A while ago, Klaas T., of Amsterdam, wrote to ask:
I have been looking for years for a version of St. James Infirmary that I remember having heard on an album by Snooks Eaglin. It was anacousticc version played by just Snooks. Do you know this version that may have been recorded in the fifties, or even earlier?
At the time I didn't know, but now I believe that version must be the one on this Smithsonian Folkways recording, made in 1959, New Orleans Street Singer Snooks Eaglin.
Separately, Kimberly O., of Minnesota, wrote with the following:
I used to live in New Orleans. WWOZ many years ago played a version of St. James that was haunting and heartbreaking -- and relatively long. That version had extended the part in which the singer makes specifications about his own funeral arrangements. It also may have suggested that it was watching a lover pass that made one question their own mortality (of course, this was only suggestive - I am no poet or lyricist!) Unfortunately, I had missed it when the DJ listed the artist who was covering the song and when I called back a few days later to find out who it was no one at the station had any idea of whom they had played. I started searching for that version those many years ago and haven't stopped.
I suggested perhaps it was a roughly eight-minute version by Kermit Ruffins, from a 1998 CD of his. But this suggestion proved inconclusive.
UPDATE: The proprietor of Home of the Groove suggests: "I believe that was done by the late Danny Barker. There are actually two CD versions by Danny: a studio version on "Save the Bones" on Orleans Records, and a live version on (his wife) Blue Lu Barker's "Blue Lu Live at the New Orleans Jazz Festival," also on Orleans. Danny's take on the song on both CDs is humorous. I recommend either." I've heard the studio version, which is pretty nice, and a favorite of several readers who have written to me in the past, but I don't personally know the live version. (Thanks, Dan!)