Mudcat Café message #3713732 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157370   Message #3713732
Posted By: Lighter
01-Jun-15 - 03:09 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
Subject: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
There are so many "Shenandoah" threads I thought I'd start a new one with a more specific title.

On April 5, 1924, Mr. Al Wescott sent the lyrics of a number of army folksongs to the collector Robert W. Gordon. One of these he called "Seven Long Years":

For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Hi! the rolling river,
For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Ha! ha! We're bound away on the wild Missouri.

[Similarly:]

She would not have me for her lover....

Because I was a Cavalry soldier....

And then she went to Kansas City....

And there she had a la, la, la....

She must have had another lover....

A drinkin' of rum and chawin' tobacco....

One may easily find something to replace the "la, la, la" expurgation, even without consulting later published versions.

Fairly harmless today, the unexpurgated version would generally have been considered "unprintable" before the 1920s or even '30s.

Sandburg's quite similar version (which begins by addressing "Shannandore") was published in 1927: it suppresses the "la, la, la" stanza entirely. (Sandburg, who enlisted for the Spanish-American War in 1898, implies that he heard the song then and emphasizes the pronunciation "Mizzoura.")

Wescott added an interesting note:

"Do you know anything about the above? Would sure like to get the dope on its history. Is sung in the army but only by real old enlisted men and by field officers (Majors, Lt. Col & Cols.) with quite a few years service. Practically unknown by junior officers & newer enlisted men from which I suspect that it was formerly sung a lot in the old army."

Early printings of the "Shenandoah" chantey often have "Ha ha!" or "Aha!" instead of the now universal "Away."

Compare the story of "Seven Long Years" with some versions of "Sally Brown."