13 November 2011

#25 Stormalong, Lads, Stormy

OK, this is the old one of the bunch. And it's even less "revived" than the last, "Stormy Along, John." 

It can be dated earliest to 1848, in reference to a whaling ship's crew member in Hawai'i (Perkins, Na Motu, 1854). Although the author didn't put it in a work context, it appears alongside reference to another chanty ("A Hundred Years Ago"). Here's the quote:

    I jumped onto a rock, swung my tarpaulin, and sung that good old song—

    'O! storm along !
    O! my roving blades, storm along, stormy!'

I guesses this "good old song" must have been around for a little while by then. In fact, by at least the same year, 1848, White's Serenader's a blackface minstrel troupe, had been performing a popular version of the song.

O I wish I was in Mobile bay,
Storm along Stormy.
Screwing cotton all de day,
Storm along Stormy.
O you rollers storm along,
Storm along Stormy. 

Hoist away an' sing dis song,
Storm along Stormy.

I wish I was in New Orleans,
Storm along Stormy. 

Eating up dem pork and beans,
Storm along Stormy. 

Roll away in spite ob wedder,
Storm along Stormy. 

Come, lads, push all togedder,

Storm along Stormy.

I wish I was in Baltimore,
Storm along Stormy. 

Dancing on dat Yankee shore,
Storm along Stormy. 

One bale more, den we'be done,
Storm along Stormy. 

De sun's gwan down, an' we'll go home.
Storm along Stormy.

[Christy, Charles and George White. 1854. Christy’s and White’s Ethiopian Melodies. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson.]

The minstrel song has an unmistakable chanty form, inclusive of cotton-stowing chants', and its mention of Mobile Bay and work references confirm it. The "hoist" lyric suggest it might even have been a shipboard chanty borrowed from cotton-screwing by that time. While it is known that many minstrel songs contributed to chanties, this is powerful evidence that some work songs were adopted as material for minstrel songs, too. An open question: How did White's lot, in New York, come across this work song?

Just a few years after, 1851, we get a reference to someone singing the song on a packet barque from Baltimore to Liberia, carrying emigrant free Blacks. I'm am unclear about the exact context, but the quote is as follows:

All being on board, Tom Williams, the leader of the band, struck up his favorite air, “old stormy long.” And in a short time we were under way for Cape Palmas.

The use of "Stormy" as a halyard (?) chanty is finally confirmed in a publication referencing an 1852 (Australian Gold Rush era) packet ship voyage from Gravesend to Melbourne (Moon, "News from our digger," 1853). The passage confirms the final arrival of chanties, in the early 1850s, as a ubiquitous shipboard practice:

    There is one thing in particular which is sure to attract the attention of a landsman when     he first sets his foot on board ship, and this is the songs sung by the seamen whilst performing their various duties. These songs, which often, as regards words, are made impromptu, are most enlivening and spirited; and a good singing crow, with a clever leader, may, in my opinion, be looked upon in the light of a blessing on board any ship. In a little schooner in which I made a voyage up the Mediterranean, we had some excellent singers; and scarcely was a rope touched, sail set, or other heavy work done, without a song...

After which "Stormy" is given as a sample:

I wish I was old Stormy's son,
Hurra, and storm along:
I'd give the sailors lots of rum,
Storm along, my Stormy.
Chorus—Hurra!—hurra!—hurra!—storm along,
Storm along, my roving blades,
Storm along, my Stormy.

It seems to have a grand chorus of sorts, which is not known to later writers, however the author does not say positively this was a halyard chanty. The grand chorus may have only applied when it was being used for other tasks. And the "roving blades" part is matched by the above-mentioned whalerman reference.

Many years later, a sailor reflecting on a voyage to Australia in 1853 attested to similar chanties in use (Webb, "Sailors' Chanties." 1903). His "Stormy" also had a grand chorus:

I wish I was old Stormy’s son.
Storm along, my hearties.
Gathering nuggets all the day,
Storm along, my hearties,
Away, away, away, away.
O’er the roaring seas, my hearties.
Storm along, my hearty boys.
Storm along, my hearties.

A reference in fiction in 1855 (Farnsworth, "The Yarn of the Watch") attests to the song's use on sailing ships. And the first article on chanties, “Songs of the Sea” (Atlantic Monthly, 1958), mentions it, too. Allen's Oberlin Monthly article from the same year does also mention it. The passage is worth reading in full.

There was one ditty often used at the windlass, that frequently gave rise to a train of reverie in my mind, especially when combined with surrounding circumstances. The forest-crowned hills, the waving palms and cocoas, the peculiar fragrance borne to us on the landbreeze, the solemn roar of the distant surf, the red, blue and white dresses of the men, as bare-armed and footed, they worked at the windlass and elsewhere, the hundreds of swarthy forms on deck and in canoes dancing over the blue waves, all combined to give force to the idea, that you were in a foreign land. And then, amid the barbarous jargon of tongues, the crew at the windlass strike up:

“I wish I were a stormy's son;
Hurrah, storm along!
I'd storm 'em up and storm 'em down;
Storm along my stormies.
Hurrah! John Rowley,
John, storm along—
We'll storm 'em up and storm 'em down,
Storm along, my stormies.
We'll make them hear our thundering guns,
Storm along my stormies.”

And then it proceeds pathetically to inform us that “Old Rowley is dead and gone,” and that “they lowered him down with a golden chain,” and that they'll proceed to storm somebody or other...

We know the chanty was also sung ca.1859-1860 on the barque Guide sailing from Boston to Zanzibar, during which at the windlass it is said,

...the loud toned “Storm along, my Rosa,” woke the echoes far and near. (Clark, Seven Years of a Sailor's Life, 1867)

Cecil Sharp's informant Robert Ellison, who probably started his sailing career in the 1850s, sang this chanty, adding more evidence to suggest "Stormy" was one of the more popular chanties of this early period in chantying.

Elijah Kellogg's 1869 novel The Ark of Elm Island has this chanty in an interesting context. The characters in the scene, aboard an American vessel, are pumping a windlass. The "double chorus" referred to is what I have been calling a grand chorus. More interestingly, I have reason to believe (but cannot prove) that Kellogg may have gained is familiarity with chanties at a much earlier period, the 1830s.

"Wind blow from de mountain cool,
O, stow me long.
Mudder send me to de school;
Stow me long, stow me.
Den I stow myself away,
O, stow me long.
Way, way to de Isle ob May;
Stow me long, stow me.
Go ashore to see de town,
O, stow me long.
Hear de music, walk aroun';
Stow me long, stow me.
Dere I hear Miss Dinah sing,
O, stow me long.
Washin' linen at de spring.
Double Chorus. —Ha-a, stow me long,
Stow me long, stow me.

Straight I lub Miss Dinah Gray,
O, stow me long.
Dinah lub me, so she say;
Stow me long, stow me.
Get her necklace, get her ring,
O, stow me long.
Happy nigger, shout and sing;
Stow me long, stow me.
Wind a blowin' fresh and free,
O, stow me long.
Vessel ready for de sea;
Stow me long, stow me.
See de tear in Dinah's eye,
O, stow me long.
Berry sorry see her cry.
Double Chorus. — Ha-a, stow me long
Stow me long, stow me.

Tink ob Dinah ebery day,
O, stow me long.
Wishin' ob de time away;
Stow me long, stow me.
Buy her gown, buy her fan,
O, stow me long.
Dinah lub anudder man;
Stow me long, stow me.
Wish I hadn't been a fool,
O, stow me long.
Neber run away from school.
Double Chorus. — Ha-a, stow me long,
Stow me long, stow me.”

At intervals they would unite in one universal shout on the double chorus. Then Isaiah, bringing the flat of his foot down to advertise them of what was coming, came out on the word “ha-a” with a guttural so purely African, that the negroes would jump from the deck.

The chanty starts to disappear after this, though it was known by Harlow, who sailed in the 1870s, and Hugill's informant Harding, who also goes back to that decade.

So "Stormy" was a chanty of earlier times. Perhaps (just speculating) it was particulary associated with an African-American mode of singing that lost favor in later decades. Or maybe the other Stormalongs were quite enough!

As I mentioned, this chanty seems to have garnered zero interest amongst sea music revivalists. In 2010 at the Mystic Sea Music Festival I led it in one of the big evening chantey sings, and I'm not sure anyone knew the chorus!

Here's how I recorded it in early 2009, when I was at work and I had my winter beard growing.

Ranzo :{

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