JACK FINEY, Sie heisst Betty Bones, 1959Posted: November 4, 2014
The story of Afro-Caribbean artists working in Germany in the 1950s, has not been written yet. After the second World War, musicians like Roberto Blanco (Cuba), Mona Baptiste (Trinidad), Billy Mo (Trinidad) and Jack Finey (Curaçao) helped to transform German culture and society. From a despised and isolated country, that had caused the worst crimes of the century, back into the civilized world. Germans simply couldn´t have lifted themselves out of their misery. As you will hear, they needed the help of some spirited Caribbeans desperately.
Unfortunately, information about Jack Finey is scarce. At least, the trusty German Rock´n´Roll-Schallplattenforum, collected a bit:
Jack Finey (born Jakob Frerian Christian Schreuder) was born in Amsterdam in 1928. He grew up in Curaçao and returned to Amsterdam when he was 14 years old. He appeared on Broadway. In 1959 he first recorded in Germany for Electrola and later Decca, also for the Austrian Amadeo label in 1962 and for German Vogue label in 1967. In 1960 Jack Finey appeared in the German musical comedy “Meine Nichte tut das nicht” with his song Schade um die Rosen.
In 1959 Jack Finey recorded this fine two-sider for Electrola, containing German versions of Louis Prima´s “The Closer To The Meat” and Lloyd Price´s “Stagger Lee”.
Like other popular American folk songs, such as Delia Gone, Stagger Lee is a song about an actual murder case. In 1895, “Stag” Lee Shelton, a black pimp, shot Billy Lyons in St. Louis, Missouri, over an argument about politics. Lyons snatched Shelton´s hat from his head. Stagger Lee demanded it back. When Billy refused, Stagger Lee shot him, took his hat and walked away. Shelton was arrested and convicted of murder in 1897. The crime quickly entered into American folklore and became the subject of songs.
In 1928, Mississippi John Hurt recorded the most well-known blues version of Stagger Lee. Twenty-two years later, New Orleans rhythm & blues pianist Archibald wrote and recorded his own version of Stack A Lee. It´s a New Orleans boogie in an easygoing, rocksteady rhythm, that is very well worth listening to on Youtube. The Imperial 45 has two parts. In Part 2, Stagger Lee dies and goes to the devil. Lloyd Price covered Archibald´s “Stagger Lee Part 1” and turned it into a # 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 1959.
Whereas the lyrics of German versions of US hits were usually changed completely, and left only the melody intact, the German lyrics to “Stagger Lee” are unusually faithful to the original. They´ve got pretty much the exact meaning and content, down to naming the song ” Die Geschichte von Stagger Lee” (The story of Stagger Lee). The German writer Nicolas sure had a good instinct for teenage subjects. Whereas Dick Clark reportedly had Lloyd Price change the lyrics to a fight over a woman and a happy ending, to appear on his show, the German lyrics keep the bloody ending.
Just for comparison, I transcribed the lyrics. The lines change from German to English, to make the song more authentic. Note the Dutch accent in “He´s real danger!”:
“Ich stand müde an der Ecke,/ doch ich bin dann plötzlich aufgewacht./Auf der Strasse würfelten zwei Männer in der Nacht./ Da war Stagger Lee, da Billy,/ da die Würfel, um Mitternacht./ Stagger Lee warf eine Sieben,/ Billy schwor, er habe acht./ Stagger Lee sagte heiser,/ lass das Zeug , Mensch. Ich habe ´ne Wut./ Du hast all mein Geld gewonnen/ und auch meinen neuen Hut./ Stagger Lee ging nach Hause,/ schob ´ne Kugel in den Lauf./ Sagt, die Schuld muss ich begleichen/ und entsicherte darauf./ Watch out! Watch Out, Billy! Watch out for Stagger Lee, man. He´s real danger, man! He´s real danger! Be careful, Billy! Run, Billy, Run! That´s the only thing you can do!/ Zu der Bar ging er heimlich,/ und dann stand er grinsend in der Tür./Zog den Colt und sagt zu Billy:/ “Büssen musst du mir dafür!”/ “Stagger Lee!”, rief Billy./ “Schon mein Leben. Nehm´ es nicht./ Denk an meine kleinen Kinder./ Meiner Frau, das Herz zerbricht.”/ Stagger Lee schoss auf Billy./ Nahm ihm alles, was er besass./ Und die Kugel flog durch Billy/ und zerbrach ein Whiskeyglas./ Run, run, Stagger Lee, lauf! That´s the only thing you can do. Lauf, Stagger Lee! You´re a bad boy! You´re really bad, man! Look at that poor Billy, laying on the floor, guy. Oh, he´s dead. Billy is dead.You´re bad… Run, run...”
“Betty Bones” is the German version of Louis Prima´s saucy The Closer To The Bone, of his 1959 album “The Call Of The Wildest”.
“Now she’d make a good thermometer/ If she drank a glass of wine/ She’s built just like a garter snake/ She climbs up like a vine/ My friends tell me I’m a fool/ To love a girl like that/ Here’s the reason I like ’em slim/ Instead of big and fat/ ‘Cause closest to the bone/ Sweeter is the meat/ Last slice of Virginia ham/ Is the best that you can eat”
Bony Moronie. Long Tall Sally. Skinnie Minnie. The list of songs about skinny girls is long in pop music, from the 1920s into the 1960s, equally long as the list about fat girls. Today they would be considered rude, except in rap songs. Now, in the German version, only the title “Betty Bones”, touches on the subject of skinny girls. “Sie heisst Betty Bones” is about a girl with a cold heart, or at least she´s not into Jack, until she get´s jealous of another girl…
Side note: When I bought this 45, last week in a local second-hand record store for four Euros, I didn´t see that the record was autographed.Until I scanned the record and suddenly saw the label in high-resolution. Compared with the signatures on these two autographed pictures that are currently offered on Ebay, they look pretty similar. That little loop over the F gives it away.