Saint James Infirmary

DESCRIPTION: Big Joe McKennedy is in the bar, reporting that he "went down to St. James Infirmary, And I saw my baby there, Stretched out on a long white table...." He gambled, and now must pay. He prepares to die, makes requests for his funeral, (blames the woman)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1925 (Scarborough)
KEYWORDS: disease death funeral drink
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Scarborough-OnTheTrailOfNegroFolkSongs, p. 94, "How Sad Was the Death of my Sweetheart" (1 short text, with few of the familiar words but the correct plot and the "Let her go, let her go" chorus)
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 228-231, "Those Gambler's Blues" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, p. 257, "Gambler's Blues" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thorp/Fife-SongsOfTheCowboys XIII, pp. 148-190 (29-30), "Cow Boy's Lament" (22 texts, 7 tunes, the "N" text being in fact a version of this piece)
Warner-FolkSongsAndBalladsOfTheEasternSeaboard, p. 3, "St. James's Infirmary" (1 excerpt)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 9-10, "Gambler's Blues" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 76, "St. James Infirmary" (1 text)

Roud #2
Louis Armstrong & his Hot Five, "St. James Infirmary" (OKeh 8657, 1929; rec. 1928)
Rube Bloom & his Bayou Boys, "St. James' Infirmary" (Columbia 2103-D, 1930)
Dock Boggs, "Old Joe's Barroom" (on Boggs2, BoggsCD1)
Chick Bullock, "St. James Infirmary" (Velvet Tone 7063-V, 1930/Diva 6037, n.d.)
Martha Copeland, "Dyin' Crap Shooter's Blues" (Columbia 14427-D, 1929; rec. 1927)
Snooks Eaglin, "St. James Infirmary" (on ClassAfrAm)
Rosa Henderson, "Dyin' Crap Shooter's Blues" (Pathe Actuelle 7535/Perfect 135/TMH 7535, 1927)
Mattie Hite, "St. Joe's Infirmary" (Columbia 15403-D, 1930)
Frankie Marvin, "Those Gambler's Blues" (Crown 3076, 1931)
Viola McCoy, "Dyin' Crap Shooter's Blues" (Romeo 453 [as Fannie Johnson]/Cameo 1225/Lincoln 2690, 1927)
Pete Seeger, "St. James Infirmary" (on PeteSeeger32)

cf. "The Bad Girl's Lament (St. James' Hospital; The Young Girl Cut Down in her Prime)" [Laws Q26] (theme)
cf. "Dying Crapshooter's Blues" (theme, floating verses)
cf. "Dear Companion (The Broken Heart; Go and Leave Me If You Wish To, Fond Affection)" (the "let her go" lyrics)
cf. ""Sweet Heaven (II)" (the "let her go" lyrics)
Old Time Gambler's Song
NOTES [82 words]: Many early jazz & popular recordings attribute authorship (of the popular version) to "Joe Primrose," a pseudonym for Irving Mills. His copyright, though, seems to have been registered in 1929, or after Armstrong's influential recording. Presumably he was registering ownership rather than authorship. - PJS
Roud lumps this with the large "The Streets of Laredo" [Laws B1]/"Unfortunate Rake" group; it probably comes from the same roots, but I would definitely consider it a separate song. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
File: San228

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.