Mudcat Café message #3858625 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #161981   Message #3858625
Posted By: Richie
03-Jun-17 - 09:10 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Died for Love Sources: PART IV
Subject: RE: Origins: Died for Love Sources: PART IV
Hi,

I'm giving my notes to Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea here. They are also found as my 7Aa, an appendix to Sailor Boy. They are long but not too long:

[The "Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea" also known as "Deep Blue Sea" is a short song with text from 7A. Sailor Boy as found in the US South and Southwest in the early 1900s. One stanza, the "Captain Captain" stanza has clearly been borrowed from Sailor Boy and the overall theme is similar to Sailor Boy and Died for Love songs: a maid is left or abandoned by her sailor boy, who is missing-- after learning he has drowned she vows to drown herself. The standard text is five stanzas-- the "Captain, captain" stanza from Sailor Boy and new text similar to Sailor Boy and the Died for Love theme comprise the other four stanzas. Because of its association with Sailor Boy and its general Died for Love theme (a maid abandoned who dies for love), the Sailor on Deep Blue Sea (hereafter shortened to "Deep Blue Sea") is listed as an appendix to 7A.

The Carter Family's seminal version titled, "I Have No One To Love Me (But the Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea)," was first recorded (BVE 45030-2) on May 10, 1928. It was released on Victor (V40036) in March, 1929 and Bluebird (B5356) in February, 1934. This influential recording by The Carter Family is the probable source for other recordings by Asa Martin (with Doc Roberts) and Luke Howard before 1940. The Carter Family's version entered tradition and subsequent recordings and traditional versions use their core stanzas. Recordings include Bascom Lamar Lunsford, his protege Obray Ramsey, New Lost City Ramblers, and the bluegrass favorites Flatt and Scruggs.

The Carter Family, for the most part, did not write their own songs which means their text was collected by A.P. Carter, probably in Virginia, to be used for the Carter's upcoming Victor recordings which started in August 1927 at the Bristol Sessions. Since the Carter's text should be considered traditional (the melody was usually created by the Carters from the text), the song was already in circulation in Appalachia at that time. Evidence of this earlier tradition is rare and no earlier documented versions have been found. Compare, however, to the later Alabama version collected by Ray Browne (see below).

The Sailor Boy text used in Deep Blue Sea is found in other traditional versions and composites. The 1925 Vernon Dalhardt recording "Oh Captain, Captain, Tell me True" includes the popular stanza borrowed from Sailor Boy:

1 "Oh, captain, captain, tell me true,
Does my sweet Willie sail with you?"
"Oh no, he does not sail with me,
For he is on the deep blue sea."

This same stanza, in more corrupt form, is the Carter Family's 4th stanza:

4. "Oh, captain, can you tell me,
Can you tell me where he may be?"
"Oh yes, my little maiden,
He's drownded in the deep blue sea."

The same stanza is found in some composites in the region[1] from recordings and in tradition. Since many of the subsequent recordings use the Carter's same 5 stanzas, the Carter Family's version may be the source. The song should be considered a traditional reworking of Sailor Boy from an unknown source. It's impossible, in most cases, to tell if subsequent versions are from the same traditional source as Carter's but it's more likely subsequent versions came from the Carter's seminal recording.

The antecedent stanza (Captain, Captain) from Sailor Boy first appears in print in the Irish broadside "A New Song call'd the Young Lady's Lamentation for the Loss of her True Love" which was printed by P. Brereton, 1, Lower Exchange St., Dublin. c. 1867. It begins "Tis early, early all in the spring." The same stanza was already found in the US by 1863 (see for example "The Sailler Boy" taken from The Old Album of William A. Larkin by Ruth Ann Musick in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 60). The "Captain Captain" stanza appears to have been a modification of the older "jovial crew" stanza found first in John Gay's 1720 "Black Eyed Susan" and printed in full by Evans[2] in 1810 (see my Sailor Boy, C).

"Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea" has been a popular song among folk and bluegrass musicians for many years. A slightly different, bluesy variant of Deep Blue Sea goes: Deep blue sea, Willie deep blue sea (3X), with a final line in each stanza: "It was Willie who got drowned in the deep blue sea." Several versions of this variant, Deep Blue Sea II, will be included here. One stanza from Sailor Boy is sometimes used in a different song, "What Does the Deep Blue Sea Say?," which will not be included in this study (see, for example, Woody Guthrie's version).

The Carters' seminal version of "Deep Blue Sea" is now given. The title, "I have No One to Love Me (But the Sailor in the Deep Blue Sea)," is unusually long and taken from the last two lines of the Carter Family's third verse:

I Have No One To Love Me (But the Sailor in the Deep Blue Sea)

1. It was on last Sunday evening
Just about the hour of three,
When my darling started to leave me,
To sail on the deep blue sea.

2. He promised to write a letter,
he promised to write to me,
and I haven't heard from my darling,
who sails on the deep blue sea.

3. My mother is dead and buried,
My papa's forsaken me,
And I have no one to love me,
but the sailor on the deep blue sea.

4. "Oh, captain, can you tell me,
Can you tell me where he may be?"
"Oh yes, my little maiden,
He's drownded in the deep blue sea."

5. Farewell to friends and relations,
This is the last you'll see of me,
I'm going to end my troubles
By drowning in the deep blue sea.

Only stanza 4 can be considered to be directly from the "Sailor Boy" tradition. Other stanzas, like the 1st and 5th, are rewritten from the Sailor Boy story. In the Sailor Boy ballad when the maid finds out from the Captain that Willie is dead she crashes her boat into the rocks or jumps into the sea and drowns[3]. In Deep Blue Sea the maid is "planning to do the same but hasn't done it yet.

The Carter's version was taken from a folk song similar to the one given in "The Alabama Folk Lyric: A Study in Origins and Media of Dissemination" by Ray Broadus Browne in 1979. This fragment was sung by Mrs R. A. Dunham, Fairhope, Baldwin County, Alabama in 1953:

"Go Bring Me Back the One I Love"

Oh Captain, Captain tell me true,
Does my true lover sail with you?"
"No, he does not sail with me,
He's with the mermaids in the sea."

Bring back the one I love,
Oh, bring, oh bring him back to me.
They say he loves another now,
Oh, he's not keeping his vows.

The similarities are obvious yet this version is clearly not copied from the Carters and is also a loose variant of Sailor Boy. At some point, the Carter Family version entered tradition. The "deep blue sea" stanzas from Carters became the core stanzas for later versions which formed a new group of "deep blue sea" variants recorded by Lunsford, Ramsey, Seeger, Lester Flatt and others. Since the "new" variants are almost identical to the Carters, evidence that the "new" versions are from an earlier tradition is lacking. Here's one version by the Minstrel of the Appalachians, Bascom Lamar Lunsford[4]:

Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea

1. It was on one Sunday evening
Just about the hour of three,
My darling went and left me,
To sail on the deep blue sea.

2. He promised to write me a letter,
He promised to write to me,
But I haven't heard from my darling,
Since he sailed on the deep blue sea.

3. "Oh, captain, can you tell me,
Can you tell me where he may be?"
"Oh yes, my little maiden,
He's drownded in the deep blue sea."

4. My mother is dead and buried,
My papa has forsaken me,
And I have no one to love me,
but the sailor on the deep blue sea.

5. Then go tell all my friends and loved ones,
Where ever they may be,
I'm going to end my troubles
By drowning in the deep blue sea.

Lunsford probably learned his version at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, or another folk festival. When the Carter Family version is compared, the differences are minor and it would suggest that this and subsequent similar versions are derived from the Carters' version. Traditional collected versions may also come from the Carters. This version from Ozark Folksongs, was collected by Vance Randolph from Grace Hahn in Arkansas dated 1941:

SAILOR ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

He promised to write me a letter,
He promised to write to me;
But I haven't heard from my darling,
Who is sailing on the deep blue sea.

"Oh, captain, can you tell me,
Can you tell me where he may be?"
"Oh yes, my pretty maiden,
He is drownded in the deep blue sea."

Farewell to friends and relations .
This is the last you'll see of me,
For I'm going to end my troubles
By drownding in the deep blue sea.

The few traditional versions (Randolph; Parler) collected in the Ozarks still have only the Carters' core stanzas. Perhaps the only composite version (with additional stanzas) of Deep Blue Sea was collected from Ollie Gilbert[5] by Max Hunter in 1970:

Deep Blue Sea- As sung by Ollie Gilbert, Mountain View, Arkansas on March 11, 1970

VERSE 1
I once had a sweetheart
Sweetheart brave an' true
His hair was dark an' curly
His lovin' eyes was blue.

VERSE 2
They took him away
To the awful German war
An' when he came to say, goodbye
My heart did overflow

VERSE 3
He took a golden finger ring
Placed it on my hand
Said, remember me little darlin'
When I'm in no-mans-land

VERSE 4
It was on a Sunday evenin'
About the hour of three
When my darlin', start to leave me
Sail on the deep blue sea

VERSE 5
He promised to write me a letter
Promised to be true
When I read his letters
I pray the war is through.

VERSE 6
My Mother's dead, in Heaven
My Father's forsaken me
I have no one to love me
But the sailor on the deep blue sea

VERSE 7
The second letter I got from him
The war was just ahead
The next letter I got from him
My darlin' Bill, was dead

VERSE 8
I'll keep all of his letters
I'll keep his gold ring too
An' always live a single life
For the boy who was so true

VERSE 9
So, fare you well, dear friends
That's the last you'll see of me
For I'm going to end my troubles
By drownin' in the deep blue sea.

This strange composite has text from Victor's two leading recording artists of the late 1920s and early 1930s: Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. Stanzas 1-3 and 7-8 are taken from The Soldier's Sweetheart recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1927 at the Bristol Sessions. The other stanzas are from the Carter Family.

The Deep Blue Sea is a folk song adapted from "Sailor Boy" which was recorded by the Carter Family in 1928. The Carters popular recording is the likely antecedent for subsequent recordings although it's possible some versions may be from an earlier traditional source.

R. Matteson Jr. 2017
Port St. Lucie Florida]

_______________________

Footnotes:

1. At least two composites of Careless Love/Sailor Boy have a similar stanza. See Ernest Stoneman's "Careless Love" and also a traditional version collected in 1933 by my grandfather and Mellinger Henry (Beech Mountain Folk Songs and Ballads, 1936).
2. "The Sailor Boy." ('Down by a christal river side") from Merry Songs No. 15, printed by J. Evans, London, c1810. The text is found at the end of stanza 3 and the beginning of 4:
      Come tell me ye jovial ship's crew,
      If my true love sails along with you.
      O no fair lady he is not here,
      For he is drown'd I greatly fear.
3. In one British broadside, Sailor Boy and his Faithful Mary, a broadside writer has this miracle ending stanza:
      She wrung her hands and tore her hair,
      Just like a woman in great despair,
      She flung her body into the deep
      In her William's arms to lay fast asleep.
4. The recording is Minstrel of the Appalachians, an album by Bascom Lamar Lunsford released in 1956 (catalog no. RLP 12-645; Vinyl LP).
5. Gilbert also recorded the Carter Family version for Max Hunter.

Richie