The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #128220   Message #2888899
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
17-Apr-10 - 09:35 PM
Thread Name: The Advent and Development of Chanties
Subject: RE: The Advent and Development of Chanties
THE WESTERN WILDS OF AMERICA, by John Regan (2nd. edition, 1859), mentions a riverboat trip in the Mississippi Valley (Galena River, Illinois) that he took circa 1843-1846. No specific song is mentioned, but he does describe his impression of the singing of African-American firemen:

About dark a steamer from Galena going down, called at the landing-place to take in grain, and we got on board to vary the journey and ease our limbs. The night was exceedingly hot and oppressive, and we stretched ourselves upon deck, hard by the windlass. The fires, as is usual, were upon this lower deck, served by negroes. As we lay with our hats drawn over our faces in a half doze, the firemen struck up one of those singularly wild and impressive glees which negroes alone can sing effectively. By turns the singer would break out into measured tones of laughter, followed by an outburst of musical salvoes, very singular and very commanding, coming as they did from the lungs of half a dozen or more. This would be succeeded by a sharp, piercing, "desolate howl," and this again by the full chorus of negro voices, aided by the black cook, who, captivated by the strains, would lean his breast up against his galley door, and grin out his satisfaction in true character, To describe in writing, however, the singular effect of this strange medley of sounds, would be impossible.