laws I16] with some Brady lyrics mixed in; both the second an third start with lines from "Twinkle Twinke Little Star")
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 198-199, "Brady" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee 46, pp. 80-81, "Brady, Why Didn't You Run? (Duncan and Brady)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, pp. 333-335, "Duncan and Brady" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AmericanFolkSongsARegionalEncyclopedia1, pp. 375-376, "Been on the Job Too Long" (1 text)
Botkin-TreasuryMississippiRiverFolklore, p. 596, "Duncan and Brady" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Moses Asch and Alan Lomax, Editors, _The Leadbelly Songbook_, Oak, 1962, p. 74, "Duncan and Brady" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #4177
Arthur "Brother-in-Law" Armstrong, "Brady" (AFS 3978 B3, 1940)
Wilmer Watts & the Lonely Eagles, "Been on the Job Too Long" (Paramount 3210, 1930; on TimesAint01)

cf. "Casey Jones (I)" [Laws G1] (lyrics)
cf. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (lyrics)
cf. "Otto Wood the Bandit" (lyrics)
NOTES [409 words]: The notes in Brown describe a history of this ballad which bears little resemblance to the song itself: Brady is not a policeman but the criminal in the piece, shot by deputy Albert Bounds around 1900. Wolfe/Boswell-FolkSongsOfMiddleTennessee repeats this, but it is noteworthy that Laws quotes none of this.
Richard Polenberg: Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired Stagolee, John Henry, and Other Traditional American Folk Songs, Cornell University Press, 2015, pp. 18-27, has a completely different story. On October 6, 1890, two Black men, Luther Duncan and Bob Henderson, had a fight. A policeman, John J. Gaffney, interfered. From that point on, the witnesses disagreed completely. But Gaffney managed to get himself hurt (perhaps struck by Luther Duncan's brother Henry) and fired his pistol to summon more policemen. At least three other officers, including James Brady, responded.
The policemen followed Henry Duncan into the saloon kept by Charles Stark. In the fighting that followed, Brady was shot to death. Henry Duncan was arrested for the crime. Charged with first degree murder (even though the crime clearly was not premeditated), Duncan was tried in November, 1892, with the policemen being the the only real witnesses against him. Duncan was convicted. Appeals to the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court failed. Duncan was executed on July 27 (1894?).
The verdict was pretty definitely not just. Apart from the fact that Duncan was convicted on a too-serious charge, there was significant reason to think that Charles Stark, not Duncan, fired the fatal shot, and the murder weapon was not recovered; it really sounds as if there was not enough evidence for conviction. There was also significant dispute about the actions of the police. But it was a case of a Black man and a White officer (the 31-year-old Brady was married with four young children); if he hadn't been convicted, Duncan might well have been lynched. Whether he was actually guilty... Polenberg doesn't offer enough evidence to form a good opinion, and I surely don't know.
Although the circumstantial detail of the Polenberg article inclines me to think it the most likely source, the difference are also substantial -- Brady was not the first officer on the scene, and the altercation did not start in Duncan's bar; Duncan didn't even own a bar! I think we must hold the question open as to what, if anything, inspired this song. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
File: LI09

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