The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #81820   Message #3027443
Posted By: Lighter
09-Nov-10 - 06:20 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
It's fascinating to see three different texts of this shanty from one singer - Dick Maitland of New York City (1857-1942). He was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941 and by Richard Doerflinger at around the same time. I believe that the version printed by Emrich is the one Maitland sang for Lomax, but my Emrich book is temporarily invisible.

Doerflinger says (p. 36)that Maitland "sang the first version fairly consistently, but would also make up long semiextemporaneous versions, one of which follows. Rhyme, while preferred, wasn't strictly required. Some shantymen fell back on delayed rhymes or assonance."

I don't know what a "delayed rhyme" is unless he means "extra syllables."

Anyway, M's version II in Doerflinger begins with eight numbered stanzas and concludes with four unnumbered ones. I don't why. Perhaps he sang the numbered stanzas every time but the unnumbered ones only now and then.

D says that M learned to sing "The Alabama" "on the schoolship _Mercury_ in 1870 or 1871." That would make it one of the first shanties he learned. That would also be the earliest posited date.

M was almost 85 when he was recorded.

I believe that the usual revival version was written by somebody in the 1950s. Hermes Nye sang it on "Songs of the Civil War" in 1954 without giving a source.

Colcord's version:

When the Alabama's keel was laid
They laid her keel at Birkenhead,

Oh, she was built in Birkenhead,
Built in the yard of Jonathan Laird.

Away down the Mesrey she rolled one day,
And across the "Western" she ploughed her way.

Colcord notes, "I have never been able to collect more than the fragment which my father used to sing."

It seems not to have been very common. Carpenter seems not to have encountered it.