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Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)

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Charley Noble 27 Jul 08 - 03:36 PM
MartinRyan 27 Jul 08 - 04:48 PM
stallion 27 Jul 08 - 06:44 PM
Dead Horse 28 Jul 08 - 06:32 AM
Charley Noble 28 Jul 08 - 09:11 AM
Sailor Ron 28 Jul 08 - 10:28 AM
Charley Noble 28 Jul 08 - 06:24 PM
Charley Noble 30 Jul 08 - 09:01 AM
Charley Noble 07 Aug 08 - 05:12 PM
Charley Noble 08 Aug 08 - 09:28 AM
Charley Noble 08 Oct 08 - 10:15 AM
Charley Noble 01 Dec 09 - 11:34 AM
Gibb Sahib 05 Dec 09 - 01:28 AM
Charley Noble 05 Dec 09 - 10:22 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 Jul 08 - 03:36 PM

Here's an intriguing poem by Cicely Fox Smith which while published in Punch Magazine never was re-published in one of her poetry books. I've adapted it for singing, making use of a few tune fragments that have been cluttering up my brain for the last 50 years (copy and paste into WORD/TIMES/12 to line up chords):

By Cicely Fox Smith, from Punch Magazine, Volume 186, February 28, 1934, p. 248.
Adapted for singing by Charlie Ipcar 7/22/08
Tune for verse primarily inspired by "You Gave Me a Song" by Hazel Dickens

Mobile Bay-2

G---------------------C---------D
There's a song that keeps re-sounding,
------C-----------------D------G
As a song will some-times do;
--------------C------------D--------D7
It takes me away to my younger days
----------C-------------G----D
And the men and the life I knew –
--------G-----------------D------------D7
To the men I knew in a time that's gone
--------C--------------D--G
And a ship of some re-nown,
-----------------C--------D-------D7
When I sailed away to Mobile Bay,
---------------C-----------D---G
Where they roll the cot-ton down!


Chorus:

G------------------D------D7
"Roll the cotton down, bullies,
C-------------D---G
Roll the cot-ton down!"
--------------C---------D----------D7
I thought I heard the Old Man say,
C--------------D--G
"Roll the cot-ton down!"


I mind the heat of the noonday sun
And the warm wet dockside smells –
Rum and sugar, and the stevedores,
And the Cajun demoiselles:
The shuffle and stamp of the naked feet
On the levees once again:
They all ring true from the years I knew
To the sound of this refrain. (CHO)

It takes me away from the dingy streets
Of this drab grey Northern town:
I can hear the yarns my shipmates spun
And the rum old songs we sung,
The way of a ship at a twelve-knot clip
When I sailed the wide world round,
And I mind that day in Mobile Bay
When they rolled the cotton down. (CHO

It's the width of a world from here, I know,
It's the half of my life since then,
And it's ill to tread, so I've heard said,
A trail where you've lost a friend;
So I may sail east, or I may sail west,
Where the folks are yaller or brown,
But I'll not stray to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down. (CHO)

I've added the chorus from the traditional shanty and make a few other wording changes. Here's the original poem:

Mobile Bay

There's a song has gone through my mind all day,
As a song will sometimes do;
It takes me back to the years of youth
And the men and the ways I knew –
To the men I knew in a time that's gone
And a ship of old renown,
When I sailed on a day to Mobile Bay,
Where they roll the cotton down!

I remember the feel of the noonday sun
And the warm wet Indian smells –
Rum and sugar, niggers and mud,
And the dear Lord knows what else:
The shuffle and stamp of the naked feet
On the levees once again:
They all come back from the years that were
To the sound of that old refrain.
"Roll the cotton down, bullies,
Roll the cotton down!"
I am far away from the dingy street
And the drab grey Northern town:
I remember the yarns my shipmates spun
And the great old songs we sung,
The way of a ship at a twelve-knot clip
In the years when the world was young.

It's the width of a world from here, worse luck,
It's the half of my life since then,
And it's ill to tread, so I've heard said,
A trail you've left again;
And I may sail east, or I may sail west,
Where the folks are yellow or brown,
But I'll sail no more to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down.

From Punch Magazine, Volume 186, February 28, 1934, p. 248.

This poem contains phrases from the traditional stevedore/halliard shanty "Roll the Cotton Down," a version of which the poet collected and published in A Book of Shanties, © 1927.

The poem is prefaced with the note "An Old Song Re-sung."

It will take me a couple of weeks before I can record a version of this song and post it to my website. And it may change before I do it but I'm certainly having a good time working on it now.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: MartinRyan
Date: 27 Jul 08 - 04:48 PM

Looks good - I look forward to hearing it.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: stallion
Date: 27 Jul 08 - 06:44 PM

thanks for this one Charley, looks a good un


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Dead Horse
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 06:32 AM

It does bother me somewhat that some folkies are apt to turn poems like this into psuedo-shanties, and so making the waters even muddier for the rest of us.
Part of the theme for this poem is the genuine shanty "Roll The Cotton Down" and I should really hate to have modern stuff quoted at me when enquiring after its origins.
Sorry. Me in a curmudgeonly mood, not helped by b****y Sessily F**ks Smiff again!
Why do I hate this womans stuff so?
Maybe cos I reckon if women was meant to go to sea, the Good Lord, in His infinite wisdom, would not have invented kitchens !!!
(Heh Heh. Now lets see the fur fly, huh?)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 09:11 AM

Dead Horse-

Not to worry! And if men were meant to go to sea they'd be born with shells on their backs!

But seriously without the help of such fine women as Cicely Fox Smith (UK) and her friend Joanne Colcord (US), many of the traditional shanties we all love to sing would have been lost.

Of course this poem was first published way back in 1934, possibly before you were even born, which stretches most definitions of what "modern" would cover.

By adapting the poem for singing now and combining it with the traditional chorus, I do run the risk of someone assuming the whole thing is a traditional forebitter or even a shanty. But I like to think the poem was composed as a tribute to the old sea songs, in the last days of commercial sail, and that I am reinforcing that tribute.

I do acknowledge that many of CFS's poems are nostalgic which makes for a dreary set if one is not careful. But even some of her nostalgic ones have some hard edges which makes them memorable.

Any other thoughts?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 10:28 AM

Any singer, or performance poet worth their salt would credit their song/poem to the author. As to 'many of CFS's poems are nostalgic',well, when was the last time you heard a chanty being sung on a commercial square rigger? Almost all our chanties/sea songs are 'nostalgic'. I served 10 years in the merchant navy, and we had 'our' own songs, but they certainly weren't chanties [see Perma Thread...Merchant Navy Songs for examples].


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 28 Jul 08 - 06:24 PM


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 30 Jul 08 - 09:01 AM

As usual when I begin learning a new song, I make additional changes. Here's where we are now (copy and paste into WORD/TIMES/12 to line up chords):

By Cicely Fox Smith, from Punch Magazine, Volume 186, February 28, 1934, p. 248.
Adapted for singing by Charlie Ipcar 7/22/08
Tune: inspired by "You Gave Me a Song" by Hazel Dickens

Mobile Bay-2


G-----------------C----D
There's a song I hear resounding,
------C-----------------D------G
As a song will some-times do;
--------------C-----G-----D--------D7
It takes me away to my younger days
----------C-------------G------D
And the men and the ships I knew –
--------G-----C------G--D-----------D7
To the men I knew in a time that's gone
--------C--------------D--G
And a ship of some re-nown,
-----------------C--------D-------D7
When I sailed away to Mobile Bay
---------------C-----------D---G
Where they roll the cot-ton down!


Chorus:

G------------------D------D7
"Roll the cotton down, bullies,
C-------------D---G
Roll the cot-ton down!"
--------------C-----D--------------D7
I thought I heard the Old Man say,
C--------------D--G
"Roll the cot-ton down!"


I mind the feel of the noonday sun
And the warm wet dockside smells –
Rum and spice, and the stevedores,
And the Cajun demoiselles,
The shuffle and beat of the naked feet
On the levees all around –
How I longed to stay in Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down. (CHO)

It takes me away from the dingy streets
Of this cold grey Northern town;
I can hear the yarns my shipmates spun
And the rum old songs we sung,
The way of a ship at a twelve-knot clip
When I sailed the wide world round,
And I mind that day in Mobile Bay
When they rolled the cotton down. (CHO

It's the width of a world from here to there,
It's the half of my life since then,
And it's ill to tread, so I've heard said,
A trail where you've lost a friend;
So I may sail east or I may sail west,
Where the folks are yellow or brown,
But I'll not stray to Mobile Bay
Where they roll the cotton down. (CHO)

There's a bit more internal rhyming and substantial changes in verse two.

Still having fun with this one. I'll probably introduce it to Roll & Go this evening.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 05:12 PM

We just recorded this one and it's now on my website with a MP3 sample of the first verse and chorus: click here for lyrics and MP3 Sample!

There's also a nice graphic drawn by Stan Hugill but not of the Mobile, Alabama, waterfront but of neighboring New Orleans.

The "printable option" on the website should get you a WORD version of the lyrics with the chords.

The tune of the original shanty "Roll the Cotton Down" was later used for "Roll, Alabama, Roll" in case anyone is interested.

There was a good response to this song last evening at a small gathering in the Chocolate Church in Bath, Maine. Folks got right into the chorus.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 09:28 AM

Here's a view of the cotton docks at Mobile Bay around the turn of the 19th century: click for a trip to Mobile Bay

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 08 Oct 08 - 10:15 AM

Well, I think this song is definately a keeper. It's gotten a good response at the Press Room and at Getaway.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Dec 09 - 11:34 AM

Here's a view of crews screwing cotton bales in a ship's hold in Galveston, Texas, around the early 1900's: click here for image!

This image may be enlarged at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery website.

Evidently four men worked the jack-screw press while another man led a stevedore shanty.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 01:28 AM

What, no video?? :-)

Great find, Charley, thanks!

Not much to grip onto! And wouldn't they get confused by two chanty-men? Raises a few more questions than it answers!

Here's a fun pic of a mausoleum with jackscrew images on it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Mobile Bay (C. Fox Smith)
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 10:22 AM

Gibb-

One would hope that the two teams were working to a similar shanty. Otherwise there could be a real battle between "Fire Maringo" and "Congo River."

I've also been wondering what keeps the bales from popping out when the jack-screw is reversed.

Love the photo of the Screw Union's Mausoleum. It's amazing where research can take you!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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