Lyr Req: The Devil and Billy Markham (Silverstein)
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Lyr Req: The Devil and Billy Markham (Silverstein)

Mike Byers 04 Jun 01 - 03:55 PM
Pene Azul 06 Jun 01 - 05:48 AM
Jim Dixon 13 Oct 09 - 06:00 PM
Mark Ross 13 Oct 09 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Greg M 09 Jan 11 - 12:59 AM
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Subject: The Devil and Billy Markham
From: Mike Byers
Date: 04 Jun 01 - 03:55 PM

I'd read Shel Silverstein's "The Devil and Billy Markham" many years ago and although I've never seen it, I knew it had been made into a play. Last Saturday night, I heard it put to music and played on the mountain dulcimer if you can belive it. Quite a piece, and probably one you would want to do for most general audiences. Does anyone have a source for the music to this? It was a fairly simple melody in a minor key.

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Subject: RE: The Devil and Billy Markham
From: Pene Azul
Date: 06 Jun 01 - 05:48 AM


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Subject: Lyr Req: THE DEVIL AND BILLY MARKHAM (Silverstein)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 13 Oct 09 - 06:00 PM

Here's a good one for Halloween, if you have the right audience.

Wikipedia says:
    "The Devil and Billy Markham" was published in an issue of Playboy magazine in 1979. It was written as an epic poem in doggerel form. It was then adapted into a solo one-act play that debuted for the first time on a double bill with Mamet's "Bobby Gould in Hell" in 1989, with Dennis Locorriere [former member of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show] as the narrator. It has subsequently been performed many times by different companies and in different forms.
The text below is copied from :

Shel Silverstein

The Devil walked into Linebaugh's on a rainy Nashville night
While the lost souls sat and sipped their soup in the sickly yellow neon light.
And the Devil, he looked around the room, then got down on his knees.
He says, "Is there one among you scum who'll roll the dice with me?"
Red, he just strums his guitar, pretending not to hear.
And Eddie, he just looks away and takes another sip of beer.
Vince, he says, "Not me, I'll pass. I've had my share of hell,"
And scribbling on a napkin, some song he was sure would sell.
Ronnie just kept whisperin' low to the snuff queen who clutched at his sleeve.
And somebody coughed—and the Devil scoffed—and turned on his heel to leave.
"Hold on", says a voice from the back of the room," 'fore you walk out that door.
If you're lookin' for some action, friend, well, I've rolled some dice before."
And there stood Billy Markham, he'd been on the scene for years,
Singin' all them raunchy songs that the town didn't want to hear.
He'd been cut and bled a thousand time, and his eyes were wise and sad,
And all his songs were the songs of the street, and all his luck was bad.
"I know you," says Billy Markham, "from many a dark and funky place,
But you always spoke in a different voice and wore a different face.
While me, I've gambled here on Music Row with hustlers and with whores,
And, hell, I ain't afraid to roll them devilish dice of yours."
"Well, then, get down," says the Devil, "just as if you was gonna pray,
And take these dice in your luckless hand and I'll tell you how this game is played.
You get one roll—and you bet your soul—and if you roll thirteen you win,
And all the joys of flesh and gold are yours to touch and spend.
But if that thirteen don't come up, then kiss your ass goodbye
And will your useless bones to God, 'cause your goddam soul is mine!
"Thirteen?" says Billy Markham. "Hell, I've played in tougher games.
I've loved ambitious women and I've rode on wheel-less trains.
So gimme room, you stinkin' fiend, and let it all unwind.
Nobody's ever rolled a thirteen yet, but this just might be the time."
Then Billy Markham, he takes the dice, and the dice feel as heavy as stones.
"They should, they should," the Devil says, "'cause they're carved from Jesus' bones."
And Billy Markham turns the dice and the dice, they have no spots.
"I'm sorry," says the Devil, "but they're the only dice I got."
"Well, shit," says Billy Markham. "Now, I really don't mean to bitch,
But I never thought I'd stake my roll in a sucker's game like this."
"Well, then, walk off," says the Devil. "Nobody's tied you down."
"Walk off where?" says Billy Markham. "It's the only game in town.
But I just wanna say 'fore I make my play, that if I should chance to lose,
I will this guitar to some would-be star who'll play some honest blues,
Who ain't afraid to sing the words like damn or shit or fuck
And who ain't afraid to put his ass on the stage where he makes his bucks.
But if he plays this guitar safe, and sings some sugary lies,
I'll haunt him till we meet in hell—now, gimme them fuckin' dice."
And Billy Markham shakes the dice and yells, "Come on, thirteen!"
And the dice, they roll—and come up blank. "You lose!" the Devil screams.
"But I really must say 'fore we go our way that I really do like your style.
Of all the fools I've played and beat, you're the first one who lost with a smile."
"Well, I'll tell you somethin'," Billy Markham says. "Those odds weren't too damn bad.
In fourteen years on Music Row, that's the best damn chance I've had."
Then, arm in arm, Billy Markham and the Devil walk out through Linebaugh's door,
Leavin' Billy's old beat-up guitar there on the floor.
And if you go into Linebaugh's now, you can see it there today
Hangin' from a nail on that wall of peelin' gray
Billy Markham's old guitar...that nobody dares to play.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Devil and Billy Markham (Silverst
From: Mark Ross
Date: 13 Oct 09 - 07:16 PM

There are about 5 more poems in this cycle. Somewhere in my files I have the issue of Playboy where it appeared. Of course with some marvelous artwork(Can't remember wether is was Shels's or maybe Brad Holland?). When I had a live radio show on Montana Public Radio out of Missoula(Saturdays right after Prairie Home Companion for 4 1/2 years), on one show I read this for the edification, and dining, and dancing pleasure of the radio audience. Slightly apprehensive as to the effect some of the language might have on my audience, I checked with the station manager beforehand. He only requested that I give a disclaimer before I started, warning those of the faint-of-heart that they might not want to listen any further. To my great surprise, I never heard a complaint. Of course that could have meant that noone was listening in. But it seemed that since I came on right after PHC most people were too lazy too change the station or turn off the radio.
But who knows?

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Devil and Billy Markham (Silverstein)
From: GUEST,Greg M
Date: 09 Jan 11 - 12:59 AM

It seems to me there was more to this poem in playboy. The devil comes to billy in hell and gives him another wager that anybody he wants will have sex with him (for 24 hours) and if anybody says no, he will get out of hell. In the end he asks the Devil to have sex and wins his bet. The line I remember is " and a shout goes up from the hosts of hell that shakes the earth across and the Imps all squealed and the Demons scream, He's going to fuck the boss."

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