Voices from Illinois Country: Chris Vallillo

 

In this episode, Illinois musician and historian Chris Vallillo tells the story of how the death of the infamous Southern Illinois gangster Carl Shelton inspired a surprise hit song across the nation in the 1940’s. Vallillo performs the song in Studio X at Illinois Public Media.

Chris Vallillo is a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and folk musician who strives to "make the people and places of 'unmetropolitan' America come to life in song." Having spent the last 30 years in the rural Midwest, he developed an affinity for American roots music. Performing on six-string and bottleneck slide guitars and harmonica, he writes and performs original, contemporary, and traditional songs and creates musical narratives as a portrait of the history and lifestyles of the Midwest.

Vallillo appears throughout Illinois Country as a historian and expert on the roots of country music in Illinois. In this clip, Vallillo tells the story of how the death of infamous southern Illinois gangster Carl Shelton became an unexpected hit song across the nation in the mid-1900s. His performance of the song follows.

Chris Vallillo's Website – https://www.chrisvallillo.com/


Lyrics to The Death of Carl Shelton

Written by Fred Henson and Earl Shelton
Sung by Chris Vallillo

Near a little country schoolhouse in the county known as Wayne
It was down in Pond Creek bottom, one day a man was slain
He was driving on the highway to see about some grain
When they shot him from an ambush
Carl Shelton was his name

Now little did he know this morn he started out
These hoodlums would be waiting there along this murder route
He had no one to warn him, he feared no rude man’s harm
As he rode his Jeep that morning to work down on the farm

He left his dear old mother there in sorrow there alone
Living down near Marion in her little country home
May the angels hover over her for she hasn’t long to stay
In hopes she’ll meet her darlin’ in a better world some day

Near the county seat of Fairfield they could not find the bill
But we all know that it’s not right our fellow man to kill
They even shot him where he fell and left him there to die
This mystery will be solved one day in the courthouse in the sky.

He had four loyal brothers, two sisters and a wife
To mourn his sad departure the day they took his life
In Maple Hill they laid him so peacefully there to rest
But his memory it still lingers with the ones that knew him best.

Refrain

He left his dear old mother there in sorrow there alone
Living down near Marion in her little country home
May the angels hover over her for she hasn’t long to stay
In hopes she’ll meet her darlin’ in a better world someday.