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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
JWB Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey) (51* d) RE: Lyr Add: Huckleberry Hunting (Pumping Chantey) 21 Mar 11

Coming late to this thread I hope to add more confusion to the mix. And ain't that the fate of anyone who tries to untangle the "truth" about a particular chantey?

First, let me confess that I led this chantey on the Mystic Seaport recording "American Chanteys", to which Wincing Devil refers. Actually, in the early '90s the recording was made jointly by the Seaport and the French maritime museum Chasse-Marée, as volume 11 of a 12-volume set of CDs called "Anthologie des chansons de mer". After being released in France, Mystic released it in the US, with liner notes in English.

I had put together an arrangement of "Huckleberry Hunting" a couple of years before the recording was made. I used the three verses Colcord gives, and to flesh out the story (I heartily agree with Wincing Devil that a story thread makes a chantey much easier to remember, as a revival performer) I incorporated stanzas from Hugill. Taking a cue from Hugill, who writes, "The remaining verses are mainly obscene and much the same as those used in the bawdy version of A-rovin'," I added an additional verse I picked up from Stuart Frank before ending with the first verse of Hugill's version.

So, for list-minded 'Catters, here's how I constructed my version of Huckleberry Hunting (which is the one in the first post of this thread):

Verses 1-3: Colcord's first three (and only) verses
Verses 4 + 5: Hugill's verses 7 & 8
Verse 6: from A-Rovin'
Verse 7: from the singing of Stuart Frank
Verse 8: Hugill's verse 1
Chorus 1: from Hugill
Chorus 2: from Colcord (though the only difference is I use of "me" instead of "my")

Wincing Devil, I must correct your transcription. The second solo line of verses 5-7 begins "She said to him, 'Young man…'"

I used Colcord's tune and find tonight as I play it as written that I've changed it slightly.

Sitting here at my desk with my copies of Colcord, Hugill, Doerflinger and Harlow open, I'm struck by both the differences and similarities between them. No mention of the Wild Goose Nation by either Harlow or Doerflinger. Harlow, as Gibb Sahib points out, does use minstrel-sounding words, but he also includes Colcord's three verses as an alternative set. Colcord references Terry's version, which she says "bring[s] in the mysterious 'Wild Goose Nation'…"

Let's look at the title, shall we?
Colcord: Huckleberry Hunting
Hugill: We'll Ranzo Way (alternative titles: Sing Hilo, Me Ranzo Ray; Huckleberry Hunting; The Wild Goose Shanty)
Doerflinger: Huckleberry Hunting
Harlow: Hilo, My Ranzo Way

The first chorus is different in each version:
Colcord – "To me way-aye-aye-aye-aye-i-yah!"
Hugill – "Timme way, time hay, time hee ho hay!"
Doerflinger – "To me Hilo, me Ranzo boy" (same as his 2nd chorus)
Harlow – "To me way, hey-oh, hi, oh!"

Hugill's second chorus line runs "An' sing, Hilo me Ranzo way" while Colcord writes "And sing high-low, my Ranzo Ray." Harlow and Doerflinger both give "Hilo" as well. Is there any significance to the place name, or is it pure phonetics (none of the collectors make mention of the port of Hilo in their notes on this song)? Doerflinger ends his 2nd chorus with the word "boy".

Now to the usage of the chantey.
Colcord: no mention.
Doerflinger: "Here is a shanty often sung at the pumps as well as the halyards."
Hugill: "This was sung at windlass and capstan, but Doerflinger gives it as halyards and pumps – in other words it appears to have been used for every shipboard job with perhaps the exception of tacks and sheets, and hand-over-hand!"
Harlow: "Hand Over Hand"
Isn't chantey science wonderfully precise?

Finally, I want to try and reassure Charlie Noble about the Downeast origins of the song. On 4/2/05 Charlie posted, "I've always suspected that the Huckleberry verses came from Maine but I can't seem to find a reference to nail it down." Our collectors are fairly definite on that point:
Colcord: "Although the words of the next shanty make it certain that it must have originated on a 'down-East' ship…"
Hugill: "Most forms indicate a Negro origin, as far as the tune and refrains are concerned, but the words of the solo savor of a Down East or Nova Scotia source."
Doerflinger: "Judging by the allusion to courting while picking huckleberries, the solos may have originated with white sailormen – quite likely with men hailing from along the coast of New England."

So, while we may yearn for certainty about the true origins of songs like these, it's useful to recall that by their very nature chanteys were fluid, plastic, mutable and protean.


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