I found the idea for Michigan Roll while browsing through an old Dictionary of American Slang:
Michigan roll (Also Michigan bankroll, Cincinatti roll) noun
1. a large roll of paper money in small denominatons
2. a roll of counterfeit paper money or a roll of money-sized paper surrounded by one or more genuine bills.
The term was first found in use between 1930-1935. ( the date is probably earlier; in the 1850s, Michigan bankers outwitted auditors by taking barrels of nails, with a thin top layer of silver coins, from bank to bank ahead of them]
This is also a Michigan Roll:
But I digest….
A Michigan roll is the stuff of con artists, used to bamboozle, flim flam, chisel and fleece. There’s something slightly fun and alluring about the con in its many forms. It makes me think of the movies The Sting and Paper Moon. In these period pieces, the con benefits from the distance of time. The old “art of the con” has a certain charm that the current run-of-the-mill internet scam does not. In any form, it’s never fun for the person who gets swindled. You’ve got to be a real piece o’ work to be flashin’ a Michigan roll.
So I feel a little bad for Janey in this song. But she rings true for me, in that most any time I’ve done anything solely for the money I’ve tended to have some regrets. Chasing after money has often had some powerful karma attached, in my limited experience. Greed sets the hook. Your mileage may vary.
A word about the music; this is very much like the chords and melody of the classic St. James Infirmary. This was not intentional on my part. It’s not the first time that I have subconsciously “borrowed” from the American songbook. Unlike con artistry, it is perfectly legal. It’s called the “folk process.” It’s a bonafide license to steal.