Betty and Dupree

Cookie and the Cupcates
Recorded Betty & Dupree in the 1950's

Here's a good old blues that has been recorded by the likes of Brownie McGee, Josh White, Georgia White, Robert McCoy, Washboard Willie and Big Joe Duskin. Chuck Willis give it a rock-and-roll treatment in 1958 and the Grateful Dead rocked with it in 1966. I learned this version from the singing of Dave Van Ronk.

According to the liner notes from the Folkways album 'Classic African-American Ballads':

    The event the song refers to would have been remembered in Atlanta. According to the research of John Garst, just before Christmas in 1892, Frank Dupree robbed an Atlanta jewelry store and made off with a diamond ring. in the process, he killed a Pinkerton agent and wounded a bystander. He escaped to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then on to Detroit, where he was captured. After a sensational trial and despite public sympathy (probably because both he and Betty were white), he was hanged in 1922. He was the last man to be executed by hanging in Georgia before the introduction of the electric chair.

Early versions of the ballad related the whole sordid tale, but over time Betty & Dupree evolved into a more sentimental story of love and sacrifice. I like it that way.

Lyrics: 

Betty told Dupree, she want a diamond ring
Betty told Dupree, she want a diamond ring
Dupree told Betty, for you I'll do most anything

He bought him a pistol, it was a forty-four
He bought him a pistol, it was a forty-four
To get that diamond ring for Betty
Dupree had to rob a jewelery store

Police caught Dupree, put him in Atlanta jail
Police caught Dupree, put him in Atlanta jail
He sent for his Betty to come and go his bail

Betty came see him but his face she could not see
Betty came see him but his face she could not see
She said to the warden, give him this message for me.

It said I come to see you but I could not see your face.
It said I come to see you but I could not see your face.
Just wanted to tell your Dupree, no body's gonna take your place.

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