Label: Decca - DL 38237 • Format: Vinyl LP, Compilation, Reissue • Country: US • Genre: Folk, World, & Country • Style: Country
G Major. Standard tuning. The song "Bully of the Town" was originally written by Charles E. Trevathan a southern sports writer, horse judge and amateur musician in for the stage show "The Widow Jones" which opened at the Bijou Theater, New York City that September.
It was sung in the production by Trevathan's girl-friend, May Irwin. Wayne W. It was also in the repertoire of fiddler Tommy Magnessborn in north Georgia near the southeastern Tennessee border.
Blues researcher John Garst convincingly finds that the song "Bully of the Town" was developed from an earlier blues ballad called "Ella Speed," based on a real-life incident in New Orleans in the middle years of the "Gay 90's. She was the object of the obsessive attentions of Louis "Bull" Martin or Martini, a bartending white Italian-American whom she had met several months previously at another establishment, and who wanted to set her up in an apartment as his mistress, a not uncommon arrangement at the time.
Ella, however was lukewarm to him-she liked his money, but didn't care much for the man-and at any rate, she already had a husband, one Willie Speed. Louis was a bully who had been arrested and tried on three separate occasions on assault and battery charges, and who at the time of the murder was wanted by the constable for yet another brutal beating, that of an elderly black man near his place of work.
Louis reportedly became enraged at the thought that she might be fond of another man whether Willie or not. One night, after a day spent Time After Time - Miles Davis - Live In Montreal (DVD), dining and drinking, they returned late to the bordello in which she was staying and, feeling the effects of their partying, Bully Of The Town - Various - Country Jubilee at around AM.
The next time Ella was seen was in the morning when she screamed and emerged from her second story Cry Of The Innocent - Attila (13) - Triad, saying "Help me, Miss Pauline!
Louis disappeared, and soon a deputy arrived followed by an ambulance; but too late, for Ella had been shot through the breast with the bullet piecing her heart, Bully Of The Town - Various - Country Jubilee lung and liver, from which wounds she soon bleed to death.
A manhunt was raised to Bully Of The Town - Various - Country Jubilee Louis, who after a day turned himself in at the residence of a police Captain. He was arrested, held and charged with murder. After a trial a jury found him guilty of manslaughter, despite Louis's claim the shooting was an accident, and if Louis had counted on getting off easy with the reduced finding he was mistaken, for Judge John H.
Ferguson originally from Massachusetts sentenced him to twenty years in prison, which Garst says was a stiff sentence for the time. Garst thinks that the song "Ella Speed" appeared soon after the initial shooting and was based on newspaper accounts.
Lomax in a Texas version from and Carl Sandburg included it in his volume American Songbag Garst bases his hypothesis that "Ella Speed" was the model for "Bully of the Town" on three points: 1 the fact that "Bully" appeared a year or two after the "Ella" song, 2 the fact that Louis was a bully and the subject of a massive Transistor Break - Electric Technology - Rave Hop Machine hunt, as intimated in both songs, and 3 the similarity between the melodies of "Ella" and "Bully.
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