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Origins: Whaling Johnny

GUEST,Lighter 30 May 07 - 09:00 AM
EBarnacle 30 May 07 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,Lighter 30 May 07 - 11:08 AM
Charley Noble 30 May 07 - 01:12 PM
Greg B 30 May 07 - 01:42 PM
Greg B 30 May 07 - 02:57 PM
GUEST,Lighter 30 May 07 - 04:47 PM
Greg B 30 May 07 - 09:50 PM
JWB 30 May 07 - 10:25 PM
Greg B 30 May 07 - 11:39 PM
Marc Bernier 30 May 07 - 11:44 PM
Greg B 30 May 07 - 11:52 PM
Marc Bernier 31 May 07 - 09:05 AM
Charley Noble 31 May 07 - 09:19 AM
GUEST,Lighter 31 May 07 - 08:30 PM
Charley Noble 01 Jun 07 - 09:52 AM
JWB 01 Jun 07 - 11:21 AM
Greg B 01 Jun 07 - 01:21 PM
JWB 01 Jun 07 - 04:33 PM
Greg B 02 Jun 07 - 01:35 PM
Marc Bernier 02 Jun 07 - 04:17 PM
JWB 03 Jun 07 - 03:47 PM
Marc Bernier 03 Jun 07 - 04:23 PM
Greg B 03 Jun 07 - 04:54 PM
Marc Bernier 03 Jun 07 - 10:34 PM
Lighter 14 Jun 07 - 01:50 PM
Greg B 14 Jun 07 - 02:36 PM
shipcmo 22 Feb 11 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,Dick Holdstock 02 Jun 14 - 02:47 PM
Lighter 02 Jun 14 - 06:37 PM
GUEST 03 Jun 14 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,sciencegeek 03 Jun 14 - 12:17 PM
Gibb Sahib 12 Jul 14 - 07:34 PM
Lighter 13 Jul 14 - 08:42 AM
RoyH (Burl) 13 Jul 14 - 11:01 AM
Gibb Sahib 04 Aug 14 - 03:27 AM
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Subject: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 May 07 - 09:00 AM

Does anybody know anything about this shanty? I heard Stan Hugill sing it at Mystic in 1988. It isn't in any of his books. The whole thing sounds rather contrived to me, but Bill Adams quoted a couple of lines of it in a brief article he wrote in the 1920s.

The shanty begins something like,

Whaling Johnny went to sea,
Cho.: Whaling Johnny high-ho!
A handy, dandy boy was he.
Cho: Away, my boys, for Hilo!

Alaska and the Sulu Sea are mentioned.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: EBarnacle
Date: 30 May 07 - 10:57 AM

It sounds like a variant on Bobby Shaftoe.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 May 07 - 11:08 AM

No, Whaling Johnny "fished for whale and manatee."

The final verse is,

Whaling Johnny he came back...
With shellfish growing down his back....

Peculiar.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 May 07 - 01:12 PM

Lighter-

No sign of a "Whaling Johnny" in any of my nautical anthologies.

I also checked Stuart Frank's two long articles on whaling songs in the magazine Maritime Life and Traditions, volumes 23 and 26, which have some excellent notes.

The final verse does presents a clear picture of how a sailor became "a shellback."

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 30 May 07 - 01:42 PM

Funny old small world, and how things get started.

I first heard it from John Townley, on a 'Lark in the Morning'
video that he did for them regarding squeezeboxes.

I looked it up all over the place, never could find it.

Then, probably in 1988, I was driving Stan and Bron Hugill from
Hartford to Mystic where Stan had done a little concert with Don
Sineti in a print shop, and I asked Stan about it, noting that
it wasn't in any of the books, his included.

He sang it for me, but didn't say much more about it, other
than it was a legit old song insofar as he knew.

Then he sung it from the stage a day or two later. It was
his wont to sing things that someone had put into his mind.
I guess that was probably the incident to which Lighter refers.

Subsequently, I had it in my own repertoire for a few years.

Here's how I remember it:

When whalin' Johnny put to sea
Whalin' Johnny Hilo [Hilo is pronounced 'High-Lo' in this case)
A handy dandy [or randy] lad was he
All bound away for Hilo

When whalin' Johnny he came back
Whalin' Johnny Hilo
He had shell fish growin down his back
All bound away for Hilo

His girl had found another flame
But still he loved he just the same

He kissed her once and twice again [not sure if I have this
line right, though I know the rhyme is bad in both the
Hugill and Townley versions]
Sez he I'll go and fish for sperm

He shipped on board a whaling bark
Sez he, we'll have a damned fine lark

From Alaska to the Sulu sea
He fished for whale and manatee

When whalin' Johnny he came back
He had shellfish growing up his back

Rather clearly a long-drag, or halyard chanty, two
obvious pulls in the chorus.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 30 May 07 - 02:57 PM

I must correct myself--- I know it can't have been 1988 that
I had the song from Stan--- it was '90 or '91, more likely
'91, his last year with us in Mystic. It's fifteen years,
now, the Old Man's been gone; I remember getting the phone
call from Celeste Bernardo that he'd gone as if it were
yesterday.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 30 May 07 - 04:47 PM

Greg B., I thought you looked familiar!

But yes, it was definitely 1988 when I heard Stan sing it. It may have been on the deck of the "Morgan" or the "Conrad." Have not seen it or heard it since except on Stan's "Sauling Days" CD (1993). John Townley was present in '88 as well - perhaps Stan learned it from him!

Your version looks pretty much right to me, though I think the "bad-rhyme line" went "Sez he, I'll go and fish, by damn!" Yet, if memory serves, Stan seemed to hesitate on that one, as though unsure of the line and searching for an appropriate ad lib - which, old shanty guy that he was, he found in a twinkling. Will check the recording.

Will also look for Bill Adams's verse and post when I find it. It's just a fragment.

But the question remains: whence the song and who dug it up?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 30 May 07 - 09:50 PM

OK then, lighter (Guest)

Who the hell are you?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: JWB
Date: 30 May 07 - 10:25 PM

Links of chain... I learned this from Don Sinetti, who obviously picked it up from Stan around the same time Greg B did. I don't think I've processed Don's version too awfully much:

When Whaling Johnny went to sea,
Chorus
A randy dandy lad was he,
Chorus

His love had found another flame...
And he did treat her just the same...

She'd gone and married a sailor bold...
And Whaling Johnny's heart turned cold...

Of rum he drank a steaming dram...
And said, "I'll go and fish for sperm"...

He went and joined a whaling bark...
And said, "We'll have a damned fine lark"...

They went into the Sulu Sea...
Where they fished for sperm and manatee...

When Whaling Johnny he came back...
He'd shellfish growing down his back...

Now, knowing how close Don and Stan were, I'm guessing that Don had ample opportunity to get all the verses from Stan. Whether Stan improvised them or not, Don would know. Let's ask him next week!


Before hitting the Submit Message button I dug out Stan's album "Sailing Days". Pretty much the same verses as Don gives, with an extra one or two and a few small wording variations. Too bad Townley won't be at Mystic -- we might have been able to solve the mystery.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 30 May 07 - 11:39 PM

That's IT Gerry. The verse I buggered up is now
corrected. Sorry, I was driving a National Treasure
of England, his wife, and my girl and couldn't write
it down.

Townley didn't do the 'rum' verse, as I recall. But
Stan did.

I miss John--- he always lent a new twist. First year
at Mystic, a fellow ran up to me, all excited, and introduced
himself to John Townley. I explained that John wasn't the only
5'2" chantyman...

That same year, an old fellow came up to me, introduced himself
as 'Stan' and asked if I was the lad from San Francisco. I damned
near fainted in the oyster shells. Then he asked where the 'brown
girl' that I'd come out with was...he was looking for Celeste
Bernardo, to set up a gig in San Francisco.

Later, he came up, grabbed my (illicit) beer and said 'I need
something to lubricate my larynx before I go on' and drank half
the bottle in one 'chug.' Bloody hell.

Then he went and pissed it out on the immaculate topsides
of the Brilliant.

Fast forward a few years. Stan's in the back seat of the car,
I'm hosting him for the severalth time on both coasts. I asked
him about Whaling Johnny. I hadn't the nerve to ask what I really
wanted to ask, 'Please do me a painting.'

Idiot.

I'd put it off until next year.

"Stan has passed away," said Celeste, just before we wept together
on the phone. "Just one more Maui, that's all I wanted..." said I.

A couple of years later, I'm living in the New York area (of all
things.) Townley and the X- had mentored me across 2800 miles, and
there I was, singing weekly with Frank Woerner and befriended (often
at 3AM) by Bernie Klay.

Then Bernie, Cmdr. Klay, too, was gone.

At the memorial at South Street, Bernie's long-suffering love, Karen
asks "What should I do with the mandolins?" I said "give them to
Townley." Must have been a small fortune's worth. "There's a Stan
Hugill painting..."

Devil on one shoulder angel on the other.

Angel wins.

"Give it to Mystic Seaport-- they don't have one."

Months pass. Another late-night phone call.

"I don't think Bernie wanted Mystic to have it. I think he wanted
you to have it."

"Okay--- if you think that's right, I'd love to have it."

Guess it was the payment for all those 3AM phone calls. Why
does anyone answer the phone at 3AM, anyways?

Give the address. Hold breath for 3 days.

God. Don't let them lose it or destroy it.

Here it is. Open it. My God. Nothing like anything else. A
luminous masterpiece.

Here it is. Doesn't do it justice The 'super-abundance of checked shirt'
is palpable. And the sky is just--- exactly like a tropical sky.

It can light up a dark room. Never knew Stan could paint like that.

It lives over my work-station, I look at it daily.

Oh--- I did make it up to Mystic.

Another East Coast friend turned out to be William Main Doerflinger,
who lived just a few minutes from me. We threw one hell of a sea-music
party at his house, not long before he went to Fiddler's Green.
Anyway, in the early 60's Stan had given him the centerpiece of his
study, a classic Hugill painting of a ship in full sail. When Bill
had gone, I persuaded his son to donate the painting to Mystic, the
only Hugill in their collection. I lovingly took it up there, and
presented it at the Festival. Just a couple of years after I got the
one that I'd tried to get them, I got them theirs. Not as nice as
mine, but there it is.

Couldn't get them to agree not to sell it--- they don't like
conditions on gifts. Which explains in part why I won't see you
all next week.

This is all a long way from 'Whaling Johnny' but then it isn't.

Remarkable, deep, personal friendships and hospitality have been
the magic behind the preservation of this genre. That's something
that other folks don't understand...as they try to 'balance the
books.'

'Whaling Johnny' is the perfect example. Didn't even make it into
the books. But was given in the back seat of a 1985 Camry on the
way to Mystic from Hartford. From one fellow to another who'd met
again and yet again on both coasts of these united states.

And Stan's 15 years gone.

Yet his generosity continues, in those of us who remember
it, and pass it on.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 30 May 07 - 11:44 PM

What a great discussion/coincidence. Don is the only one I've ever heard do this. I have done it occasionally but I definitely got it from Don. He has always said to me he got it from Stan. Just today I was thinking about it for next weekend. Maybe we should find a corner and sing it together at some-point, those verses look like the ones I remember.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 30 May 07 - 11:52 PM

Yeah, just keep it up.

What're you trying to do, get me to show up?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 31 May 07 - 09:05 AM

Of course we want you to show up. I have nothing to do with books or gifts.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Charley Noble
Date: 31 May 07 - 09:19 AM

Greg B-

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, and I among others, will sorely miss you at Mystic this year. Mystic this year may be better than past festivals, or worse, but the important thing is the Festival is still very much alive and will be an inspiration for both the regular attendees and hopefully some new ones.

I wonder if Stuart Frank ran across "Whaling Johnny" in his research (see refreshed "Rolling Down to Old Maui thread).

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 31 May 07 - 08:30 PM

Greg, that was a very moving post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

As for "Whaling Johnny," my guess is that the posted version was inspired by the Bill Adams fragment, which I haven't dug out yet, and passed on to Stan as a "version" of an old shanty, maybe in the mid- or late '80s. Stan knew a good song when he heard it.

My feeling comes from the following observations:

1. In its current form it seems very memorable, yet
2. no collector gives anything like it, not even Stan, and
3. Alaska and the Sulu Sea are, as far as I know, virtually unknown in old shanties, and
4. "shellfish growing down his back" is a uniquely weird notion (even if barnacles are meant), and finally,
5. the song tells a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end, unlike most halliard shanties, which are open-ended.

Proves nothing, as usual. Just food for thought.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Jun 07 - 09:52 AM

Lighter-

I'm actually more interested in where you found the Bill Adam's fragment. I've read his fascinating autobiography and have a copy of his nautical poetry book WIND IN THE TOPSAILS. I know he also wrote many short stories, many of a nautical nature. I've set several of his poems to music, the most successful one being "Bound Away!"

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: JWB
Date: 01 Jun 07 - 11:21 AM

Lighter,

There are a number of halyard chanteys that have a narrative thread. Several variants of "Blow the Man Down" tell a coherent story, viz. the black ball, queer bungereye and coitus interuptus versions. "Ruben Ranzo" and "John Cherokee" have a plot, and even "Hieland Laddie" -- while not a real plot -- has a picaresque thread to it.

However, I tend to like chanteys with a story line, so perhpaps my mental database is biased in that direction.

Your supposition that "Whaling Johnny" sprang from the Adam's fragment and isn't a true chantey is thought-provoking. Given the covey of chantey experts that will be at Mystic next week, I intend to do a little research on this. I promise to share my findings in this thread.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 01 Jun 07 - 01:21 PM

I'm suddenly seized with doubts.

If it's a halyard chanty, how would you 'work' the song?

On the first line of the chorus, there seem to be three options
for locating the two pulls. Either 'WHAL-ing JOHN-ny hi-lo'
or 'WHAL-ing John-ny HI-lo' I find neither to be wholly
satisfactory.

The first pull comes on the first syllable, which in practical
use isn't particularly desirable because not only does the crew
not quite know when to come in vocally to give that Morbid
Block-and-Tackle Choir effect, they're not going to know where
to pull either. "Well, that's what a 'hitch or yelp' is for"
sayeth St. Stan from up above. But if you try it, 'hitching'
into a soft 'WH' sound isn't very natural.

On the second chorus, it gets worse. First pull, obvious on
'BOUND,' with a convenient 'we're' or 'all' to get yous going.
But now, again, we run into a problem of where to put the
second pull. 'All BOUND a-WAY for Hi-lo' or 'All BOUND a-way
for HI-lo.' The first choice it seems a bit too early to
quite work. Second choice, well I don't know about the other
chantymen here, but it seems rather late. I suppose it's no
worse than Ranzo.

Except in the case of 'Ranzo' there's a more clear 'throw
away' of 'boys' and 'me boys' in the choruses. It's clearly
'connective tissue.' Where it isn't on Whaling Johnny. It's
'Johnny.' The lad's NAME after all.

As sung by some folks, it's rhythmic enough to syncopatable (is
that a word?) enough to work either for capstain (or more likely)
brake windlass.

But for those uses it seems a bit abbreviated.

Is this one of those 'chanties' which by virtue of the fact
that, at least as we know it, it 'almost works' betrays itself
as pretender, rather than the real thing?

Perhaps the demonstration squad will oblige one of you lads
trying to set it to work this coming weekend, in order to give
it a bit of a 'sea trial.'

I think contemporary performers may have gone a bit overboard
in stretching out the first Hi-loooooooooooooo as well, and thus
perhaps damaged its workability a bit.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: JWB
Date: 01 Jun 07 - 04:33 PM

Greg,

Your suggestion is perfect: let's get the squad to try it out.

I don't find it challenging to picture two pulls on either chorus. To me, hauling to "Whaling Johnny" seems more logical than to "Lowlands", for example. I sing WJ imagining the 2nd pull on HI in both choruses. It's a nice, steady 4/4, as long as you don't, as you point out so perspicatiously, draw out the final "Loooooooooooo". Did that originate with Stan?

That prolongation of the terminal vowel in "Whaling Johnny" doesn't bother me nearly as much as the All-for-me-grog-like thumping that has crept into "Old Maui". Can't stand that.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 02 Jun 07 - 01:35 PM

Jerry---

What about the terminal and oft-exaggerated yelp on
the penultimate line of every verse, and the second
line of every chorus?

Aw hell, pretty soon the whole song will piss me off...
...may as well switch to 'Good Ship Venus' or '3 Old
Whores from Winnipeg' for our unofficial official anthem!

Actually, I find that if I'm getting annoyed with a particular
song, I just think about 'The Old Dunn Cow' or 'John Kanaka'
sung badly, and the irritation thus caused permanently eclipses
any temporary acute aggravation by dint of the onset of a sort
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 02 Jun 07 - 04:17 PM

Don used to use this frequently at halyards on the Morgan. Sguad has the pulls right where you describe. WHa, Hi, Bound, Hi,

With the immortal Don Sineti leading, it never felt the least bit awkward. I sure squad will be glad to give it a go for you. I don't recall seeing any of you scheduled for a chanties at work on the Morgan, Don & I are scheduled for most of the CAW workshops on the Morgan. Stop by and you can either try leading it or watch.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: JWB
Date: 03 Jun 07 - 03:47 PM

Marc,

Do you recall if Don holds the last hi-LO of the second chorus?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 03 Jun 07 - 04:23 PM

It is Don Sineti, so rythm and tonality can be variable. But in answer to your question, I wouldn't say that second lo is held out. In the first Hi lo, hi gets 2 beats, lo gets one. in the 2nd Hi lo, one beat each with one beat breath before the verse. Does that make any sense?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 03 Jun 07 - 04:54 PM

With the pulls as Marc Describes, the long-ish 'lo'
actually serves to balance things out. Perhaps the personal
trainer on the ship on which it was written recommended that,
for best aerobic excercise


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 03 Jun 07 - 10:34 PM

Does that mean what I wrote makes sense?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Jun 07 - 01:50 PM

Here's what I was looking for. "Singers of the Sea," by Bill Adams, in "The Outlook" (May 27, 1925), p. 168:

"Did you ever hear this sailor chantey?

When whaling Johnnie went to sea,
    Whaling Johnnie, hi-hoh!
A randy dandy lad was he,
    All bound away to Hilo.

[Similarly:]

But whaling John, when he came back,...
He'd shell-fish growing down his back....

His gal had wed a tailor bold,...
Young whaling Johnnie's heart was cold....

Of rum he drank a steaming dram,...
Said he: 'I'll go and fish, by damn!'...

And still he wanders there and back,...
With shell-fish growing down his back...."

It would be easy to imagine that Adams himself was the author, but he goes on to say, "It was at midnight in 60[degrees] south that I heard it, sung not on my own ship but on an unseen ship that passed close by."

And that's all Bill Adams had to say about "Whaling Johnny."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Greg B
Date: 14 Jun 07 - 02:36 PM

Cue spooky music...

"Twilight Zone: The Sea Shanty Episode"


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: shipcmo
Date: 22 Feb 11 - 01:17 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,Dick Holdstock
Date: 02 Jun 14 - 02:47 PM

Getting ready to sing "Whaling Johnny" at Mystic this year (2014). In the above chats I saw no mention of the 1978 recording by Jim Mageean from which I learned it. It is on a Greenwich recording titled "Of Ships and Men". Jimmie says it is a halyard shanty collected by Stan Hugill while he was taking part in the Tall Ships Race from Bermuda to Washington a few years before this recording


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jun 14 - 06:37 PM

Thanks so much, Dick. Sorry I won't be there!

But I certainly remember seeing you and Allan MacLeod on stage in '88! Nice work!

The "Tall Ships" raced from Lisbon to Bermuda to Newport, RI, in 1976. I can't find any mention of a race from Bermuda to Washington, so presumably the '76 event is the one referred to.

My guess is still that someone picked up the words from the Bill Adams article, set a tune to it, and added some words. That it was apparently put to use at sea as a working shanty in its new form in 1976 is a bonus.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jun 14 - 11:47 AM

Hi Greg- Please consider coming to the Festival this year. It would be wonderful to see you. David Littlefield


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: GUEST,sciencegeek
Date: 03 Jun 14 - 12:17 PM

yeah... ditto that from the festival goddess... LOL


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 12 Jul 14 - 07:34 PM

Hugill sang "Whaling Johnny" in a workshop of "Whaling Songs" on 31 May, 1981 at Mystic Seaport's "Traditional Music of the Sea Festival."

A cassette recording of this exists in the Seaport's Collections. I listened to the recording and took notes.

Disclaimer: I must admit that my note to self, "collected many years ago," is vague as to whether Hugill said the song was collected (by someone else) many years ago, or if he collected it himself. I'm over 90% sure that Hugill was saying he collected it himself, but don't quote me on that bit!

Anyway, if he said he collected it himself, it seems unlikely it was really "many years" ago because until 1973 he was writing his "Bosun's Locker" column and if he had really known this as a traditional chanty then he'd have put it in that column (I think). So, the mid-70s (between 73 and 78) does sound like the right time when Hugill would have pulled this into his repertoire. (He was on the brig UNICORN in the Op Sail of 1976, incidentally. And he had to teach the trainees chanties, so not likely he got the song there.)

More likely, his saying "many years" was just by way of setting up his next comment - the only other comment I took down in my notes! - that he would "probably forget" lyrics. (In most of the other songs he performed in the same workshop, he forgot lyrics, sometimes asking the other performers to fill in as they'd learned from his books, haha.) Yet, on "Whaling Johnny" there were no noticeable flubs, except perhaps for the exact repetition of the "shellfish" verse.

Here's what he sang (as I heard it, at least).

Now when Whaling Johnny went to sea
Oh! Whaling Johnny high-ho! [extra beat]
Oh a handy randy lad was he
All bound away to hi-lo

Now when Whaling Johnny he came back
He'd shellfish growing down his back

Now his girl had found another flame
Till he did treat her just the same

So he went and drank a steaming dram
Said he I'll go and fish be damned

So he went and joined a whaling barque
Says he, I'll have a damned fine lark

From Alaska to the Sulu Sea
He fished for sperm and manatee

Now when Whaling Johnny he came back
He'd shellfish growing down his back


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Lighter
Date: 13 Jul 14 - 08:42 AM

Great work, Gibb! That's exactly what Hugill sang again in 1988.

No serious flubs, no missed verses.

My only suggestion is that "be damned" is likely to be "By damn!"

Isn't fishing "for manatee" kind of an odd occupation for an Anglo-American whaling ship? At sea, manatees live only in "fresh-water estuaries" off the West African coast, and in the Caribbean.

Neither of which sounds like prime territory for nineteenth-century whaling. Of course, "manatee" does rhyme with the equally exotic "Sulu Sea" - but that sound more like Conrad than Melville.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 13 Jul 14 - 11:01 AM

'Greg B' Are you Greg Bullough? I haven't seen you in years. How are you doing my friend?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Whaling Johnny
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 03:27 AM

At the 1982 Sea Music Festival, Mystic Seaport, 13th June, in the final concert of the event, staff chanteyman Bob Crowley led "Whaling Johnny".

There is a recording of this in the Seaport's Collections.

Crowley had been on the staff at that time for only about a month and a half, but the way he introduced the song leads me to infer that it was pretty commonly sung and/or well-established around the Seaport at/by that time. It was a year since Hugill had sung it at a similar event there.

Crowley sang the following (transcribed by me from recording):

When Whaling Johnny went to sea
    W J high-o
A randy dandy lad was he
    All down the way to Hilo

His gal had found another flame
So he did treat her just the same

His girl had married a sailor bold
So WJ's heart turned cold

Of rum he drunk a steamin' dram
Says he, I'll go and fish for sperm

So he sailed on board of a whalin' bark
Says he, I'll have a damned fine lark

He sailed into the Zulu (sic) Sea
Where he fished for sperm and manatee

When WJ he came back
He'd shellfish a growin' down his back

Despite the familiarity implied by Crowley, the audience wasn't quick to join in. I'd guess that the general community wasn't familiar with the song, but that the Seaport staff had been doing it a lot in the past year so it seemed more established to Crowley. Just a guess. In any case, they had evidently "processed" it a bit.


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Mudcat time: 20 August 5:18 AM EDT

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