Lead Belly: the Singing Convict (Midnight Special)

words and music and stories

Lead Belly: the Singing Convict

Lead Belly Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter

Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter ( 1885-1949) was a singer and a guitarist who, in 1915, was convicted of carrying a pistol illegally and sentenced to 30 days on a chain gang. He escaped from the penitentiary by outrunning the prison dogs. Some years later he was imprisoned again at the Imperial Farm in Sugar Land, Texas, after killing one of his relatives in a fight over a woman. . After another prison escape, which failed, he tried to drown himself in a lake but was seized. Back in prison, he used his musical talents to gain favour with the prison guards. While there he may have first heard the traditional prison song “Midnight Special”.
In 1925, he was pardoned and released, and he said that he had convinced the governor with a song: ” Please, Pardon Me”.
Five years later he…

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