The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #92735   Message #3704192
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
26-Apr-15 - 12:25 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Pay Me My Money Down
Subject: RE: Origins: Pay Me My Money Down

L.A. Smith plagiarized the Atlantic Monthly article in her 1880s work, _The Music of the Waters_, which just about everybody who wrote about chanties over the next few decades read—and most read as some kind of gospel. Well, until R.R. Terry dismissed the work of his Tyneside compatriot, and his own work became a kind of gospel for performers/writers approaching the subject from the "outside." Hugill, of course, drew heavily on L.A. Smith, so the info has kind of been "laundered" in a way!

I don't remember, off hand, if Hugill researched the 1858 Atlantic Monthly article… I don't think so. And I don't remember exactly, but I suspect that L.A. Smith changed the lyrics somewhat while still plagiarizing the Atlantic Monthly. So what you may find is 1) 1858 Atlantic text 2) L.A. Smith's modification of that text 3) Hugill's presentation of what he claims to have heard from Caribbean shipmates, but could well have memory gaps filled in by what he read in Smith. For the purpose of historical study, I think one must be wary of treating these 3 published texts as "different versions", of treating them as evidence of the song's [wide] spread, or of trying to synthesize a composite meaning from them.

The 1950s audio recording by Lomax of the inheritors to the original Georgia Sea Island Singers, in conjunction with the print representation of what Parrish heard on St. Simon's a couple decades earlier (in her book), provides (in my opinion) the best way currently available to get at what the song was like before becoming folklorized.

The 1858 description is interesting because it assigns the the singing to the brake-operated bilge pump. As far as I know, that type of pump had started to lose favor/ground to the rotating wheel style "Downton" pump in the 1840s. As such, it is possible to suspect "Pay Me" was of classic (1840s or earlier) vintage, and akin to the body of songs that I believe was shared between "pumping" in other contexts (e.g. the pumping of a fire engine). That is, if the rhythm were not entirely different. (Note the huge difference in tune used by Hugill, which is NOT the Georgia > folklorized tune.) And if they were the same tune, we would have to assume that the stevedores' way of working to a tune was different than the sailors' way of working to the pumps—at least it was in the early 20th century, when the Georgia Sea Island men used the "exertion at the end of the chorus" method.