Little Sadie

Roy Hogsed, who recorded the 'Cocaine Blues'
version in 1948.

Clarence 'Tom' Ashley recorded Little Sadie in 1930 as did a number of other country singers around the same time. It is loosely related to some other traditional songs such as 'Bad Lee Brown' and 'The Bad Man Ballad.' The story and most of the lyrics seem to have cross-fertilized with the Memphis Jug Band’s ‘Cocaine Habit Blues’ and reemerged in the rock-a-billy tradition as ‘Cocaine Blues’. The earliest recording I have found was by Roy Hogshed in 1948 but I believe there were earlier renditions.

Johnny Cash recorded ‘Cocaine Blues’ in the sixties. About the same time, Tom Ashley was rediscovered and taken on tour by folklorist Ralph Rinzler with other North Carolina musicians, most famously the, then unknown, guitarist Doc Watson. It was my privilege to hear Tom and Doc play this song in person.


Went out one night for to make my round,
I met little Sadie and I shot her down,
Went back home and I got in my bed,
Forty-four smokeless under my head.

I begin to think what a deed I'd done,
I grabbed my hat and away I run.
Made a good run but a little too slow,
They overtook me in Jericho.

Woke up next morning they was ringing my bell
In walked the sheriff from Thomasville
And he said, "Young man, ain't your name Brown?
Remember that night you shot Sadie down?"

I said, "Yes, sir, my name is Lee,
And I murdered little Sadie in the first degree.
First degree and the second degree,
If you got any papers, won't you read 'em to me?"

They took me downtown, dressed me in black,
To put me on the train and started me back,
I had no one for to go my bail
So they throwed me up in the county jail,

The judge and the jury, they took their stand,
The judge had the papers in his right hand,
Forty-one days and forty-one nights,
Forty-one years to wear the ball and the stripes.