Archive for the 'Seafaring' Category



Away Rio


h1 Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

On December 1, 2007 the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago celebrated its 50th anniversary. This is a song that I learned there 50 years ago. I love sea chanteys and this is one of my favorites! American sailors who sang this disdained any pronunciation other than “Ry oh.”
Lyrics:
[E] Have you ever been out on the [B7] Rio [E] Grande?
Away Rio
It’s [A] there that the [E] river runs down [B7] golden [E] sand
And we’re bound for the [B7] Rio [E] Grande

CH

[E] Away [B7] boys [E] away
Away Rio
So [A] fare ye [E] well my [B7] bonny young [E] girl
And we’re bound for the [B7] Rio [E] Grande

It’s pack up your sea chest and get under way
Away Rio
The girls we are leaving can take half our pay
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

CH

Oh the anchor is weighed and the sails they are set
Away Rio
The maidens we’re leaving we’ll never forget
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

CH

Sing good bye to Sally and sue
Away Rio
And all who are listening, it’s good bye to you
And we’re bound for the Rio Grande

The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry


h1 Thursday, March 1st, 2007

This is Child Ballad No.113
“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry” is one of numerous tales of
the Silkies, or seafolk, known to the inhabitants of the Orkney
Islands and the Hebrides. These enchanted creatures dwell in the
depth of the sea, occasionally doffing their seal skins to pass
on land as mortal men. Legend has it that they then accept human
partners, and some families on the islands actually trace their
ancestry to such marriages. In more complete versions of the
ballad, the Silkie’s forecast of the death of himself and his son
eventually come to pass.
Thanks to Mudcat Cafe for that information
Lyrics:
[G] An earthly [F] nurse sits and [G] sings,
And aye, she [C] sings by [D] lily [G] wean,
And [C] little ken [D] I my bairn’s [G] father,
Far [F] less the land where he [G] dwells in.

For he came on night to her bed feet,
And a grumbly guest, I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairn’s father,
Although I be not comely.”

“I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie on the sea,
And when I’m far and far frae land,
My home it is in Sule Skerrie.”

And he had ta’en a purse of gold
And he had placed it upon her knee,
Saying, “Give to me my little young son,
And take thee up thy nurse’s fee.”

“And it shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines bright on every stane,
I’ll come and fetch my little young son,
And teach him how to swim the faem.”

“And ye shall marry a gunner good,
And a right fine gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’er he shoots
Will kill both my young son and me.”

The House Carpenter


h1 Thursday, February 1st, 2007

“The House Carpenter” is a popular name for Child Ballad No. 243. The official names are “James Harris,” or “The Daemon Lover.” This ballad may have been partially inspired by an ancient myth that was a catalyst for Richard Wagner’s operatic masterpiece, “The Flying Dutchman.”
Lyrics:
[Em] “Well met, well met, my own true love,
well met, well met,” cried he.
“I’ve just returned from the salt, salt sea
[D] all for the love of [Em] thee.”

“I could have married the King’s daughter dear,
she would have married me.
But I have forsaken her crowns of gold
all for the love of thee.”

“Well, if you could have married the King’s daughter dear,
I’m sure you are to blame,
For I am married to a house carpenter,
and find him a nice young man.”

“Oh, will you forsake your house carpenter
and go along with me?
I’ll take you to where the grass grows green,
to the banks of the salt, salt sea.”

“Well, if I should forsake my house carpenter
and go along with thee,
What have you got to maintain me on
and keep me from poverty?”

“Six ships, six ships all out on the sea,
seven more upon dry land,
One hundred and ten all brave sailor men
will be at your command.”

She picked up her own wee babe,
kisses gave him three,
Said “Stay right here with my house carpenter
and keep him good company.

Then she putted on her rich attire,
so glorious to behold.
And as she trod along her way,
she shown like the glittering gold.

Well, they’d not been gone but about two weeks,
I know it was not three.
When this fair lady began to weep,
she wept most bitterly.

“I do not weep for my house carpenter
or for any golden store.
I do weep for my own wee babe,
who never I shall see anymore.”

Well, they’d not been gone but about three weeks,
I’m sure it was not four.
Our gallant ship sprang a leak and sank,
never to rise anymore.

One time around spun our gallant ship,
two times around spun she,
Three times around spun our gallant ship
and sank to the bottom of the sea.

Whup Jamboree


h1 Sunday, October 1st, 2006

This is a song I recorded with the Chad Mitchell Trio in 1961. It’s a cotton screwing shanty. There was a time in the 1800s when, with the approach of winter, Irish crews would desert their Western Packet ships to head south to work in the cotton stowing ports like Mobile or New Orleans.
Lyrics:
[Em] Whup Jam [G] boree, whup jambo [D] ree
[Em] Oh a long-tailed sailor man comin’ up [D] behind
[Em] Whup Jam [G] boree, whup jambo [D] ree
[Em] Come an’ get your [D] oats me [Em] son

The pilot he looked out ahead
The hands on the cane and the heavin’ of the lead
And the old man roared to wake the dead
Come and get your oats me son

Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Oh a long-tailed sailor man comin’ up behind
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Come an’ get your oats me son

Oh, now we see the lizzard light
Soon, me boys, we’ll heave in sight
We’ll soon be abreast of the Isle of Wight
Come and get your oats me son

Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Oh a long-tailed sailor man comin’ up behind
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Come an’ get your oats me son

Now when we get to the black wall dock
Those pretty young girls come out in flocks
With short-legged drawers and long-tailed frocks
Come and get your oats me son

Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Oh a long-tailed sailor man comin’ up behind
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Come an’ get your oats me son

Wel,, then we’ll walk down limelight way
And all the girls will spend our pay
We’ll not see more ’til another day
Come and get your oats me son

Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Oh a long-tailed sailor man comin’ up behind
Whup Jamboree, whup jamboree
Come an’ get your oats me son

Perry’s Victory


h1 Friday, September 1st, 2006

This song has the same tune as “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning.” The first part of the tune also sounds a lot like “Squid Jigging Ground,” which was obviously influenced by “St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning.”

It’s about a famous battle that took place on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Charlotte, wife of George III, was reputed to enjoy a nip of “Perry,” or pear brandy; which may have affected her judgment causing the British to lose the battle.

Bill Lee adds this bit of history from his 12 years in Ohio schools:

Although facing many adverse conditions, including lack of men and materials, Perry and his men successfully completed six vessels by July 1813. These six were joined by others from Buffalo. Two months later, on September 10, 1813, the American squadron commanded by Perry fought a British squadron commanded by Captain Robert Barclay, RN.

The Battle of Lake Erie began with Perry aboard his flagship LAWRENCE. In the early stages of the battle, however, LAWRENCE and her crew took most of the enemy’s fire. LAWRENCE was severely damaged and over 80 percent of Perry’s crew were killed or wounded by concentrated British gunfire. In an attempt to change defeat to victory, Perry, carrying his battle flag emblazoned with Captain Lawrence’s dying words, “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” transferred from LAWRENCE to the lightly damaged NIAGARA in a small boat. He took command of NIAGARA and sailed her into the British battle line. The British had also taken heavy casualties from the Lawrence’ fire. Broadsides from the fresh NIAGARA compelled their surrender within 15 minutes of Perry’s transfer.

Immediately following his victory at the Battle of Lake Erie, Perry penned the famous words, ‘We have met the enemy and they are ours…” in his report to General William Henry Harrison.

Lyrics:
PERRY’S VICTORY

(Andrew C. Mitchell circa. 1813)

[F] As old Queen Charlott, a [Dm] worthless old varlet
[Gm] Our brave naval forces was [Bb F] scor-ning,
[F] She wished to be merry, so [Dm] called for some Perry,
[Gm] September the tenth in the [Bb F] mor-ning.
[Dm] When brisk Perry came, she [Am] found him true game,
[Dm] To her cost too, he gave her a [Gm C] warning,
[F] So let us be merry [Dm] remembering Perry
[Gm] September the tenth in the [Bb F] morning.

It was on Lake Erie, when all hands were cheery,
A fleet was descried in morning,
‘Twas Queen Charlott’s fleet, so handsome and neat,
In bold line of battle were forming;
But when evening came, though the fleet were the same
That our brave naval forces were scorning,
They were beat, so complete, that they yielded the fleet,
To the one they despis’d in the morning.

Now let us remember the tenth of September,
When Yankees gave Britons a warming,
When our foes on Lake Erie, were beaten and weary,
So full of conceit in the morning;
To the skillful, and brave, who our country did save,
Our gratitude ought to be warming,
So let us be merry, in toasting of Perry,
September the tenth in the morning.

As old Queen Charlott, a worthless old varlet
Our brave naval forces was scorning,
She wished to be merry, so called for some Perry,
September the tenth in the morning.

Ruben Ranzo


h1 Monday, October 17th, 2005

Ranzo_in_Oilskins.jpg

Ruben Ranzo

Ruben Ranzo, an inexperienced sailor is shanghaied aboard a whaling ship. The captain's daughter takes pity on him, teaches him navigation and the finer points of sailing, marries him and he becomes the finest sailor on the seas.

It has been suggested that Ranzo is a corruption of the name Lorenzo. American whaling ships often recruited Portugese seamen in the Azores, and Ranzo may have been one of these.

* The holy stone resembled a vacuum cleaner in shape, but weighed around twenty-five pounds. A round stone was at the end of a handle. Sand was put on the deck and sailors scrubbed to get the gunk out of the wood.

Lyrics:
Oh, poor old Ruben Ranzo,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
Oh, poor old Ruben Ranzo,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

Oh, Ranzo was no sailor,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
He was a New York tailor
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

He was a New York tailor
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
Shanghaied aboard a whaler,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

They put him holy-stonin' *
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
And cared not for his groanin'
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

They gave him lashes thirty
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
Because he was so dirty
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

They gave him lashes twenty
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
That's twenty more than plenty
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

Ah Ranzo nearly fainted
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
When his back with oil was painted
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

The captain gave him thirty
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
His daughter begged for mercy
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

She took him to her cabin
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
And tried to ease his moanin'
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

Oh, she give him rum and water,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
And a bit more than she ought to,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

She gave him education
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
And taught him navigation
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

She made him the best sailor
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
On board that New York whaler
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

He married the captain's daughter
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
And still sails on salt water
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

Now he's known wherever them whale-fish blow,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo
As the toughest whaler on the go,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo

So Early In The Spring


h1 Sunday, May 1st, 2005

early_spring.jpg

This is a sea chantey that got distilled, and transformed into a love ballad in the Appalachian Mountains. The origin is Scottish, but the lyrical style is obviously from the Southern United States. Many settlers to the New World brought their music with them, only to have it subtly changed over time.

Another example of this phenomenon is Jean Ritchie's song 'Nottamun Town,' which only survived by being brought to North America. When, as a Fulbright Scholar she visited Nottingham, England to research the roots of the song, it had completely disappeared in its original form.

Appalachian Traditional Music, A Short History:
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/appalach.htm

Lyrics:
SO EARLY IN THE SPRING

[A] It being early in the spring
I went on board to serve my [E] king
[A] Leaving my dearest [F#m] dear behind
She [E] oftimes swore her heart was[F#m] mine

As I lay smiling in her arms
I thought I held ten thousand charms
With embraces kind and a kiss so sweet
Saying We'll be married when next we meet

As I was sailing on the sea
I took a kind opportunity
Of writing letters to my dear
But scarce one word from her did hear

As I was walking up London Street
I shoved a letter from under my feet
Straight lines being wrote without any blot
Saying seldom seen is soon forgot

I went up to her father's hall
And for my dearest dear did call
She's married, sir, she's better for life
For she has become a rich man's wife

If the girl is married, whom I adore
I'm sure I'll stay on land no more.
Straight lines being wrote without any blot
Saying seldom seen is soon forgot

So come young lads take a warn from me
If in love you'll ever be
For love is patient,love is kind,
Just never leave your love behind

It being early in the spring
I went on board to serve my king
Leaving my dearest dear behind
She oftimes swore her heart was mine

New words and new music by Roger McGuinn (C) 2005 McGuinn Music (BMI)

Let The Bullgine Run


h1 Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Bullgine.jpg

The term bullgine was derisive shipboard slang for an engine. Sailors didn't like them much, and many still don't today.
I recorded this song on the album 'Judy Collins 3' on Elektra Records in 1963. This is a slightly different version,
but my banjo part is pretty close to the one I played on Judy's record. This is a rollicking halliards chantey. The Margot Evans was a packet ship, one of the first vessels to guarantee delivery of its mail packets across the Atlantic in a specified amount of time.
Lyrics:
[Em] Oh the smartest clipper [G] you can [Am] find
[G] Heave away, [D] haul away
Is the [Em] Margot Evans of the [G] Blue Cross [Am] Line
[G] So clear away the [D] track and let the [Em] bullgine run!

[Em] Tell me, are you most done?
[G] Heave away, [Am] haul away
[Em] With Liza Lee all [G] on my [Am] knee,
[G] So clear away the [D] track and let the [Em] bullgine run!

O the Margot Evans of the Blue Cross Line,
Heave away, haul away
She's never a day behind her time
So clear away the track and let the bullgine run!

Tell me, are you most done?
Heave away, haul away
With Liza Lee all on my knee,
So clear away the track and let the bullgine run!

Oh, when I come home across the sea,
Heave away, haul away
It's Liza, will you marry me?
So clear away the track and let the bullgine run!

Tell me, are you most done?
Heave away, haul away
With Liza Lee all on my knee,
So clear away the track and let the bullgine run!

Oh the smartest clipper you can find
Heave away, haul away
Is the Margot Evans of the Blue Cross Line
So clear away the track and let the bullgine run!

The John B's Sails


h1 Monday, November 1st, 2004

sloop.jpg

This is a sea song from around Nassau. We recorded this at Ridley Pearson's house at the beginning of the Rock Bottom Remainders Wannapalooza 2004 Tour. Riddley, Dave Barry, Greg Iles, and I were the vocalists. Ridley played bass, and I played 6-string acoustic and Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitars.

Carl Sandburg says:

'John T. McCutcheon, cartoonist and kindly philosopher, and his wife Eveleyn Shaw McCutcheon, mother and poet, learned to sing this song on their Treasure Island in the West Indies. They tell of it, 'Time and usage have given this song almost the dignity of a national anthem around Nassau. The weathered ribs of the historic craft lie embedded in the sand at Governor's Harbour, when an expedition, especially set up for the purpose in 1926, extracted a knee of horseflesh and a ring-bolt. These relics are now preserved and built into the Watch Tower, designed by Mr. Howard Shaw and built on our southern coast a couple of points east by north of the star Canopus.'

In his book, ' FOLKSONGS OF NORTH-AMERICA,' John Lomax offers short bits of descriptive prose to set the scene for his collected works.

Here is his entry for 'THE JOHN B's SAILS':

'The small boat piers of Nassau Harbor form the market-place of the Bahamas. The dirty, sea-scarred sloops, tethered on the pale blue water, are like so many country wagons loaded with produce for sale in the capital. A sixteen-footer stands in towards the dock, its deck only a few inches above the waves, carrying a cow, five goats, a dozen hens, four women, six children, and four of five sailors. This crowded little boat is ending a journey from an island, perhaps two or three hundred miles away. As it noses into the pier, a similar craft lifts its ragged sail and departs, its deck packed with passengers and freight, for some coral islet far down the chain toward Haiti.

These vessels carry no charts, no compasses, and no auxiliary engines, yet few of them come to grief, for the Bahaman is at home in his reef-filled azure seas. They tell and believe a story about an old sea pilot, grown blind, who could stick his finger in the water and tell precisely where his boat lay.'

Lyrics:
THE JOHN B's SAILS

[D] We come on the sloop John B,
my Grandfather and me.
Around Nassau town we did [A7] roam.
Drinkin' all [D] night.
Got into a [G] – [Em] fight.
Well, I [D] feel so break up, [A7] I want to go [D] home.

Chorus:
Hoist up the John B's sails.
See how the main sails set.
Call for the captain ashore, let me go home.
Let me go home.
I want to go home.
Well, I feel so break up, I want to go home.

First mate, he got drunk.
Broke up the people's trunk.
Constable had to come and take him away.
Sheriff John Stone,
why don't you leave me alone?
Well, I feel so break up, I want to go home.

Chorus

Well, the poor cook he caught the fits.
Throw away all of my grits.
Then he took and he ate up all of my corn.
Let me go home.
I want to go home.
This is the worst trip since I've been born.

Chorus

Spanish Ladies


h1 Friday, October 1st, 2004

Argonaut.jpg

This song gives a vivid picture of the sailing ships in the English Channel. The 'Grand Fleet' was an old name for the Channel Fleet. 'Deadman' and 'Fairlee' are sea names for Dodman Point near Plymouth and Fairlight Hill near Hastings, and Ushant is the Ile d'Ouessant off Brest in France. Source: http://ingeb.org/folksong.html
Lyrics:
[Em] Farewell and adieu unto [G] you Spanish [D] ladies,
[Em] Farewell and adieu to you [G] ladies of [D] Spain;
[Em] For it's we've received [D] orders for to [C] sail for old [Em] England,
[Em] But we hope very [D] soon we shall [C] see you [Em] again.

Then we hove our ship to the wind at sou'-west, my boys,
We hove our ship to our soundings for to see;
So we rounded and sounded, and got forty-five fathoms,
We squared our main yard, up channel steered we.

Now the first land we made it is called the Deadman,
Then Ram Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland and Wight;
We sailed by Beachy, by Fairlee and Dungeness,
Until we came abreast of the South Foreland Light.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Then the signal was made for the grand fleet for to anchor,
All in the downs that night for to meet;
Then it's stand by your stoppers, see clear your shank-painters,
Haul all your clew garnets, stick out tacks and sheets.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

Now let every man toss off a full bumper,
And let every man toss off a full bowl;
And we'll drink and be merry and drown melancholy,
Singing, here's a good health to all true-hearted souls.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.