27 July 2012

16 July 2012

#122 Goodnight, Ladies

Appearing only in the unabridged version of Stan Hugill’s Shanties from the Seven Seas, this song is one of those marginal little bits thrown in due to Hugill’s extreme inclusiveness and, perhaps, his willingness to look at songs popular right up to his day. I’ve not seen “Goodnight, Ladies” attested as a chanty elsewhere, though Hugill's presentation appear to be authentic.

It works fine as a capstan chanty, functioning like the recently discussed “The Arabella” and “The Saucy Rosabella” in that each verse simply consists of a line sung three times, followed by a common refrain and a grand chorus. It takes little imagination and even less memorization to sing. I call it the “hokey pokey” style of chanty.

“Goodnight, Ladies” originated as a popular song that, at some point, seems to have gotten associated with seamen.

The popular song itself  seems to have developed from different sources. E.P. Christy’s minstrel genre composition of 1847, “Farewell Ladies” is the origin of the chorus of “Goodnight Ladies.”

As far as anyone has been able to determine, the “merrily we roll along” part turns up by 1867, in a Yale University songbook—with reference to the yacht club. Was it part of an earlier folk ditty? Though it shares a melody with “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” the understanding is that “Lamb” was patterned on this, not the reverse.

The work lyrics at the beginning are not contained in the college glee version. This leaves open the question of whether they had been a part of the “Merrily” song or whether sailors added them. Sailors would have also changed the Yale version’s “…o’er the dark blue sea” to what we have here, “…on the good ship XYZ.”

In this case, it's the good ship Hulton Clint.

Merrily rowing and rolling along,

Ranzo :{

09 July 2012

Report: Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival 2012

Another year, another Sea Music Festival. I'll warn you that this "report" is rather self-centered. Not really telling about the Festival, but some of the stuff I did there that might have relevance to this blog of mine.

It was great to see old friends and acquaintances. These included the veteran sea music scholar and interpreter Prof. Revell Carr. Rev was one reason for my rekindled interest in chanties in 2006, when we were colleagues at UC Santa Barbara. He presented the paper, “‘He boatsteerer no hoi au no luna o Reindeer” (‘I am the boatsteerer aboard the Reindeer’): Songs and Ballads of Hawaiian Whalers in the Nineteenth Century,” at the Sea Music Symposium. I also met up with John Minear of Virginia, whom I owe for helping inspire me to get deeper into the historical study of chanties.

I was honored to participate in the academic symposium this year (June 8-9), where I presented the paper, “Twentieth-Century Editors and the Re-envisioning of Chanties: A Case Study of ‘Lowlands [Away]’”. (I've made the paper available here.) The paper actually grew out of a rough song history I had sketched on this blog. And I'm happy to say that there was a large audience and the presentation provoked a lot of discussion. 

In order to put my money where my mouth is, I guess—or rather to offer a realization of the vision of "Lowlands" that I presented in my paper, I thought it proper to sing it, in one of the evening open sessions. That I did, on Saturday night of the festival, but since I don't believe anyone recorded it, I did it afterwards, here:

There are two general highlights, for me, of the Mystic festivals. The first is the nighttime sessions, after the official evening concerts, which are held across the street from the Seaport in what they call the German Club. It's perhaps one of the biggest chanty "sings" one could find anywhere. Individuals simply begin a chanty when they like, and, if it is known enough, get the support of dozens of voices on the chorus. I skipped out on Thursday night's session, in order to rest for Friday morning's symposium (which was in Groton this time). But I was there for the entirety of Friday and Saturday (and dropped by for the after-hours session at Seaport, too). 

Friday I sang "Hooraw for the Blackball Line," with some original/personal verses—something I always aim to do at Mystic. Then I sang the rather "plaintive" "Roll and Go," thinking that most would not have heard it. The German Club sessions are also historically one of the places to "introduce" "new" or little-known songs. New friends Rachel and Jeff (visitors from Key West) captured my performance.

Saturday night at the German Club I sang my "Lowlands," along with this "shout out" chanty early in the night.

The second thing I am really drawn to at the festivals are the "Chanteys at Work" demos. This time, as before, I tried to participate in as manny as possible. Saturday had David Littlefield and Bob Walser as chantymen on the Joseph Conrad. One of the young Chanteens led the halyard haulers with "Serafina"—a bit shocking! In addition to the capstan and halyard demos, they did a cargo hoisting one this time, to such songs as "Lindy Lowe" and "Sun Down Below." I felt honored that the squad let me lead a halyard demo, for which I sang "Stormalong, lads, Stormy." On the L.A. Dunton later, Nicole Singer and Don Sineti led chanties as I volunteered helping heave the anchor with the windlass. 

On Sunday, during a "round robin" on the Joseph Conrad, I sang "Shiny O" with ad libbed lyrics. The working demo that day was on the Conrad with Denise Cannella, David Iler, and Rev Carr. Rev sang the Hawaiian song "Honolulu Hula Hula Heigh" at the halyards, and "Paddy Lay Back" at the capstan.

I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Rev and his mom in the nearby Stonington Borough, and felt welcomed by the wonderfully brave and talented Mystic squad, including an invite to their cozy squad BBQ.

Being a "participant" of sorts, I was shuffled into the stage area for the ritual closing chanties of the final concert (Sunday afternoon), "Old Maui" and "Leave Her, Johnny." Though locals might not care to admit it, the Mystic culture is rather "closed," relatively speaking. After this third festival visit, I felt like maybe I was starting to break in.

Until next year...hopefully,

Ranzo :{

Update: Less Blogging, More Chanty-learning

I have not made many entries here lately, though the project does continue. I have just been too overwhelmed with writing—writing other things. I have had three articles (on non-chanty related things) accepted and needing to be put in their final forms this Spring/Summer, which will appear in academic journals. That's the never-ending editing process. I had a conference paper to write for Summer, and I will have another I need to get working on for a Fall conference. I submitted yet another article to a journal, and I have another I am currently working on to submit. Then by the Fall I want to get started on writing a short book. So it has been too much of a writing overload and I don't have as much time or inclination to write entries on the chanties here.

I have, however, been learning lots of new songs. I had finished doing all the chanties in the core of this project, Hugill's Shanties from the Seven Seas. After that, I was revisiting them as I gave weekly local performances of one or two in Long Beach—my temporary port of 9 month. I'm now back in the Hartford, CT area, and with no performing outlet I have gone back to learning more chanties. Hugill got the great majority of them, but there were other sources of information that he did not see and which contain other chanties. I have haphazardly been digging into Harlow's Chanteying Aboard American Ships and also Beck's Folklore and the Sea. I eventually intend to go to some of the older, non-collection-style sources.

I've been filing all these "other" songs into a playlist.

Other Chanties and Sailor Songs

The YouTube descriptions of the songs have been, in a way, similar to the posts I make here. So that's where I've been at!

Ranzo :{

30 June 2012

#121 A-rollin’ Down the River (and “The Saucy Rosabella”)

Also known as “The Arabella,” this is in the vein of these “say something three times” songs like “Drunken Sailor” and “Roll the Old Chariot.” Such a song works well to pass a great deal of working time —e.g. for pumping out ship— without demanding much by way of creativity from the chantyman.

During my YouTube project, one of the interesting things I found about this chanty, as it appears in Stan Hugill’s Shanties from the Seven Seas, is the great degree of transcription error. The transcription goes through three different keys, for some reason, and also changes meter!  It presents a case where I believe the errors are so obvious that we should be wary of many of the other tunes presented by Hugill for which there is no other source to compare to.

When Hugill performed this chanty at Mystic Seaport in 1988, he mentioned that it had not yet been learned over there. He stressed that it was a very “American” chanty…which doesn’t mean a lot to me because I consider most to be rather American, ha! He finished his “Next time I come over here, I want to hear you all doin’ it!”

Here’s from my YouTube series:

“The Arabella” seems reasonably related (i.e. in the same stylistic family) to another chanty, known as “The Rosabella.” This is one that Hugill did not include in his collection, but has become known to audiences through other sources. The name of the vessel is similar, the melody is kind of similar, and they both have a “say a line 3 times” thing going on.

“The Saucy Rosabella” was mentioned by John Hutcheson in a letter to the Wellington Evening Post, 1934. Hutcheson had begun a sailing career in the Atlantic Ocean trade in 1871, and among the site he remembered,

            …I’ve heard the Jamaica niggers sing ‘The Saucy Rosabella’ or ‘Waitin’
for de Steamboat,’ or ‘Jimmy Riley,’ etc., as they rolled the big hogsheads of raw sugar or hove at the winch discharging their coastal drogher….

It’s interesting that he mentions Jamaica. Folklorist Horace Beck heard the chanty later on, in the 1950s, when he was discovering the still extant tradition in the Caribbean. It appears in his book Folklore and the Sea (1973).

There are field recordings of “The Rosabella,” made by JM Carpenter.  The first, made in 1929, is of JS Scott. Scott’s career had started in 1863, but he was active until 1903. The cylinder recording is available from Folktrax. The second is of John McPherson (first went to sea 1880) singing “I shipped on board the Rosabella.”

“The Rosabella” was revived based in Scott’s rendition. It appears especially popular among Continental European choirsYet it has also been sung by many in Anglophone countries, such as Holdstock and Macleodand is well known enough to become established as a chanty one may use for working demonstrations at Mystic Seaport.

The song’s “Revival” origins begin with Tom and Barbara Brown, who came upon an unpublished manuscript of Cecil Sharp. Sharp had collected the song from his main chanty informant, John Short (sea career 1858-1875) in 1914. The verses included were as follows.

I’m going on board the Rosabella
I’m going on board the Rosabella
I’m going on board, right down to board
The saucy Rosabella

O one Monday morning in the month of May
One Monday morning in the month of May
I thought I heard our captain say
            The Rosabella will sail today [Notes from Tom Brown, on Mudcat]

According to Tom, they first recorded a revived rendition of the song (with added lyrics) on the North Devon Maritime Museum’s cassette Over The Bar in 1979. After this, the well-known chanty duo of Johnny Collins and Jim Mageean picked it up. All this was done at the time in isolation from the few other sources I have noted above.

After considering these sources, however, and releasing the third volume of the Short Sharp Shanties project CDs (2012), folks synthesized a rendition that included bits of them all. Here it is, sung by Sam Lee.

I decided to try my hand at the “Rosabella” chanty, but because it had not really been tackled, I tried rendering Beck’s text. Beck doesn’t say where specifically he heard the version he presents, though it seems from other notes in the book that it was probably in Bequia (the Genadines) or Carriacou (Grenada). Then again, he doesn’t cite the work being performed. It might have been hauling in or pushing out a boat from/to sea, or working cargo, perhaps. There are spoken interjections of “heave away” that Beck has transcribed, however it seems like a hauling action (I’ve noticed that, unlike the case with deepwater sailors, “heave” has been used in the Caribbean to emphasize pulls). It’s not clear whether the workers paused when these directions and words of encouragement were spoken (i.e. somewhat like the style of the Menhaden fishermen and their chanteys), or if the beat was continuous. I picked the latter. The recurring “heave away” is actually reminiscent of another chanty about a vessel presented by Hugill, “The Albertina.” The result is completely unauthentic, but hopefully would help us get a step closer towards envisioning this chanty.

With mouth watering for dat bulgine pie,

Ranzo :{

24 June 2012

#119 Shenandoah (Bullen) (/Shiny-O / Down Trinidad)

This is not the “main” Shenandoah (which I’ve already blogged about), yet like “Sally Brown,” it probably has some fundamental relationship to it. Just as we find that the name “Shenandoah” seems to have been related to, or at least crossed with, “Sally Brown” and her friend “Shallow Brown” (to come later), the present chanty set offers some variations: “Shenandoh,” “Shiny O,” and “Sunny Dore,” etc.

The present is a chanty that has yet to take any sort of standard or codified form within the Revival era. There was simply not enough evidence of it for it to form a class of its own as one of the clear items of the chanty repertoire. As such, Stan Hugill included it in Shanties from the Seven Seas, but simply as he’d found it in Frank Bullen’s collection and put it alongside the usual “Shenandoah.” When I came across it during my Shanties from the Seven Seas YouTube project, I could not find evidence that anyone else had ever tried to recreate the song from the text. In other words, the chanty was one that had never (to my current knowledge) been revived. Here was my rendition of the time.

YouTuber “StatenIslandFolkie” was inspired by the beauty of the chanty, and a year and a half later came out with this great expanded version.

 What we know of this particular variation all comes from Bullen’s Songs of Sea Labour (1914). He learned it from local stevedores in Demerara in 1869, at the very start of his career. Bullen chose only to present one verse of each chanty, since he reasoned that chanties were variable and/or improvised and to give the idea of any set song form would be disingenuous. Here’s the verse he gave:

Oh Shenandoh my bully boy I long to hear you holler;
Way ay ay ay ay Shenandoh
I lub ter bring er tot er rum en see ye make a swoller;
Way ay ay ay Shenandoh!

Because Bullen’s “Shenandoah” was never revived, and perhaps never really studied much, I am not aware that people have made the connection between this and two other chanties that have had some life in the Revival era. Neither, however, appeared in Hugill’s collection.

The first of these has gone under the title of “Shiny O.” Though it appeared in a 1946 article, Hugill had not seen that before his 1961 SfSS. He later introduced the wider Revival audience to this source in one of his SPIN magazine articles.

The original article was by James Tate Hatfield in the Journal of American Folklore. In it, Hatfield recalls chanties he’d heard on a barque from Pensacaloa to Nice, all the way back in 1886. However, Hatfield noted down the chantymen’s songs at the time. They are reproduced with a few obvious notational errors. The crew of the barque was all Jamaican.

Along with melody, Hatfield presents the following text:

Captain, Captain, you love your brandy,
A-a-a-a-a-ay, shiny O!
Captain, Captain, I love your daughter,
A-a-a-a-a-ay, Shiny O!

O ferryman, ferryman, won't you ferry me over?
Won't you ferry me from Queenstown across over to Dover?

O from Queenstown to Dover's a hundred miles or over;
From Queenstown to Dover's a hundred miles or over!

Captain, Captain, how deep is the water?
She measures one inch, six feet and a quarter.

The Hen and the Chickens were all flying over,
And when she pitches, she pitches into Dover.

O Captain, Captain, what is the matter?
I lose my wife and my pretty little daughter.

O rivers, rivers, rivers are rolling;
Rivers are rolling and I can't get over!

I am not sure who was very first to actually attempt to sing this “Shiny O” in the Revival era. Stan Hugill did begin to perform it himself at some point in the 1970s. There is a recording of him singing it on a 1979 live recording. He introduces the song rather roughly and inaccurately, saying the song “came from a White man who heard these 3 Negros singing this on a ship from Philadelphia to Genoa a good many years ago”! Close enough. He sings the lyrics from Hatfield, though he makes the first verse rhyme by inserting “dandy.” However, Hugill does not sing the melody from Hatfield, which tells us he must have made that up (since he was evidently not fluent in reading music notation). Nonetheless, this creation of Hugill went on to become one of the Revival versions of the song. Its melody can be sampled in this rendition by The Johnson Girls.

Another notable performer of “Shiny O” was the Bristol Shantymen., as on their 1987 album Clear the Decks. Their rendition is faithful to the melody and verses (with minor edits) of the Hatfield article. Incidentally, they have harmonized the song in a way that sounds very “British,” in my opinion. Certainly not how I’d imagine Jamaican chantymen to have done. (This is a good example for my point, in a discussion on Mudcat a while back, that it doesn’t make sense to just harmonize randomly according to what “sounds good” if one is hoping at all to achieve a somewhat authentic chanty style—because different styles of harmony suggest different cultural bases that may not be appropriate to the style of chanties as they were.) A more subtle critique of mine, perhaps ironically, is that I think we can see from the Hatfield lyrics that this song really had no such set verses, and that they were probably improvised.  In my opinion, singers would be better off and more “traditional” to just ad-lib their lyrics in the moment (they don’t even have to rhyme!!). I expand on the point in a post HERE.

And I did this recently to make a point when singing this for the young singers at Mystic Seaport. One of the young people had early been singing and got “stuck” 2 verses into a chanty he was leading. It turns out the chanty was one that doesn’t even have couplets; it’s just basically a non-rhyming sentence for each verse. What I wanted to suggest was that he could have sung anything, even “lalala” or “I can’t remember the words…” instead of breaking the flow.
Here’s my YouTube rendition of “Shiny O,” replete with ad-libbing:

 The other variation on the chanty under discussion is one fairly popular in American circles today.  This “Down Trinidad” is known to us through a 1928 transcription by J.M. Carpenter, of the singer Richard Warner of Wales (who learned it at some point after 1877). According to notes of Carpenter, conveyed by Bob Walser (in a 1998 issue of Folk Music Journal),  the song seems to have been ascribed to stevedores screwing cotton in Barbados and screwing cotton in the U.S. Carpenter noted that it was of Black origin and locally based. The lyrics were these:

            Oh massa stevedore, how you stow your cargo?
                        Way sing Sunny Dore!
            Oh tell me massa stevedore, how you stow your cargo?
                        Bound down Trinidad to look for Sunny Dore.

            Oh booch free me bully boys and burtoned in the archway.
                        Way, sing Sunny Dore,
Oh booch free me bully boys and burtoned in the archway,
                        Bound down Trinidad to look for Sunny Dore.

            Oh Trinidad! Oh Trinidad!
            The pretty little harbor!

            What will you do with Sunny Dore,
            If ever you should find her?

            Oh, roll her in the grass me boys,
            And all amongst the clover.

Bob Walser went on to introduce this to the sea music scene on his 1999 album, When Our Ship Comes HomeHis rendition adds lyrics culled from a couple other sources. This version of the song is especially popular in the scene revolving around Mystic Seaport, where it was taken up by Forebitter and where in the last few years I’ve heard program director Geoff Kaufmann sing it many times.

 These variations can be connected (as also suggested by Bob Walser) even further to a set of “Sing Sally-O” chanties that Hugill did include in his collection. Yet for that reason, they will be discussed at the proper time. Until then…

Longing to hear ya holler,

Ranzo :{

03 April 2012

#115-118, 120 Shenandoah (series)

The expansive, the romantic…the iconically American. We move out of the “valley” of little-known chanties, in Stan Hugill’s Shanties from the Seven Seas, and find towering before us this ubiquitous classic, a song which one might say has transcended the chanty genre, while still being one of its key pieces of repertoire.

What is the most famous chanty? “Drunken Sailor”? “Blow the Man Down”? It may well actually be “Shenandoah,” although most of those who now know it would not know it as a chanty. Though it has been speculated that it may have come to sailors from riverboat men, it is first as a chanty that it was documented, for many decades.

As this post will demonstrate at length, and while the original meaning of “Shenandoah” is unknown, the textual theme seems closely linked to the hoary theme of “Sally Brown.”

In my historical survey, “Shenandoah” turns up at least 28 times with reference to times through the 1880s, making it among the “top ten” chanties. I will present a selective chronology of these.

The memoirs of Gen. William Jackson Palmer put “Shenandoah” as having been sung at least as early as 1856, on a packet ship bound from Liverpool to New York. Mentioned alongside “Mister Stormalong” and “Santiana,” this suggests it was among the older (but not necessarily oldest) batch of chanties.

The song is not mentioned in publication, that I know of, until the 1860s. Clark’s Seven Years of a Sailor’s Life (1867), also the first to use the word chanty, mentions one called “Rolling River.” It was sung while raising the anchor on a clipper ship from Bombay to New York, c. 1860-1.

An April 1868 issue of The Riverside Magazine for Young People is the first to offer a text, as it was sung at the capstan during a voyage on the Atlantic. The lyrical themes are those typically associated with “Sally Brown” and “Blow, Boys, Blow.” In this first appearance of the name, it is not as “Shenandoah,” but as “Shannydore.” Perhaps notably, we also don’t see “Missouri,” but rather “Atlantic.”
O, Shannydore, I long to hear you!               
Away, you rollin' river!                                                               
O, Shannydore, I long to hear you!
Ah ha! I'm bound away
On the wild Atlantic!
Oh, a Yankee ship came down the river:
And who do you think was skipper of her?

Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her:
Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her!

An' what do you think she had for cargo?
She had rum and sugar, an' monkeys' liver!

Then seven year I courted Sally:
An' seven more I could not get her.

Because I was a tarry sailor,
For I loved rum, an' chewed terbaccy.

Later published works also suggest this chanty was common in the 1860s. A work describing Yankee “hellships” of that decade (Boyd, The Shellback, 1899), tells us the anchor was raised on the ship Altamont, from Melbourne to South America’s West Coast, to the chorus of “Rolling River.” Adams’ account (1879) tells us that in the late 1860s the men sang it at halyards. Similar to the above, he calls it “Shanadore” and suggests a “Sally Brown” theme—at least, it says that Shannadore” is a “bright mulatto.” But “he” is also a “packet sailor” and “it” is a “rolling river.” One presumes that lyrical themes were already mixed at this point; mixed, but certainly not fixed. Adams is first in print to suppose that the Shenandoah River is meant, and yet the lyrics sketch no set theme.

One of the best illustrations of the absolute nothingness that characterizes the words of these songs, is given by the utterances attending the melody called “Shanadore,” which probably means Shenandoah, a river in Virginia. I often have heard such confusing statements as the following:—

Shannadore's a rolling river,
      Hurrah, you rolling river.
Oh, Shannadore's a rolling river.
      Ah hah, I'm bound away o'er the wild Missouri.

Shanadore's a packet sailor,
Shanadore's a bright mulatto,
Shanadore I long to hear you.

and so the song goes on, according to the ingenuity of the impromptu composer.

Since this would be one of very few attributions of the chanty to work at halyards, I’ll mention here another “Shanadar” for halyards from that time period. A James Thomas, one of Cecil Sharp’s (1914) informants, said he heard it often while sailing to America on the ship The City of Washington in 1870. It allegedly contained four “pulls” per verse. Only one verse was noted.

Shanadar is a rolling river,
E-o, I-o, E-o, I-o.

Hugill reproduced the example in his collection, which I recorded here:

Capt. Whall learned most of his chanties in the 1860s, so we might assume that his version of “Shenandoah” reflects that period. However, his orthography and other details might have been influenced by events before he first published in 1906. Indeed, I suspect he adjusted his presentation to conform to what had by then become a rather well-known song in the mainstream. Whall states that the usual pronunciation was “Shannadore,” so his spelling is a rationalization based on what he assumes was meant. He claims to have actually heard the song on land in the late 1850s or early 1860s before hearing it at sea, and speculates that it was originally a song of the voyageurs of North American rivers. This is an example of the "Indian maiden" theme.

Missouri she’s a mighty river.
Away you rolling river.
The redskins’ camp lie on its borders.
Ah-ha I’m bound away ‘cross the wide Missouri.

The white man loved the Indian maiden,
With notions his canoe was laden.

“O, Shenandoah, I love your daughter,
I’ll take her ‘cross yon rolling water.”

Whall’s melody has the pitch movement “sol-mi” at the end of the first phrase. Note at this point that it is different from today’s typical “la-sol.”

Hugill’s version “B” corresponds to the “Indian maiden” theme—which I believe he must have developed partly under the influence of Whall.

Estimated (by me) to have been learnt in the 1860s is the version collected by Cecil Sharp from John Allen in 1909. As Sharp was being descriptive, we get the form “Shanadar.” As in the “redskin” theme, Shanadar’s daughter is being asked for. With no actual mention of Indians, however, this again is very similar to “Sally Brown.”

O Shanadar I’ll have your daughter;
Way-o, you rolling ruin;
I love her as I love the water,
Ha! Ha!
I’m bound away across the wild Missouri.

O Shanadar what is the matter?
Your daughter's here and I am at her,

The melody here also has “sol-mi.” Please note that that pattern is shared with the Sally Brown variant called “Walkalong, You Sally Brown.”

The idea of "Shenandoah, I Love your Daughter" was also attested, as sung in the mid-1860s, by an apprentice of a West Indiaman (The Master, Mate and Pilot 7(2) (July 1914)). His barque from Liverpool to Barbados included Black crew members from Baltimore and U.S. cotton ports. The crew sang the chanty while discharging cargo.

“Love your daughter” is transformed to “love your waters” in the version remembered by Fred Buryeson (1909), a sailor of the 1860s-80s. (Again, the spelling of “Shenandoah” may have been tweaked for this later publication.)

Shenandoah, I love your waters;
And away, you rolling river
I love your clear and rushing waters
Ah, ah, ah, we’re bound away, across the wide Missouri.

The ship sails free, a gale is blowing;
Her braces taut and sheet a-flowing.

Shenandoah, I love to hear you;
Shenandoah, I long to see you.

Black-eyed Sue is sure a beauty;
To sing her praise it is our duty.

Shenandoah, I'll ne'er forget you,
But think of you and love you ever.

Give me a good old Yankee clipper,
A bully crew and swearing skipper.

Shenandoah, my heart is longing
To see again your rolling waters.

Good shipmates always pull together,
No matter what the wind or weather.

Shenandoah, I'd love to see you,
And hear again your tumbling waters.

Shenandoah, my thoughts will ever
Be where you are, sweet rolling river.

Richard Maitland’s version, collected by Doerflinger, may date back to 1869, when he first learned chanties in the schoolship Mercury. Doerflinger transcribed it as follows.

Shanadore, I love your daughter,
Hooway, you rolling river,
Oh, Shanadore, I love your daughter,
Hyah, bound away, To the wild Missouri!

For seven long years I’ve courted your daughter.
Oh, Shanadore, I want to marry.

Now, Shanadore, will you give me your word to?
Oh, Shanadore, give me your word to,

To marry your daughter, I love her dearly.

Evidence for this chanty in the 1870s decade comes from R.W. Gordon and F.P. Harlow. Robinson’s remembered version, which could be tied to that time, appears in this later-published (1917) form:

Shenandoah! I long to hear you—
Hurrah! you rolling river.
Oh, Shenandoah! I long to hear you—
And hurrah! we’re bound away! On the wide Missouri!

I love the murmuring of your waters,
I love the beauty of your daughters.

Seven long years since I lost Dinah;
I've searched seven years. I cannot find her.

'Twas down in Shenandoah's sweet valley 

Where first I met and courted Sally.

To Shenandoah I am returning.

My heart for thee is ever burning.

When wide Missouri's call is over, 

I will go back and stay forever.

Published and learned around the same time is Bullen’s similar version:

Shanandoh, I long ter hear ye;
A way, you rolling river;
Oh Shanandoh I can’t get near ye
Ha ha! I’m bound away on the wide Missouri!

Chanty collector R.R. Terry said he learned the song as a boy. The version he offers (1920, 1921), also ca.1870s in origin, is quite similar to the preceding two. However, its melody contains the “la-sol” figure.

Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you.

Away you rolling river.

Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you.

Away, I'm bound to go
'Cross the wide Missouri.

Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter.

'Tis seven long years since last I see thee.

Oh Shenandoah, I took a notion

To sail across the stormy ocean.

Oh Shenandoah, I'm bound to leave you.

Oh Shenandoah, I'll not deceive you.

Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you.

The only contemporary reference I have from the 70s comes in MacGahan’s Under the Northern Lights (1876). MacGahan, a correspondent of the New York Herald was on the ship Pandora sailing Artic waters when the men at the capstan sang,

Oh, Shanadoa, I longs to hear you.
Ha! ha! the rolling water.
Oh, Shanadoa, I longs to hear you.
Ho! ho! the cold, pale water.

Oh, Shanadoa, I've seen your daughter,

Oh, Shanadoa, I loves your daughter.

When I return I'll wed your daughter.

For seven long years I woo'd your daughter.

Oh, Shanadoa, where is your daughter?

Oh, Shanadoa, beneath the water.

Oh, Shanadoa, there lies your daughter.

1880s publications provide several recent or contemporary versions. In his Harper’s article (1882), Alden states,

One of the best known of the windlass songs was the “Shanandore”:

You Shanandore, I long to hear you.
Hurrah, you rollin' river!
You Shanandore, I long to hear you.
Ah, ha, you Shanandore.

This is clearly of negro origin, for the “Shanandore” is evidently the river Shenandoah. In course of time some shanty-man of limited geographical knowledge, not comprehending that the “Shanandore” was a river, but conceiving that the first chorus required explanation, changed the second chorus. Thus the modified song soon lost all trace of the Shenandoah River, and assumed the following form, in which it was known to the last generation of sailors:

For seven long years I courted Sally.
Hurrah, you rollin' river!
I courted Sally down in yon valley.
Ah, ha! I'm bound away on the wild Missouri.

Alden’s was only about the third version in publication. I’m not sure what evidence he had to actually draw this conclusion—essentially that the song was originally about the Shenandoah River, but then got confused with Sally Brown. Nor do I see the evidence, though the theory itself is reasonable. I find it interesting that his “old” version has a symmetrical form, that one would expect from a chanty, whereas the “newer” version (known to us) has the longer second refrain. Quite honestly, I’m not sure how one could sing “Shenandoah” at the brake windlass, due to this asymmetry.

An 1884 The New York Times article gives this:

Shanadore is my native valley,
Hurrah, rolling river,
Shanadore I love your daughters,
Ah-ha, bound away 'cross the wild Missouri.

For seven long years I courted Sally,
Seven more and I could not get her,

Seven long years I was a 'Frisco trader,
Seven more I was a Texas ranger.

Having just seen the above, probably authentic, text, once might declare that to attempt to distinguish distinct “versions” of this chanty is rather pointless. For his versions “C” and “D”, Hugill presented one text with “Shenandoah” as a geographic place and the other as the Sally Brown theme. But seeing as how singers mixed both kinds of lyrics, along with other “floaters,” I saw no reason to artificially distinguish. The following recording is meant to do duty for “both” versions.

Continuing the history…
In 1887 we have Davis and Tozer’s chanty collection. Their version does not even contain the name “Shenandoah.” As in other cases in the collection, perhaps the authors felt the need to rationalize what they could not explain. Perhaps not. This just means the version takes the cast of “Sally Brown.”

The Wide Missouri

Oh, Polly Brown, I love your daughter,
Away my rolling river!
Polly Brown, I love your daughter,
Ah! Ah! we're bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri.

Oh, Polly's girl just took my fancy,
She's clipper built, her name is Nancy

She lives alone in London City,
Perhaps you'll think it more's the pity

I take her coral beads and laces,
I love to call her "Queen of Faces"

The ship sails free, a gale is blowing,
The braces taut, the sheet's a-flowing 

Oh! Polly Brown, I love you dearly,
My heart is yours, or very nearly

Commentators are unanimous in calling “Shenandoah” an “American” song. W. Clark Russell (1892) wrote,

[Americans] invented the double topsail yards ; they invented the “chanty,” the inspiring choruses of the windlass and the capstan, such hurricane airs as “Across the Western Ocean,” “Run, Let the Bulljine Run!” “Shanadoah,” “Old Stormy,” “Bully in the Alley,” “ Cheerily, Men!” and scores besides…

...while Whitmarsh (1903) stated,

Thus we find a number of ancient airs set to words distinctly American, such as those of “Shenandoah,” “Sally Brown,” and “On the Banks of the Sacramento.” The first two doubtless came from some Southern cotton ports, as they bear ear-marks of negro singers.

The turn of the 20th century brought “Shenandoah” into the mainstream consciousness. Bradford and Fagge included a performance version in their 1904 mini collection.

Shanadoah, I love your daughter,
Away ye rolling river!
Shanadoah, I long to hear you.
Away we're bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri!

The ship sails free, a gale is blowing,
The braces taut, the sheets aflowing,

Shanadoah, I’ll ne'er forget you,
Till I die, I’ll love you ever,

It’s melody had some original variations. This version had the honor of the first to be recorded, on cylinder by the Minster Singers in 1905.

During the chanty boom of the 1920s, in addition to Terry’s version already mention, we have Colcord’s collected version (1924). The “Sally Brown” type theme is continued.

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you, 

Way hay, you rolling river! 

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Ha ha, we're bound away, 'cross the wide Missouri! 

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughter, 

Missouri she's a mighty river; 

When she rolls down her topsails shiver. 

Seven years I courted Sally, 

Seven more I longed to have her. 

Farewell, my dear, I'm bound to leave you,
Oh, Shenandoah, I'll not deceive you.

Shay (1924) and Bone (1931) offered similar texts to what we’ve been seeing.

This era saw several commercial recordings of the chanty. I don’t believe the 1905 (English) Minster Singers recording was very influential. But in June 1917, Henry Burr and Albert Campbell recorded the song, arranged by “Halsey K. Mohr,” for the Victor label. It reached #9 on the Billboard chart in October 1917. I don’t know what source they used, but it’s quite possible that this recording introduced the U.S. nation at-large to the song, and set an influential standard.

Recordings of the song in the 1920s were set among other chanties, and contemporary reviews make it clear that the song was well-known by that time. John Goss and the Cathedral Singers recorded it for HMV in 1925. John Buckley recorded it for Vocalion, Kenneth Ellis for Patlophone, Robert Carr for Edison Bell, and John Thorne for Aco in 1926-7. Thus it was among the most recorded of early chanties, though as we know today, the song has lost it’s association with the chanty genre for many audiences.

A couple observations... 

First is that the lyrical clich├ęs of “Shenandoah” and “Sally Brown” seem hopelessly mixed throughout most versions. Though one may suspect that an “original” Shenandoah was altered to conform to Sally Brown stuff (for Sally Brown appears to have been the earlier known song amongst sailors), there is no clear evidence to form a strong opinion on how the development may have taken place. The “Indian maiden” theme, which would suggest something independent, really only appears in the sailor version of Whall. I am not clear (though I suspect it would entail a study of non-chanty “folk song” volumes of the 20th c, or commercial recordings) how this theme became so dominant in the landsman’s version of this song, though I can see why it would be more popular than Sally Brown for folksong-singers. In any case, the Shenandoah chanty of sailing history looks to be a Sally Brown with a different emphasis. While Sally Brown has a bittersweet feel, part “love ‘em and leave ‘em” swagger and part “love sucks”…Shenandoah emphasizes the yearning aspect of separation—inching ever more towards the violent separation of “Shallow Brown” and its echoes of the slave experience. I feel as though Sally Brown is sung in a “male” voice (to a female) and Shenandoah is sung in a “female” voice (to a male). The chanties are the two sides of a single experience.

The melancholic—shall we say “shallo”?—aspect of the song is emphasized in Hugill’s version “A,” which he learned from an African-American informant. It has a nostalgic feel throughout. For reference, note that it also has the (discussed below) “la-sol” melodic figure. In fact, Hugill gave just one melody to be used for all of his text variations.

Second observation is that the melody in almost all the versions I’ve examined has the figure sol-mi, as opposed to today’s popular la-sol. Only Terry’s—whose collection I’ve seen to be one of the most influential on revival interpretations—has the latter figure. (Some of the other 1920s collections may also have it, but they are not currently with me to check.) As further evidence we have JM Capenter’s field recording of Jack Murray, who learned chanties between 1867 and 1885. His “Shanadore” can be heard sung with sol-mi. The implication of all this is that today we may be singing Shenandoah the “wrong” (or the uncommon) way.

Here are the Barouallie Whalers singing their orally transmitted version, “Oh My Rolling River.” They have preserved in it the “original” sol-mi pattern. Incidentally, another related chanty that was still in use by off-shore whalers in the Caribbean, as collected by Abrahams in his Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore (1974), uses the name "Salambo," which I think is a nice mid-point between "Shenadore" and "Sally Brown."

Ever longing to hear your daughters' waters,

Ranzo :{