Please Pardon Me

Album: Leadbelly Volume One (1935)
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Songfacts®:

  • On June 7, 1918, Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), using the assumed name "Walter Boyd," was sentenced to up to 30 years hard labor after killing a man in a fight. While in prison, he wrote this song for Texas Governor Pat Neff in an attempt to gain clemency. On January 15, 1925, Neff pardoned him, though it remains to be seen if this was a case of cause and effect. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England
  • Leadbelly went back to jail a few years later, this time for attempted murder. He was sent to Angola prison in Louisiana, which is where the folklorist John Lomax found him on a sojourn to document songs for the Library of Congress. Lomax recorded Leadbelly in 1933, and a year later, he was released from prison. Lomax claimed that Leadbelly was granted yet another pardon, this time for a song he wrote targeted to Governor O.K. Allen. Angola officials later said they had no record of a pardon, but Lomax used that story to promote Leadbelly, whom he brought north to perform at various showcases; reportedly, Lomax made him wear prison garb.

    In 1935, Lomax recorded Leadbelly performing "Please Pardon Me" and entered it into the Library of Congress. The song later appeared on various compilations.
  • This song is also known as "Sweet Mary" and is entered into the Library of Congress under the title "Governor Pat Neff."
  • Leadbelly wasn't married when he wrote this, but for the purpose of the song he gave himself a wife, Mary, a name chosen for the biblical connotations. Leadbelly was appealing to Governor Pat Neff's Christian sensibilities, pleading for forgiveness.

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