I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California, an area fabled in story and song. I keep looking for songs that tell the story of my home, but I've found very few that really interest me. John A. Stone ("Old Put") published his popular songsters in the 1850's, but very few of Stone's songs give me satisfaction. I suppose the three Gold Rush songs I've known all my life are "Sweet Betsy from Pike" (Stone), "Clementine" (but is it really from the Gold Rush?), and "Banks of the Sacramento," which is more a sea shanty than a mining song.
Here's what the Traditional Ballad Index has to say about "Banks of the Sacramento":
Ho for California (Banks of Sacramento)DESCRIPTION: The "plot" of the song varies widely, according to its use by pioneers, sailors, or gold-diggers. The chorus is fixed: "(Then) Ho! (boys), Ho! To California go! There's plenty of gold in the world, we're told, on the banks of the Sacramento"
EARLIEST DATE: 1849 (Journal of William F. Morgan of the La Grange)
KEYWORDS: gold shanty travel
1849 - California gold rush
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE) Australia Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (18 citations):
Eddy 125, "California" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner 70, "Ho, Boys, Ho" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doerflinger, pp. 68-70, "Sacramento" (3 texts, 2 tunes, though the last of these derives its verses from "Rolling in the Dew (The Milkmaid)")
Colcord, pp. 105-106, "Sacramento" (1 text, 1 tune)
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 39-40, "Banks of Sacramento" (1 composite text, 1 tune)
Harlow, pp. 109-110, "Banks of Sacramento" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill, pp. 106-114, "California," "Sacramento" (7 texts-1 in German, 3 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 95-100]
Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 82-83, "The Banks of Sacramento" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg, pp. 110-111, "California"; 111, "The Banks of Sacramento" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Smith/Hatt, p. 37, "On the Banks of the Sacramento" (1 text)
Lomax-FSUSA 42, "Sacramento" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Covell/Brown, p. 91, "Banks of the Sacramento" (1 fragmentary text, in which the singer seeks girls rather than gold; 1 tune)
Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 174-176, "The California Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 655-656, "Ho! For California!" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 88, "Sacramento" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 158-159, "(De) Camptown Races--(Sacramento)"
DT, SACRMNTO* SACRMNT2*
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Sacramento" is in Part 2, 7/21/1917.
Logan English, "Sacramento" (on LEnglish02)
cf. "Ten Thousand Miles Away" (tune)
cf. "A Capital Ship" (tune)
Blow, Boys, Blow for Californi-O
Der Hamborger Veermaster
Der Hamborger Vullrigger
NOTES: Possibly created and certainly popularized by the Hutchinson Family (who published a text in their 1855 songbook), versions of this song are found throughout the U.S., and are well-known among sailors.
The texts are diverse (Hugill, for instance, has a version in which a sailor courts a girl and winds up with a venereal disease), but most seem to be related to the California gold rush. The tune is a variation on "Camptown Races," perhaps in turn based on "A Capital Ship." - RBW
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The Ballad Index Copyright 2013 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.