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Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings

Bob_Walser 04 Feb 11 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Gary Keep 04 Feb 11 - 10:27 PM
Gibb Sahib 04 Feb 11 - 10:51 PM
Lighter 07 Feb 11 - 07:59 AM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 03:43 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 03:47 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 03:58 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 04:05 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 04:10 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 04:42 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 04:48 PM
Lighter 07 Feb 11 - 05:04 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 05:08 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 05:24 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 05:24 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 05:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 05:53 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 05:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 05:57 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 06:03 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 06:11 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 06:18 PM
Lighter 07 Feb 11 - 06:27 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 06:34 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 06:42 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 06:53 PM
RTim 07 Feb 11 - 07:00 PM
brezhnev 07 Feb 11 - 07:02 PM
Gibb Sahib 07 Feb 11 - 07:27 PM
Sandra in Sydney 07 Feb 11 - 08:08 PM
Lighter 07 Feb 11 - 09:22 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 09:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Feb 11 - 10:42 PM
Desert Dancer 07 Feb 11 - 11:02 PM
brezhnev 08 Feb 11 - 07:02 AM
Lighter 08 Feb 11 - 09:09 AM
Charley Noble 08 Feb 11 - 09:14 AM
Lighter 08 Feb 11 - 09:24 AM
Charley Noble 08 Feb 11 - 09:38 AM
GUEST,Max Johnson 08 Feb 11 - 11:17 AM
Sailor Ron 08 Feb 11 - 11:25 AM
brezhnev 08 Feb 11 - 01:00 PM
Bob_Walser 08 Feb 11 - 01:46 PM
Desert Dancer 08 Feb 11 - 01:54 PM
Desert Dancer 08 Feb 11 - 01:55 PM
Lighter 08 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM
Gibb Sahib 08 Feb 11 - 05:17 PM
Charley Noble 08 Feb 11 - 06:01 PM
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Subject: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Bob_Walser
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 11:05 AM

I'm wondering what the earliest commercial shanty recordings were. My guess would be soloist (probably tenor or bass) with orchestra, chorus or piano. The first one I know about is Columbia 4689, a 78, featuring Raymond Newell and Chorus singing "Johnny Come Down to Hilo", "The Hog's Eye Man" and "We're All Bound to Go" (a copy of which I saw when visiting Chris Roche - thanks, Chris).

Any earlier ones? Contemporary? Thoughts?


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: GUEST,Gary Keep
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 10:27 PM

Interesting topic Bob. I'm looking forward to seeing what pops up here.

The earliest I've heard are in the early 30s movie Mystery of the Mary Celeste. There very authentic.

Gary


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 04 Feb 11 - 10:51 PM

It would also be interesting to note, concurrently, what these recordings used for their sources. By guess is that most stuck to the letter of some written text, e.g. Davis & Tozer's collection of Benjamin Britten's compositions (based in his songs collected and published in JEFDS).


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 07:59 AM

According to James Revell Carr in the Journal of American Folklore (Spring, 2009, p. 201), "The first commercial recordings of sea music came out in the 1940s, including a collection released in 1941 by the Almanac Singers [which included Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger].

Stanley Slade's shanty recordings for the BBC were also made in the '40s.

Carr's apparently well-informed statement may not turn out to be definitive, but it seems to be the best anyone can do at the moment.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 03:43 PM

Are films (as Gary mentioned) included under "commercial recordings"?

There are these examples from The Phantom Ship, 1935

When was this "Raymond Newell and Chorus", Bob? You ask us for earlier, but don't say when this was!


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 03:47 PM

BTW, the above montage I made is from the same film mentioned by Gary Keep.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 03:58 PM

The Musical Times, April 1, 1928
Gramophone Notes by "Discus"
http://www.jstor.org/stable/916282?seq=3

Raymond Newell and chorus make a rousing thing of 'Johnny come down to Hilo"--one of the best shanty records I have heard, with capital voices, words, clear, and any amount of 'go.' 'We're all bound to go' pleases me less, because monotony creeps in. A little variation of power--stopping well on the side of fussiness--would have made all the difference (4689).

(emphasis mine.)

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:05 PM

Also, in Gramophone, March 1928, p. 22:
http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/March%201928/22/806739/

Columbia

Raymond Newell and Chorus, with piano : Sea Shanties.— We're all bound to go, Johnny come down to Hilo and The Hog's Eye Man, from The Shanty Book, ed. Sir R. Terry. 4689 (10in., 3s.).

Raymond Newell and Chorus, only two months ago on the Regal list, are here for Columbia. If I had to choose one out of all the Sea Shanty records it would not be this ; but it is beyond question a good one.

(emph. still mine)

Digitization is amazing, innit?

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:10 PM

And while we're at it, here's Richard Runciman Terry's "The Shanty Book" at Project Gutenberg and Google Books.

~ B in LB


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM

I would think that mining these early reviews in Gramophone and Musical Times might turn up the goods for you.

Here's an interesting article that's not a review, but about performing shanties, that came up when I Googled on "gramophone sea shanties": FOLK-SONGS OF THE SEA, Shanties on the Gramophone By LLEWELYN C. LLOYD -- Gramophone March 1927. It suffers a bit from OCR errors... I think I'll copy and post this to a separate thread.

O.k., getting earlier: in the August 1926 issue, under "Gramophone Societies' Reports" --

THE BIRMINGHAM GRAMOPHONE SOCIETY.--Tuesday, June 29th, at Ebenezer Chapel board room, Steelhouse Lane. The programme was entirely devoted to records sent by the Parlophone, Vocalion, and Pathh companies. ... A set of two ten-inch Parlophone records of Kenneth Ellis and chorus in several of the sea shanties now so highly popular, were much appreciated...

http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/August%201926/33/793222/Gramophone+Societies+Reports

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM

Shenandoah-,1903, Minster Singers; and 1917, Campbell and Burr.
A-Roving- Richard Maitland, 1939.
Paddy Doyle- Richard Maitland, 1939.
Blow the Man Down- Minster Singers, c. 1903
Rio Grande- Minster Singers, c. 1903. Victor 61148


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:42 PM

Llewelyn Lloyd recommends these recordings after his article (linked above):

His Master's Voice, B.1999 : John Goss and the Cathedral Singers, Rio Grande, Billy Boy, and Shenandoah.

Vocalion X.9787 : John Buckley and chorus, Shenandoah, Johnny come down to Hilo, A long time ago, and Fire down below.

Edison Bell V.F.1164 : Robert Carr and the Seafarers, The Drunken Sailor and Whisky Johnny.

Parlophone E.5584: Kenneth Ellis and chorus, The Drunken Sailor, Santy Anna, and Lowlands Away.

Aco G.15870 : John Thorne and male trio, The Shantyman's Song, Can't you dance the polka ? The Drunken Sailor, and Johnny come down to Hilo.

~ B in LB


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 04:48 PM

In trying to correct an OCR error on the John Goss item above, I located this:

Gramophone July 1925
http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/July%201925/40/800942/

B.1999.—Shenandoah with (a) Rio Grande and (b) Billy Boy. Sea shanties arranged by R. R. Terry.
B.2016.—(a) Hey Ho, to the Greenwood (William Byrd), (b) Lillibulero (Old English song), with Aye Waukm'Oh (Scottish song), arranged W. Augustus Barrett.
B.2017.—(a) 0 good ale, thou art my darling (Old English song), arranged Peter Warlock ; (b) Sinner, please doan let this harves' pass (Negro Spiritual), arranged H. T. Burleigh, with 0 sweet fa's the eve (Norwegian folk tune), arranged E. J. Moeran.
B.2018.—(a) And when I die ; (b) The last long mile (Army marching songs), arranged Hubert J. Foss, with (a) Can't you dance the polka? (sea shanty), arranged E. J. Moeran; (b) A-Roving (sea shanty), arranged Cecil J. Sharp.

Those who have followed the steady rise of John Goss to the front rank of singers of artistic merit, incapable of singing anything they do not believe in for commercial gain, will welcome his appearance on this special H.M.V. supplement. They and others, to whom his name is unfamiliar, will doubtless hail with joy a delightful selection of songs culled from that whimsical production of the Nonesuch Press, the "Week-End" book. I urge you to purchase a copy at once ; you will not regret it. In the book will he found, amongst many delights, the words and music of all the songs sung on these records, so that you and your friends can, if so minded, join in the choruses with complete abandon during your brief week-ends.

Sea-shanties -- What music in the very word; what regrets that the passing of the sailing ship sounded the death-knell of these true sailor-songs. Nothing can rob us of these immortal tunes and words or the memories imagination, feeding on the sea stories of Herman Melvill and his companions, may conjure up.

As Sir Richard Terry points out in his introduction to the Shanty Book (Part I) (Curwen), the sailors of the Merchant Service never sang the shanties as a recreation, but only at labour. In common with so many folk songs these were devised to help men at their work, and "a good shanty-man with a pretty wit was worth his weight in gold. He was a privileged person, and was excused all work save light or odd jobs." I was showing a sailor a publication called "The Sea, its History and Romance" the other day. "Damned little romance " was his comment Only he didn't say "damned"! The romance indeed of these songs, their Rabelaisian words carefully doctored, is more apparent to us landlubbers safe in our warm houses than to these hard-bitten seamen. Well, let us abandon ourselves to it as we listen to one of the most famous of shanties, Shenandoah, a tone as lovely in its way as the Londonderry Air, full of the wind and waves. The rollicking Rio Grande will sweep everyone off his feet. Billy boy is really a landsman's song that has found its way on board ship, being altered in the process (see Vaughan Williams' My boy Billie). Can't you dance the Polka with its American flavour and A-Roving complete a series that does the ear good to hear and warms the cockles of the heart. Just think of one of the modern-day shopballads beside this salty stuff!

An atmosphere of the tavern breathes out of Hey ho, to the Greenwood, a canon for three voices by Byrd. Dean Inge should play it at breakfast every morning; a sovereign cure for his odd views about the " Middle Ages."

An interesting history attaches to the song on the reverse, Lillibulero, part of which I will quote from the bulletin. " It contributed not a little to the great revolution of 1688 ; elsewhere it is referred to as the song which sung a deluded prince (James II.) out of three kingdoms." It seems, however, very doubtful that Purcell was the composer of the tune as stated in the bulletin Grove has a long article on the subject.

And when I die will be of more than ordinary interest tosoldiers, many of whom it will carry back, as only a tune or a scent can in the evocation of memories, to the Great War. It is precisely the kind of improvised thing that becomes a "folk song" and in years to come the antiquarian will be excited to find that our soldiers invented, after a considerable lapse of such creative effort, well-contrived song in two parts, irnitational in nature. What wagging of heads there will be! Here are the pathetic words

And when I die, don't bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones in alcohol;
Put a bottle of booze at my head and feet,
And then I know my bones will keep.

I have only space to draw brief attention to the remaining songs, of which the delicately beautiful setting by Mr. Moeran of o sweet fa's the eve and the Scottish labour song Aye waukin' oh deserve special notice. The labour has no connection with the Clyde or Mr. Wheatley's activities, for " Waulkin' songs of various types are used (in the Hebrides) in the course of shrinking one and the same web of cloth. Beginning with a moderately slow tempo they become ever more fast and furious. When the shrinking process is complete, the web is rolled up and clapped to a lively song." This impression is not conveyed by Barrett's arrangement of such an air, used here.

Mr. Goss, with a male quartet drawn, I believe, from Westminster Cathedral Choir, performs his very varied task in a wholly admirable manner, with unflagging zest and artistry. His voice, as I had suspected, records very well, but it is his sense of rhythm and phrasing, in a word his musicianship, which distinguishes these delightful discs. Musicianly, too, is the adjective for the part played by the male quartet and the accompanist.

N. P.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:04 PM

Gibb: Priceless, including Bela Lugosi and the guy who plays the melodeon without moving his fingers.

I can't imagine anybody considering movie music a "commercial recording" until the days (in the '50s, I believe) when soundtracks of movie musicals began appearing on discs.

The texts and tunes in the movie are a little unusual. It would still have been possible, in 1935, for a retired shantyman to have turned up among British actors in a sea epic, but I think it's at least as likely that somebody in an office looked in shanty book and did some rewriting to avert any copyright issues.

Desert Dancer & Q: Outstanding discoveries. Valuable and obviously still obscure information!


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:08 PM

Or maybe here, after all...

Gramophone, March 1927
http://www.gramophone.net/Issue/Page/March%201927/37/809151/

FOLK-SONGS OF THE SEA Shanties on the Gramophone
By LLEWELYN C. LLOYD

AMONG the idiosyncrasies of recording companies perhaps the most prominent is their fondness for the game of "Follow my leader." All good gramophonists study the catalogues (and THE GRAMOPHONE), and they must have noticed that when, say, in May, Company A, with a great flourish of trumpets and beating of drums, brings out a set of records of somebody's umpteenth symphony in June or July Company B hastens, with if possible even greater éclat, to issue another recording of the same work. This, I suppose, is all part of the competitive game, but when one thinks of all the 'fine music which is left unrecorded, it leads to tearing of the hair. Lately, sea-shanties have been coming from all the companies, and. everybody is playing them and singing them when probably a few months ago they had never heard one of these folk-songs of the sea. One does not object to the plentiful issue of these songs, however, for they have delightful tunes, and tunes are badly needed in this tuneless age.

But this popularity of the sea-shanty has its attendant dangers. The chief is that it should be taken up in "arty" circles and turned into something highbrow and "precious" that would be a first-rate disaster. The shanty is too fine and too healthy a thing to be sung by out-size tenors for the delectation of sentimental flappers, or to be used as a medium for the display of their voices by "celebrity" prime donne. The shanty is altogether too jolly and too hearty a thing to become the property of any cult. Let it be sung in the streets, in the morning bath, and at convivial gatherings when it is desired to let off steam; but let it be kept away from the recital and the highbrow salon.

In playing over sea-shanties for my friends I have found that most of them have only the vaguest idea of what they really are, so it may be worth while to say something about them. They date from the old sailing-ship days, when there were tasks to be done—such as hauling up the anchor and reefing sails—which called for the monotonous repetition of a few movements by gangs of men. Unanimity of movement was essential, and it was soon found that a song was the best method of securing this, a haul on the rope or a turn of the capstan synchronising with the strong beat in the rhythm of the song. One sailor (the shantyman), selected for his ability to improvise words to suit known tunes, acted as soloist, standing aloof from the toil, while the others joined in the chorus as they worked. Anything would serve as a shanty, provided that it had, a well-marked rhythm and a chorus, and we find job-songs from the countryside, negro tunes from the cotton-fields of America, and genuine sailors' tunes, all classed together as shanties. The words rarely form any connected story, the shantyman improvising to the best of his ability as he went along, and (it must be confessed) the words of the verses were not always meet for the delicate ear. The choruses, however, which could be heard at a much greater distance than the verses, were almost invariably quite innocuous. There was a much greater variety of words than of tunes. Nearly every shantyman had his own version of the words, but, the tunes varied to only a limited extent. A few tunes—such as "Shenandoah" and "Billy Boy"—were universally known, and the variants of text were consequently numerous. Some tunes, such as "The Drunken Sailor," "Haul away, Joe," and "The hog's-eye man," are modal, and this gives them a peculiar strength and vitality.

Such was the shanty. Now let us see how it has been treated for the gramophone. To my knowledge shanties have been recorded by five British companies—H.M.V. [His Master's Voice], Vocalion, Parlophone, Edison Bell, and Aco.

In their records of songs from the "Week-End Book" by John Goss and the Cathedral Singers, the Gramophone Company included one (B.1999) devoted to sea-shanties, and this remains one of the best shanty records. John Goss sings with delightful humour, and he is supported by an excellent male quartet. The three shanties on this record—Billy Boy, Rio Grande, and Shenandoah—are probably the three best-known, and all are well worth knowing. Shenandoah has one of the most beautiful melodies in all music. Since this record appeared I believe that H.M.V. have issued some further shanty records, by Harry Dearth, but these I do not know.

Vocalion have economised space by getting eight shanties on two ten-inch records, but one result of this arrangement is that only a couple of verses of each can be given; on the other hand, there is the obvious advantage which will at once appeal to those to whom expense is an important consideration. The singers are John Buckley and a chorus, and apart from a rather "arty" flavour their performance is quite satisfactory. "Rio Grande" is rather spoiled by its persistent mispronunciation as "Reeo." The shanties recorded by this company are: Tom's gone to Hilo, Billy Boy, Rio Grande, and Blow the man down (X. 9786); and Shenandoah. Johnny come down to Hilo, A long time ago, and Fire down below (X.9787). The last two have been recorded only on this disc, and it is worth getting for them alone.

Parlophone have devoted three ten-inch records to sea shanties, the singers being Kenneth Ellis and a male quartet, while the accompaniment is provided by a string quartet and flute, which proves a pleasant change from the usual pianoforte. The singers give a good all-round performance, but their intonation is a little doubtful at times in Shenandoah, although this may be the fault of the recording. The first record (E.5583) contains Amsterdam (also known as A-roving) and Shenandoah; the second (E.5584) has The Drunken Sailor, Santy Anna and Lowlands Away (the last two fine tunes, not elsewhere recorded); and the third (E.5585) has Rio Grande, Reuben Ranzo, Blow the man down, and Johnny come down to Hilo.

Robert Carr and the Seafarers, who sing shanties for the Edison Bell company, impart a welcome touch of vigour to their renderings, which is unfortunately somewhat rare in other recordings. This feature of their singing is particularly notable in What shall we do with the drunken sailor? which is paired with the amusing Whisky Johnny (V.F.1164). I count this one of the best shanty records I know. Other shanties recorded by these singers are: Billy Boy, Blow the man down, and Shenandoah (V.F.1159); and Rio Grande, and Johnny come down to Hilo, (V.F.1163).

The Aco records are made by John Thorne and a male trio, who sing Haul away Joe, Rio Grande, Shenandoah, and Billy Boy (G-.15824); and The shantyman's song, Can't you dance the polka?, The Drunken Sailor, and Johnny come doun to Hilo (G.15870). Their performance is very good, although it would be still better if it were a little more vigorous, and they also mispronounce "Rio" as " Reeo." They are at their best in Can't you dance the Polka a delightful shanty not elsewhere recorded. The Aco record is also the only one of that fine modal tune, Haul away Joe, but it is accompanied by three of the best-known of all shanties, which are, I think, better sung by John Goss and the Cathedral Singers. The anonymous accompanist adds a great deal to the effectiveness of these recordings.

Perhaps I may indicate what I consider are the best five records of sea-shanties, but this list is to be taken only as showing my personal preference. If you want to buy sea shanties, the best thing to do is to try them all over at your dealer's, and pick out those you like best. It is impossible to avoid duplication in such a list, but in selecting these five records I have tried to reduce it to a minimum. It will be seen that The Drunken Sailor appears three times and Shenandoah and Johnny come down to Hilo appear twice each. Here is the list

His Master's Voice B.1999 : John Goss and the Cathedral Singers, Rio Grande, Billy Boy, and Shenandoah.

Vocalion X.9787 : John Buckley and chorus, Shenandoah, Johnny come down to Hilo, A long time ago, and Fire down below.

Edison Bell V.F.1164 : Robert Carr and the Seafarers, The Drunken Sailor and Whisky Johnny.

Parlophone E.5584: Kenneth Ellis and chorus, The Drunken Sailor, Santy Anna, and Lowlands Away.

Aco G.15870 : John Thorne and male trio, The Shantyman's Song, Can't you dance the polka? The Drunken Sailor, and Johnny come down to Hilo.

This gives twelve different shanties, and they should be enough to give anyone a good idea of the charm of these folk-songs of the sea.

-----------------

predating Mudcat by a few years, the above is from "The Forum" in Gramophone magazine:

THE FORUM
The following articles are unsolicited contributions from readers, dealing with this or that aspect of the gramophone to which each has given thought. A selection from the MSS. received is published every month, and prizes are offered every quarter. Articles should not exceed 1,500 words, and should be typewritten or written very legibly on one side only of the paper. They should be sent to THE GRAMOPHONE, 58, Frith Street, London, W. 1, marked "The Forum ": and a stamped and addressed envelope should be enclosed.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:24 PM

From Victor Discography:

Minster Singers (AKA Georgia Sea Singers; Georgia Glee Singers); a British group; may also have used the name Meister Singers.

Matrix 1807e, recorded 2/20/1905; Sea Chanties no. 1: Capstan Bar.
Matrix 1808e, recorded w/20/1905; Sea Chanties no. 6: Rio Grande.
Matrix 6527b, recorded 1/14/1905; Sea Chanties no. 2: Blow my bully boys.
Matrix 6530b, recorded 1/14/1905; Sea Chanties no. : Whiskey Johnny.

http://victor.library.uscb.edu/index.php/talent/detail/6859/Minster_Singers_Vocal_group

Chanty no. 7 was Blow the Man Down. date prob. 1905.

Peter Dawson (i. e. Hector Grant) made recordings with the Minster Singers, one was Christmas Eve in an Australian Miners' Camp. A copy in State Library of South Australia.
http://musicaustralia.org


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:24 PM

Gramophone has the British recordings, need something similar for the U.S.. Q, where's your discography from?

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:25 PM

(sorry, cross-posted with you, Q.)


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:53 PM

Members of the Minster Singers:
Peter Dawson, Ernest Pike, Wilfred Virgo and Stanley Kirkby.
www.bookrags.com.

"Peter Dawson sings songs of sea and Empire," original recordings from 1925-1937 on HMV discs.
Songs include Outward Bound, The Old Superb, The Fleet's Not in port Very Long, etc. No chanties.

Shenandoah, recorded by Henry Burr and Albert Campbell, Victor 18327 in 1917.
Not done again until 1952, by Harry Belafonte, RCA Victor 47 5051, 7" 45rpm


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:57 PM

Q's link to the Victor discography doesn't work for me, but I get the Minster Singers here:
http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.php/talent/detail/6859/Minster_Singers_Vocal_group, which lists them as 1905, as you have above.

However, from your earlier post I found your Google result which led to... "The Music Trade Review" of October 28, 1905 lists under "Records for November, 1903", "New Victor Records":

Old Sea Chanties
Colected by John Bradford and Arthur Fagge and sung by the Minster Singers of Londong
61145 (1) "The Capstan Bar"
61146 (2) "Blow, My Bully Boys" and (3) "Sally Brown"
61147 (4) "Whisky Johnny," and (5) "Shenandoah"
61148 (5) "Rio Grande" and (7) "Blow the Man Down"

The Music Trade Review is online at http://www.arcade-museum.com/mtr/. Viewing pages on line requires a browser plugin that didn't work for me, but you can try the page here http://www.arcade-museum.com/mtr/MTR-1905-41-17/, which also has a pdf link at the bottom.

The Music Trade Review, established 1879 (and digitized with support from namm.org), was "published every Saturday by Edward Lyman Bill at 1 Madison Ave., New York."


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 05:57 PM

Several sources, easy on Google.
Shenandoah- http://secondhandsongs.com/medium/15677 or look at Victor Discography.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:03 PM

Great work, Becky and Q! Important stuff for learning how the "general public" experienced shanties before the mid-century Revival brought about a still newer impression of the genre. Keep it up!

I am fascinated by the moment when shanties started becoming conceptualized or grouped in with "folk songs."


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:11 PM

ANd I agree that songs in films are hardly "commercial recordings," however, I am trying to gauge Bob's particular interest here. Both commercial discs and film soundtracks can be grouped as non-field recordings, i.e. performances designed for presentation, not documentation. There is something crucial in the act of presentation that involves a degree of self-consciousness and a well-formed idea of what one is trying to put across. Excuse my babbling on...I am currently working on an argument about how (so I claim) the re-conceptualizing of shanties as "folk songs" affected how people decided to present them.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:18 PM

Sorry for my typos - the Minster Singers were from London.

I think the Victor Encyclopedic Discography listing is suspect and will send them a note.

Using your list of names, Q, I found

Encyclopedia of Recorded Sound, Vol. 1 (Frank W. Hoffmann, ed., CRC Press, 2004), page 454

http://books.google.com/books?id=xV6tghvO0oMC

Gramophone Quartet
A British male group, active around 1906; also known as the Minster Singers, and probably they were also the Meister Singers. Members were Ernest Pike, Wilfred Virgo, Stanley Kirkby, and Peter Dawson.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:27 PM

Gibb, remember that early in the last century, the approved commercial as well as artistic way of performing folk songs of all kinds was in choral or bel canto style with formal piano arrangements.

Burl Ives may have been the first folk "star" with just his voice and his own guitar. (Guthrie and Seeger were barely on the commercial radar back then - late '40s.)


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:34 PM

Yes, Lighter, but look at Llewelyn Lloyd's notes in 1925 -- he's looking for a folkie sound, and having at least some satisfaction...


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:42 PM

Stanley Kirkby, whom was part of the Minster and Meister singers, also worked under other names, Walter Miller, James Baker, J. Kaye and probably others.

Wilfred Virgo made cylinders with Walter Hyde and Peter Dawson.
http://angelfire.com/de3/viviandettbarn/radiodays.html.

Ernest Pike recorded under some 10 names and with many partners; he sang and recorded in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and did many of the favorites of the 1900-1910 period.

These three, along with Peter Dawson, made recordings of Kipling songs and some sea songs, but I think I have all of their chanteys in the short list above.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 06:53 PM

Gibb, remember that early in the last century, the approved commercial as well as artistic way of performing folk songs of all kinds was in choral or bel canto style with formal piano arrangements.

Forgive me for not clarifying what I meant. I don't mean "folk songs" as a style of performance (e.g. "untrained" vocal, guitar, etc.) I mean the concept of Folk music that ties into certain visions of cultural heritage (deemed "important" for its own sake). The 19th century commenters described "wild" and "plaintive" sounds that they connected with, in several cases, Black music. They also were well aware of the minstrel song connections. However, the early 20th c. folklorists filed shanties along with "English folk songs" and ballads. Even if bel canto was the norm, was there not a way to convey, say, "English folk song" versus "American popular song"? Certainly the text they would gravitate towards would be different -- no "Polly's in the garden pickin' peas." Perhaps if shanties were thought of as fleeting pop-music inspired doggerel or truly "uncouth" expression, such choirs would never have given them any attention. Just thinking here.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: RTim
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 07:00 PM

Gibb - In reality, the "English" collectors got both Folk Songs AND Shanties from the singers they encountered, so it was easy to meld them into one "music".
There are very few singers, if any, who ONLY sang Shanties.

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: brezhnev
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 07:02 PM

gibb sahib: interested in your comment that 'commercial discs' are non-field recordings. where does that leave, say, the Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music? Have I misunderstood what you mean by a commercial disc?


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 07:27 PM

Brezhnev,
Define "commercial recordings" however you like. I've no interest in limiting it, except for the practical purpose of this thread. The OP, Bob Walser, is intimately familiar with the field-recordings contained in the Carpenter Collection. He also knows we'd be familiar with, e.g. the field recordings made by William Doerflinger for Library of Congress. So when he is asking for examples of "commercial recordings," we can assume he doesn't want people chiming in with that stuff. OK?

In reality, the "English" collectors got both Folk Songs AND Shanties from the singers they encountered, so it was easy to meld them into one "music".

Easy indeed -- but potentially misleading and none the less notable. Their predecessors did not do that, as they were "closer" to the living practice of shantying in its heyday and had a different frame of reference. Cecil Sharp's singers could probably also sing pop songs, yet he managed to avoid melding those into "one music." In fact, in his ridiculously titled "English Folk-Chanteys" he deliberately excluded what he deemed were popular song-based chanties. Such an act would certainly influence the perception of chanties for someone reading his collection. It's a good thing that he didn't know that many of the chanties he did include were based off popular songs, or else it might have been scanty indeed! The a priori frame of reference of the song collectors influenced what they chose to collect and how to present it. So yes, their work would have a specific influence on how later generations perceived the genre. And these perceptions would influence how performers chose to perform the songs -- even within the limitations/conventions of their era.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 08:08 PM

Google search on "wax cylinders and shanties"

Google search on "wax cylinders and chanteys"


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 09:22 PM

DD, I don't see anything about a "folkie" (or even "folky") sound in Lloyd's article. I do see a wish for more "vigorous," less "sentimental" and "precious" performances, along with a broader understanding of how shanties were actually used at sea. Such virtues wouldn't affect the generic style of presentation, however.

You may be more familiar with the development of twentieth-century musical styles in general than I am. But I'd be surprised if any of those early recordings featured any of the performance styles that nowadays might be considered "folk" or "trad" in any sense. I'm thinking of the simplicity of the early Burl Ives, the clamorousness of a banjo-player like Pete Seeger, the (mostly) unharmonized stridency of MacColl and Lloyd, etc. - much less the often gruff solos of authentic shantymen like Richard Maitland and Stan Hugill.

In terms of commercially released recordings, I'd guess those are all post-1930's developments.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 09:25 PM

The trick with the wax cylinder records is to sort the field recordings from the commercial recordings.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 10:42 PM

(Strictly digression, but Edward S. Curtis, famous photographer of the Indians, made thousands of wax cylinder recordings of their songs, chants, language and stories. Only a few of them have survived in transcribable condition).

The University of California Santa Barbara has perhaps the best collection of wax cylinders, whose era ended in 1901-1902.
They have some 300 from the early period, of which three may be marine or riverboat-
Bell Buoy, Th Larboard watch, and Haul the Woodpile Down.

They have over 2900 cylinders from the period 1901-1910, but I am not about to dig through that pile.
I looked for Peter Dawson (32): The admiral's broom, 1912; The midshipmite, 1910; Out on the deep, 1910; a couple of the old English Navy standbys.
None of the Minster Singers. A couple of hornpipes.

http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/browse.php


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Feb 11 - 11:02 PM

Lighter, I'm sure you're right. It's more of relative measure that I meant.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: brezhnev
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 07:02 AM

So when he is asking for examples of "commercial recordings," we can assume he doesn't want people chiming in with that stuff. OK?

Sorry? it was an innocent question. I just wondered what you were all on about when you talked about commercial discs.

Would the ethnic/folk recordings being made for commercial purposes by people like The Gramophone Company and Odeon from 1900 onwards count as commercial discs?

Or am i just being thick?


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 09:09 AM

Brezhnev, a "field recording" is simply one made of a traditional performer who is untrained (or in the case of fiddlers, for example, only slightly trained) in "art" music.

A "commerical recording" can mean two things. It can be any recording of anything that's released to the public commercially (including items like the Columbia-Lomax discs, made up, as you say, of field recordings).

Or it can focus on commercial releases of trad music performed in a familiar commercial (rather than a trad) style.

So sometimes "commercial" points to production and marketing, sometimes instead to the style of the performance.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 09:14 AM

An impressive harvest of early recordings and with notes. The public interest in sea shanties that peaked in the 1920's (a rather small peak similar to a mole hill) was critically assessed by Cicely Fox Smith at the time, from the introduction of her collection of traditional sea songs called A BOOK OF SHANTIES, © 1927, pp. 14-15:

"...let me briefly describe a painful experience of my own as to how not to do it. It was at a music hall which shall be nameless. The curtain rose, revealing one of those impossible stage inns -- made of creeper and green trellis at seven pence-ha'penny a lineal foot -- called "The Jolly Tar," or something equally improbable. Outside this preposterous establishment were seated at a small table three large mariners, whose costume -- an artistic blend of jerseys, seaboots, cheesecutter and stocking caps -- suggested that they had made an indiscriminate raid on the slop chest at the Sailors' Home. Quoth one of these worthies to another: 'Let's have a tchahntey!' and amid encouraging cries of 'A tchahntey -- yes, a tchahntey!' the individual addressed rose, and, with a wealth of dramatic gesture, laying aside his churchwarden pipe, sang -- well, I just forget what he did sing! It was too painful to listen to...Strong men have wept to see such things done: murmuring the while in voices broken with emotion that they wished they had that blank-blank crowd on watch in the old This-That-or-the-Other, in order that they might perform the interesting nautical operation of knocking eight bells out of them."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 09:24 AM

Nice quote, Charley! Hugill mentions that about the style was still used for Folkways "Songs of the Sea," with Alan Mills and the Four Shipmates - as late as 1957! And produced by the noted Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke!

If you don't mind the style, it's a pleasant enough album with no less than *32* songs taken pretty faithfully from the usual collections.

http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=185


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 09:38 AM

I've just been checking through my archive of old 78 recordings of sea music. I haven't turned up much and none of it rivals what Desert Dancer and Q have dug up:

Richard Dyer-Bennet recorded on Richard Dyer-Bennet - Lute Singer - Ballads and Folk Songs, Keynote Recordings, Album No. 108, © 1941:

Hullabaloo Belay
What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor

Leonard Warren (with Orchestra and Chorus!) recorded on Sea Shanties, RCA Victor Red Seal Records, circa 1940, collected and arranged by Tom Scott:

Blow the Man Down
Rio Grande
The Drummer & the Cook (identified as a foc'sle song rather than a shanty)
Shenandoah
Haul-A-Way Joe
Low Lands
The Drunken Sailor
A-Rovin'

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: GUEST,Max Johnson
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 11:17 AM

Apologies if this is slightly off-topic.

I recently heard some recordings of shanties and sea songs from the remote island of St Helena. They were being sung in English, with concertina, by people who were clearly used to singing them as working songs. A strange concertina style too, to my untutored ear.
I'll see if I can get a copy of the (private) recording, but it might take a while.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 11:25 AM

Max,
in the late 60s/early 70s whilst serving in the MN I called in to St. Helena on several occasions. I too heard singing sea songs, not as far as I can remember shanties. Like the young fool that I was I never recorded them nor even noted what they were. Now of caurse I could kick myself. If you could get a copy I would be most obliged.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: brezhnev
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 01:00 PM

So sometimes "commercial" points to production and marketing, sometimes instead to the style of the performance

Cheers, Lighter. So what you're talking about here are discs made in 'art music style' for commercial purposes, but not recordings of traditional singers untrained in art music made for commercial purposes. I get it.


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Bob_Walser
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 01:46 PM

Many thanks to all for their contributions. What great sleuths!

To clarify: I was curious about recordings of performances made specifically for sale to the general public rather than issues of 'field recordings' such as the early Library of Congress sets.

For the period in question I don't think there existed a functional technology to mass-produce, say, selections from Percy Grainger's 1906 field recordings - so the early mass-produced cylinders and discs had to be made from performances made with reproduction in mind.

The picture I'm getting is much as I'd imagined: male voices with chorus and piano and/or orchestral accompaniment. I'd love to listen to some of these (well, once at least). The impressions from the _Gramophone_ reviews are great. And I enjoyed the comments on the folk-ness of performance.

What is the appropriate aesthetic? C. Fox Smith wouldn't have presented us with that delightful rant unless the performance she so derides represented a challenge or threat or . . .


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 01:54 PM

Way back at the top, Bob Walser said:

I'm wondering what the earliest commercial shanty recordings were. My guess would be soloist (probably tenor or bass) with orchestra, chorus or piano.

My interpretation is that he wants to know what was manufactured for sale under the banner of "sea shanties" in the earliest years of recorded music sales, and what style of performance it was.

I'd be very surprised if there were any "recordings of traditional singers untrained in art music made for commercial purposes", but I'm sure he (and the rest of us) would love to know if there were.

Barring that, the comments from contemporaries (Cecily Fox Smith's is revealing!) and notes on performers (barring actual audio to hear with our modern ears) tell what the style of "commercial" performance was.

It does look like they all are done by groups, rather than soloists, so that's a start. The Raymond Newell recording that started the list off has piano accompaniment, but most of the others don't make note of accompaniment. So, that's a small step closer to what you'd "want" than Bob assumed at the start. The "bel canto" voices are probably still a safe assumption, though.

What we want is audio...

~ Becky in Long Beach


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 01:55 PM

Cross-posted with you, Bob!

~ Becky


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Lighter
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 04:24 PM

My guess is that Fox Smith was annoyed by the social and psychological misrepresentation of the material as the commercial discs presented it.

She knew something about the realities of seafaring. These had nothing to do with the extremely mannered, "jolly-tar" stereotype that's existed since the 18th Century. (Check your nearest Ren Faire for Pyrate bands and you'll see things haven't changed much.)

She may have wanted greater public recognition of what kind of work sailors really did, and an end to the idea, as Stan Hugill memorably put it, that sea labor was like being on stage in some kind of floating music hall. (Forgive the paraphrase from memory!)


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 05:17 PM

My guess is that Fox Smith was annoyed by the social and psychological misrepresentation of the material as the commercial discs presented it.

Very well put, Lighter. And thanks for the quote, Charlie.

We could probably pin-point a couple-year span when shanties got really popular. C Fox Smith's note was published 1927. What I believe to be a 1927-published revised edition of Davis Tozer contained advertisements for lots of chanty sheet music for sale. Colcord's first came in 1924 -- I don't remember if she makes any comments along these lines. The recordings discovered, above, are largely 1925-1928. Was Terry's book (Part One) the/a main impetus for all this?

I wonder when the phrase "sea shanty" first started getting used? (I know C.F. Smith also had a pithy comment on that, Charlie!) One could argue that, on some level, the use of the phrase correlates with the sort of misrepresentation that may have disturbed better-informed observers. Pin-point the phrase, and see how (if at all) it fits with this early "revival".


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Subject: RE: Earliest Commercial Shanty Recordings
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Feb 11 - 06:01 PM

Gibb-

C. Fox Smith used all the different ways of spelling "shanty" including her parody spelling "tchahntey." She used "shanty" for her traditional collection of such sea songs but earlier for her sea poetry books had used the full range of spellings.

The rant from her above was focused on live performances rather than recordings.

Here's one more semi-early recording from my archives:

Bill Bonyun, Who Built America, Folkways Records, FW07542, 1950:

Santy Anno

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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