Penitentiary Blues

Penitentiary Blues (a.k.a. Bad Lee Brown)

Traditional, arranged by Ernest “Buddy” Baker.


Oh-lo’ oh-do-do dodle-de-do-do-do do-do-do
Odle-de-do-do-do do-do-do

Now late one night, I made my round;
I met my woman and I blowed her down.
I went on home and I went to bed;
I tucked my pistol up under my head.

And early next morning by the rising sun,
I got up, well I started to run.
I run and run, but I run too slow;
‘Cause a man overtook me down in Jericho.

Standin’ on the corner readin’ my father’s will,
Along come a man, they called him “Bad Texas Bill”.
He says, “Now look-a here bully, is your name Lee Brown?
I b’lieve you’re the rascal blowed your woman down”

“Yes sir, Cap’, my name is Lee,
Now if you’ve got any blues, why sing ’em to me.”
He says, “Well now, boy, I b’lieve that you know the best;
You better come go with me, the judge’ll tell you the rest.”

When I was arrested I was dressed in black.
They put me on the train and they brought me back.
There wasn’t a man in town why to go my bail;
They lacked [sic] me up in that old county jail.

Now early one mornin’ ’bout half-past-nine,
I spied the chief of police comin’ down the line.
I heared that old chief when he cleared up his throat;
He say, “Get ready, Lee Brown, for that circuit court.”

That circuit court had then commenced.
Twelve big jurymen come steppin’ in.
In five minutes, up stepped a man;
He was holdin’ my verdict in his right hand.

That verdict read murder in the first degree.
Cried, “Lord in heav’n have some mercy on me.”
See that old judge when he picked up his pen,
He say, “I don’t think you’ll ever kill a woman again.”

“Killin’ these heah women boy, has natch’ully got to stop.
I don’t know whether to tell ’em for to hang you or not.
I’ll give you ninety-nine years on the hard, hard ground.
You’ll remember the night you blowed your woman down.”

Here I am bowed down in shame.
I got a number instead of a name.
I’ll be here for the rest of my life.
All I done was kill one wife.

Lord, help me!


Transcribed from Victor 21549, as sung by “Buddy” Baker, recorded June 21, 1928.