Gallis Pole

Episode Air Date: October 30, 2019
Artist: Leadbelly
Recording Title: Gallis Pole

Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, was twice convicted: once for trying to kill a man, and once for following through with it.  After the first, he wrote a song of appeal to the governor of Texas, Pat Neff. Neff, incidentally, had vowed never to grant a pardon as governor.  He did though, in 1925, but he might not have bothered. Less than 5 years later, Ledbetter committed his second crime. And, somewhat unbelievably, received another pardon, this one from Governor O.K. Allen. Here he is with Gallis Pole from 1939.

In the song, a condemned woman pleads for her life, asking family and friends for bribes in order to escape hanging. There are many variations on the same theme…in some she escapes, and in some, the money never comes.

The tune got Led Zeppelin in a bit of hot water, as claims were made that the supergroup plagiarized Ledbetter on their version. While he is listed as the songwriter on some of his releases, it’s more accurately listed on others as “Traditional”. On Led Zeppelin III, this song is credited as “Traditional, arr. Page/Plant”. Page himself acknowledged both Leadbelly and Fred Gerlach as sources of inspiration. What do you think? Get the Led out right here.


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3 Responses to “Gallis Pole”

  1. September 2, 2011 at 22:38 #

    Thanks for writing such an easy-to-understand arctlie on this topic.

  2. Tomas Wallis
    March 6, 2012 at 12:19 #

    So, how do I find out how Ledbelly got Led Zepplin in trouble? This is my first time on your website and am a little green. Am enjoying your spots on community public radio KRZA. Thanks.

  3. James O'Connor
    March 6, 2012 at 12:55 #

    Thanks for listening AND writing, Tomas! Check the last paragraph up there. Hello to the Upper Rio Grande!

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