12 December 2011

#62 Bound to California

This will be brief, as this song appears just twice, in fragments, before Stan Hugill picked it up for his Shanties from the Seven Seas.

The first appearance comes in one of the earliest "folklore" articles on chanties, a 1906 piece by P.A. Hutchison in The Journal of the American Folklore Society, called "Sailors' Chanties." It is implied from the discussion that the following is an original collection he made in the field:

Good-bye, my love, good-bye,
I cannot tell you why,
I 'm off to Californy
To dig the yellow gold.

I've not seen this in print prior to this date, and wonder if it was a rare chanty. However, Hutchison followed it with this:
On the very same ship from which this was collected, another sailor gave this version:-

Blow, boys, blow,
For Californy, O!
We're bound for Sacramento
To dig the yellow gold.

The second lyric seems to be some form of "Sacramento" (recently discussed)...and if it was a "version," that implies the first lyric was also a form of "Sacramento." The tune would not fit it beautifully, but it could be made to fit OK. Unfortunately the author offered no tune.

The only other time a verse like this (the first) turned up, that I can see, was in C. Fox Smith's A Book of Shanties (1927). Many of Fox Smith's chanties come from prior publications, but in this case she notes a personal source.

Captain J. L. Vivian Millett, from whom I had it, remembers hearing it sung at Algoa Bay [South Africa], in the days when the anchorage off that port was still crowded with sailing ships. A big vessel was just getting up her anchor; she had a good shanty crowd, and the chorus roared out by a score of voices came over the waters of the open roadstead with an unforgettable effect.

Captain Millett could only give me the chorus: perhaps someone who reads this may be moved to recollections of the solo part.

(Capstan Shanty)

Good-bye, my lads, good-bye,
No one can tell me why
I am bound to California
To reap the shining gold!

The tune she gives is not that of "Sacramento." And, being no other sources for this, Hugill reproduced Fox Smith's presentation in SfSS. Here it is, brought off the written page:

In California, but not reaping any gold (no one can tell me why!),

Ranzo :{

No comments:

Post a Comment