Hangman Jury
Recording Artist: Aerosmith
Writers: Steven Tyler
Joe Perry
Jim Vallance
Date Written: March-April 1987 / Vancouver Canada
Albums: Permanent Vacation (Geffen, 1987)
Gold: Aerosmith (January 11, 2005)
Charts: #14 - Billboard Album Rock Tracks Chart / 1987 (12 weeks on the chart)
Audio:
 
Steven Tyler: vocal
Joe Perry: rhythm guitar, slide guitar
Brad Whitford: rhythm guitar
Tom Hamilton: bass
Joey Kramer: drums
 
Produced by Bruce Fairbairn. Recorded by Mike Fraser and Bob Rock, April-May 1987, at Little Mountain Sound Studios (Vancouver). Mixed by Mike Fraser.
Comments:
- Leadbelly -
- Taj Mahal -
- Aerosmith -
Steven at the picnic table, April 1987, Vancouver
Steven and Joe had nearly completed "Hangman Jury" by the time I became involved.  I helped Steven finish the lyrics at the picnic table in my back yard in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, about a year after the song was released we were sued for the opening section -- "oh boy dontcha line the track-a-lack-a" -- which Steven had borrowed from the song "Line 'Em" (also called "Linin' Track"). Steven incorrectly believed the song was "in the public domain". In other words, he thought it was old enough that the copyright had expired and nobody "owned" it.

It's unclear if Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Leadbelly) actually wrote the song, but regardless, at some point in the 1940's or 50's he claimed authorship. The copyright was registered to Folkways Music, meaning Folkways owned the rights to the song. After that, anybody who recorded it had to pay Folkways ... including us!
 
 
Steven Tyler: When we were doing 'Vacation' I went to a music store and got a Taj Mahal album, and on it was the piece we used for 'Hangman Jury': 'If I could I surely would ...'. 

I thought it was Taj Mahal's song, so I asked him for permission to use it, and I come to find out that he didn't write it. 

It was an old field holler, something black folks sang when they were working. Huddie Ledbetter took it and put it on his publishing." -- (from a "Sounds Magazine" interview, September '89).
Lyrics:
Click to view
Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly)
Me and my old lady sittin' in the shade
Talkin' about the money that I ain't made
Singin' o boy dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track
O boy dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track

If I could, I surely would
Stand on the rock that Moses stood
Singin' o boy dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track
O boy dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track

Drank so much hooch
It made my eyes be gettin' blurry
They say I nailed her to the wall
A stitch in time don't mean a thing
No hangman jury could make me crawl

'Cause I'm a poor boy
Dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track a lack a
O boy dontcha line the track
Oh

Whatcha do with a gun that's loaded
Oh, shot her dead and her heart exploded
Oh, tell me baby now d-dontcha worry
Oh, like lying to the hangman jury

Oh, I swear I didn't know that 45 was loaded
In fact my memory ain't too clear
That's not to say she didn't get what she deserved
'Least that's the way it looked from here boy

When you line the track a lack a
Here boy when you line the track a lack a
Here boy when you line the track

Oh - her love came tumblin' down, yeah
Oh - when love come tumblin' down
Oh - (let's get outta here)
When love come tumblin' ...

And every night she'd take her thing into the city
And in the mornin' make me beg
'Cause if I'd taken all her real nitty gritty
I'd smack her right upside the head boy

Dontcha line the track a lack a
Hey boy dontcha line the track
Hey boy dontcha line the track

Oh - when love came tumblin' down
Oh - when love came tumblin' down
Oh - when love came tumblin' ...

Poor boy sweatin' in the hot summer night
Hangman waitin' for the early morning light

Singin' hey boy dontcha line the track a lack a
Hey boy dontcha line the track
Hey boy dontcha line the track a lack a
Hey boy dontcha line the track

If I could, I surely would
Stand on the rock that Moses done stood
Singin' hey boy dontcha line the track a lack a
Hey boy dontcha line the track
Hey boy dontcha line the track a lack a
Hey boy dontcha line the track