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St. James Infirmary (Those Gambler’s Blues)
Guitar Tablature -- Key of Em -- Melody & Accompaniment
(Lyrics at the bottom of this page)

This song was published in Carl Sandburg’s book “The American Songbag,” in 1927 as “Those Gambler’s Blues.” Most references that I could find regarding the song “St. James Infirmary” say that it was written and copyrighted by Joe Primrose in 1929. It’s definitely the same song, and Carl Sandburg not only didn’t mention Joe Primrose in 1927, he spoke of the song as if it was already an old song with apparently no known author.


Those Gambler's Blues
(now known as St. James Infirmary)
Lyrics from "The American Songbag"
by Carl Sandburg (1927)

It was down in old Joe's bar-room,
On a corner by the square,
The drinks were served as usual,
And a goodly crowd was there.

On my left stood Joe McKenny,
His eyes bloodshot and red,
He gazed at the crowd around him,
And these are the words he said:

"As I passed by the old infirmary,
I saw my sweetheart there,
All stretched on a table,
So pale, so cold, so fair.

Sixteen coal-black horses,
All hitched to a rubber-tired hack,
Carried seven girls to the graveyard,
And only six of 'em comin' back.

Oh, when I die, just bury me,
In a box-back coat and hat,
Put a twenty dollar gold piece
  on my watch chain,
To let the Lord know I'm standin' pat.

Six crap shooters as pall bearers,
Let a chorus girl sing me a song,
With a jazz band on my hearse,
To raise hell as we go along."

And now you've heard my story,
I'll take another shot of booze,
If anybody happens to ask you,
Then I've got those gambler's blues.