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Origins: Round the Bay of Mexico

DigiTrad:
ROUND THE BAY OF MEXICO


Pete Curry 04 Aug 99 - 09:28 PM
Barry Finn 05 Aug 99 - 01:33 AM
Wotcha 05 Aug 99 - 03:10 PM
Liam's Brother 05 Aug 99 - 03:42 PM
Frank of Toledo 05 Aug 99 - 08:46 PM
Donald A. Duncan 08 Aug 99 - 11:41 PM
Barry Finn 09 Aug 99 - 08:56 PM
Barry Finn 09 Aug 99 - 09:13 PM
Pete Curry 09 Aug 99 - 09:42 PM
Donald A. Duncan 10 Aug 99 - 12:06 AM
Liam's Brother 10 Aug 99 - 09:40 AM
Ferrara 10 Aug 99 - 04:35 PM
Barry Finn 10 Aug 99 - 10:43 PM
Frank of Toledo 10 Aug 99 - 10:49 PM
Donald A. Duncan 11 Aug 99 - 12:33 AM
Donald A. Duncan 11 Aug 99 - 08:27 AM
Don Duncan 11 Aug 99 - 12:31 PM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 15 - 12:09 AM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 15 - 12:44 AM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 15 - 12:57 AM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 15 - 01:10 AM
Lighter 30 Mar 15 - 07:08 AM
Joe Offer 30 Mar 15 - 07:22 PM
Lighter 31 Mar 15 - 06:44 AM
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Subject:
From: Pete Curry
Date: 04 Aug 99 - 09:28 PM

The version of "Bay of Mexico" in the DigiTrad Database contains the following verse which I've never heard before: "Pretty gals in Mexico/Wriggle their arse with a roll and go." Apart from the bad grammar ("arse" of course should be plural), does this kind of thing bug anyone else but me? I like bawdy lyrics when they are clever. I don't like dumb lyrics of any stripe. And in my opinion, this is a dumb lyric. Does anyone know if this verse is in fact traditional?


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Barry Finn
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 01:33 AM

It's a very common verse used in many other shanties. Sailors weren't at the head of the the class when it came to grammer useage but when it came to the language of the sea they were in a class of their own. Many of today's phrases were born of the sea, they were colorful & thrifty & maybe not so correct to those that didn't live in their world but to them it served their needs far better. Barry


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Wotcha
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 03:10 PM

The lyrics have a certain West Country (Devon or Cornwall) flavor to them if sung with the accent. Not clever but rolls off a cider soaked tongue right proper-job.

Hugill cleaned up many of his bawdier shanties which is too bad, since we have lost verses that were authentic. If you don't sing them, they will be lost forever. Chaucer seems to have survived pretty well though ... speaking of bawdy.

Many a soldier's marching song (Jody) and a rugby song are none too clever but they serve their purposes in their own unique ways: take the mind off laborious repetitive tasks ... or celebrate survival of another muddy ordeal on the pitch. Something like that.

Cheers Brian


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 03:42 PM

Hi Pete!

This line fired a dim light in my head and, sure enough, I found it sung by A. L. Lloyd on an old 33.3 rpm recording, A Sailor's Garland, that he made with Ewan MacColl. The recording was issued jointly by Prestige International in the USA and Transatlantic in England.

It comes up in "Bring 'Em Down" and I would think the line is probably traditional.

Valipo (Valpariso) girls are all the show.
Wriggle their arse with a roll and go.

Barry mentions above that "many of today's phrases were born of the sea." Joanna Colcord, author-compiler of the classic Songs of American Sailormen was responsible for another book on a maritime subject, Sea Language Comes Ashore, New York: Cornell Maritime Press, 1945.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Frank of Toledo
Date: 05 Aug 99 - 08:46 PM

I have an old Topic LP "Sea Songs and Shanties". with A.L. LLOYD, STAN KELLY. THE WATERSONS, EWAN MACCOLL, ALF EDWARDS, IAN CAMPBELL, DAVE SWARBRICK, HARRY CORBETT and others. One Track 4, Side 1 "The Plains of Mexica" by the WATERSONS, the liner notes explain thusly: "Shanties are usually sung prettied up in the folk song clubs, with tightly organised choruses and a musical discipline quite at odds with the rough and tumble work song, ship-board origins of these songs. The Watersons' sing an ocean going shanty in an ocean going way, roughly with plenty guts. This particular song, "The Plains of Mexico" is a version of "Bay of Mexico". I may be wrong but they sound quite similar, Someone correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway it's interesting to hear the ""real" version.....Arse and all....


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Donald A. Duncan
Date: 08 Aug 99 - 11:41 PM

A couple of points.

Hugill wasn't the only one who cleaned up his collected material; virtually every collector in the last three centuries did the same. As a woman friend of mine observed, whenever women get together to sing, the most popular songs wouldn't be sung in mixed company - so why aren't there more of this type of song recorded in the tradition? The answer is probably that informants didn't think them proper to sing to collectors (particularly women to male collectors and vice versa), and when they were found they were bowdlerized for printing.

And shanties are certainly "prettied up". At Mystic this year, a group of Breton singers performed some traditional shanties and some other work songs they'd collected themselves. My companion objected to me that their presentation was monotonous; they sang the choruses in unison, with no harmony. I had to remind her (at least, I *hope* she'd have realized it if she'd thought about it, since she's been a folkie for 40 years) that that's the way they were sung!

We pick up the tempo, line them out in rhythm, and chime in with 6-part harmony, but that's a totally contemporary and non-traditional presentation completely at odds with their actual use. Onboard ship, they were lucky if half the people could carry the tune, and no one cared. When you're on a slippery wet deck busting your ass to try to get that last foot on the main t'gallant in the cold and rain, nobody's worried about the music, they're worried about getting enough people pulling together at just the right time to finish the job and be able to let go the damn rope!


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Barry Finn
Date: 09 Aug 99 - 08:56 PM

Hi Donald, so nice to see you here but then you'd be a great addition anywhere. Hope I'll be seeing more of you here. Don I have to differ with you here. I met George Herbert (master rigger & former Cape Horner in his youth, would now be in his mid-late 90's if he's still going) around 20 years ago. Aside from getting a some songs that were gems I asked him a couple of questions. Was there harmony when they sang shanties & did concertinas go to sea. He said that he always took his concertina with him along with his alto uke. In the tropics he was constantly trying to keep the squeeze box dry. He also said that there was a fair amount of harmony. He said that there were so many different voices, some good, some bad, that the harmony was almost natural & he added that, that didn't mean it sounded good either. Funny, you mention about what they'd sing to collectors. George wouldn't sing any bawdy lyrics or make any comments of a sexual nature in the presence of women but he had a store of stuff that he thought that he had to explain after he sang them, I guess he though that only sailors would understand it.
The recordings of the West Indian & Georgia Sea Island shanty singers had a well refined & defined harmony so much so that they gave names to the singer's parts. A basser would sing a bass response to the high tenor, almost like a second low lead then a chorus would come in, in harmony, usually high. The high harmony & high lead were the most common seeing that the higher ranges were heard better above the surrounding din & less air was needed than would be in low ranges thus conserving energy for the more important job, the labor. See you some place soon Don. Barry


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Barry Finn
Date: 09 Aug 99 - 09:13 PM

Sorry, should've added to the above. For a great example of this kind of shanty singing grab "Deep River Of Song, Bahamas 1935" (on Rounder) on it you'll find Bay of Mexico, a song about the fishing vessel with a hard drinking crew Histe Up The John B. Sail, a version of Blow the Man Down called Roll (or Kick) Him Along, Bowline, Come Down You Roses & a good bit more.


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Pete Curry
Date: 09 Aug 99 - 09:42 PM

Thanks, everyone! I appreciate your input. I guess I'll never make it as a singer of traditional songs. But then, my tradition is closer to Lee Andrews & The Hearts (being a city boy) than. A.L. Lloyd et al.


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Donald A. Duncan
Date: 10 Aug 99 - 12:06 AM

Well, Barry, I'm not sure from his description that we aren't saying much the same thing. It's interesting that he says that some people - presumably the better singers - did add harmony. However, harmony only works to a clean melody, and that's unlikely with the mix of voices and the circumstances - which is probably what he meant when he indicated it didn't come out like Sailor John and the Cathedral Quartet!

But your point about the West Indian and GSI singing is well taken. They had a tradition of complex rhythms and harmonies, and blacks from the West Indies, according to Hugill, were members of crews throughout the 19th century and probably earlier (the West Indies was a major 18th century destination), and by the latter half of the 19th century blacks from all ports made up most of the crews of whalers, for instance. I don't know how common they were in the merchant service, but it seems likely there was a lot of influence on singing styles as well as content.


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 10 Aug 99 - 09:40 AM

...but they never sounded like Mitch Miller or Robert DeCormier.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Ferrara
Date: 10 Aug 99 - 04:35 PM

This is a fine thread. The best kind of Mudcat sharing, IMHO. - Rita Ferrara


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Barry Finn
Date: 10 Aug 99 - 10:43 PM

Hi Donald, I think more of the harmony that's heard on field recordings of work gangs on the southern prison farms. The leaders weren't required to have a great voice only that they could keep the timing & be heard. Yet there's a raw harmony here as well, with voices of all abilities grouped together.
I've been finding, lately, that Blacks in pre Civil War had quite the network going throughout the northern Alantic Rim. Many were the pilots when entering a port, the steveadores when ships were taken on or off cargo, the fishermen inshore & whalers offshore often making up a good percentage of the crews & sometimes making up the total crew. The plantations often had their own vessels that were maned by the same hands that worked the fields. I agree that they had an influence on style & content & a greater portion would've been around & prior to the so called time of the golden age of shanties. So I see their influence as being far greater than thought of in the past. Barry


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Frank of Toledo
Date: 10 Aug 99 - 10:49 PM

Like Rita has said, this is a great example of the Folk Process, with great comments and honest and interesting information by all. I've learned a lot from this this. So I thank you all individually and collectively.....Frank


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Donald A. Duncan
Date: 11 Aug 99 - 12:33 AM

Barry, if I recollect correctly, Hugill's earliest citation of actual shantying - musical call and response, or line and chorus, as opposed to "sing outs" - was a description of a crew of black dockhands who came on board and used the capstan to load/unload the cargo.

But there's another factor to be considered. Was it Whall who observed that the old sailors sang in modal, while the younger sailors sang in major and minor, and the old salts were disgusted or resigned that the youngsters these days (turn of the 20th century?) just didn't have the ear to sing the songs the old way?

As Bronson points out, harmonization is a different matter in modal singing. It would have been a very different sound, and much sparser, than that to contemporary standards and rules of harmonization. One could easily audualize someone throwing in a fifth on "Haul on the Bowline", but that's very different from barbershop harmony on "Leave Her Johnny"....


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Donald A. Duncan
Date: 11 Aug 99 - 08:27 AM

Barry, I guess what I'm trying to say is that music at the beginning of the 19th century was quite different from music at the start of the 20th. Anyone we could talk to about it got their experience pretty late in the game, after the Victorian period in music, the advent of cylinder recordings, the barbershop era, etc. I should think we'd want to be cautious about assuming that their experience is representative of the experience during the development of the shanty in the earlier days.


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Subject: RE: Bay of Mexico
From: Don Duncan
Date: 11 Aug 99 - 12:31 PM

To revisit the original topic - here's a quote from the introduction to John Ashton's 1882 book "Chapbooks of the 18th Century". [Chapbooks were black-letter single-sheets, folded into 8 (16 pages) or 12 (24 pages), and were sold by Chapmen (pack peddlers) throughout the country; they constituted the primary reading material of the poor before cheap magazines appeared in the 19th century.]

After dividing the material he's presenting into classes, he states:

[quote] Naturally, however, the Humourous stories were the prime favourites. The Jest-books, pure and simple, are, from their extremely coarse witticisms, utterly incapable of being reproduced for general reading nowadays, and the whole of them are more or less highly spiced.... In reding these books we mustnot, however look upon them from our present point of view. Whether men and women are better now than they used to be, is a moot point, but things used to be spoken of openly, which are now never whispered, and no harm was done, nor offence taken; so the broad humour of the jest-books was, after all, only exuberant fun, and many of the /bonnes histoire/ are extremely laughable, though to our own thinking equally indelicate. [end quote]

So, of course, he didn't include them in the book.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 12:09 AM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song.

Round the Bay of Mexico

DESCRIPTION: "Round the Bay of Mexico, Way, oh Susiana, Mexico is the place that I belong in...." The singer tells of courting girls "two at a time" and having them love him "because I don't tell everything that I know." He heads off to the fishing ground
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1935 (field recording, Henry Lundy & David Pryor)
KEYWORDS: sailor courting
FOUND IN: Bahamas
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Lomax-Singing, pp. 88-89, "Round the Bay of Mexico" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 83, "Round the Bay of Mexico (Bay of Mexico)" (1 text)

Roud #207
RECORDINGS:
Henry Lundy & David Pryor, "Round the Bay of Mexico" (AAFS 512 B2, 1935; on LC05, LomaxCD1822-2)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Cape Cod Girls" (lyrics)
NOTES: This is listed as having "new lyrics" by Paul Campbell (the Weavers, collectively), and "music adaption" by Tom Geraci. I have seen relatively little of the material elsewhere; this looks more like a new song from traditional materials than a touched-up traditional song. - RBW
Nope -- the song as touched up by the Weavers and friends is still quite close to the field recording from the Bahamas in 1935. - PJS
Last updated in version 3.2
File: FSWB083B

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.



And the Digital Tradition lyrics:

ROUND THE BAY OF MEXICO (from Digital Tradition)

It's 'round the Bay of Mexico
Way, Oh, Susianna,
Mexico is the place that I belong in,
Round the Bay of Mexico.

Those Nassau girls they love me so,
'Cause I don't tell everything I know.

When I was a young man, in my prime,
Take those pretty gals two at a time.

Nassau girls ain't got no comb,
Comb their hair with a whipper backbone.

Pretty gals in Mexico
Wriggle their arse with a roll and go.

Goodbye gals of Nassau town,
I'm bound away for the fishing ground.

Recorded by Killen- Fifty South, L of C Henry Lundy and Pappie
@sailor
filename[ BAYMEXCO
TUNE FILE: BAYMEXCO
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
The DT lyrics are almost the same as what I found in the Folksinger's Wordbook: snw words by Paul Campbell (the Weavers) TRO © 1953 Folkways Music Publishers. Are there any sources earlier than the 1935 Lomax "Southern Journey" recording from the Georgia Sea Islands?


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Subject: ADD Versions: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 12:44 AM

Here's the version from Folksinger's Wordbook (Page 183); also in the pink (Vol 1-6) Collected Reprints from Sing Out!, page 13. (almost the same as those in the Digital Tradition):

ROUND THE BAY OF MEXICO

Then 'round the Bay of Mexico
Way, Oh, Susianna,
Mexico is the place that I belong in,
Round the Bay of Mexico.

Those Nassau girls they love me so,
'Cause I don't say everything that I know.

When I was a young man, in my prime,
I loved those young gals two at a time.

Nassau gals ain't got no comb,
Comb their hair with a whipper backbone.

Goodbye gals of Nassau town,
I'm bound away for the fishing ground.

New lyrics by Paul Campbell (The Weavers)
Music Adaptation by Tom Geraci
TRO Copyright 1953 Folkways Music Publishers


The earliesk known version of the song is almost the same. It was collected in Nassau in 1935 by Alan Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle from the singing of Henry Lunday and a man known only as "Pappie."

ROUND THE BAY OF MEXICO

Then 'round the Bay of Mexico
Way, Oh, Susianna,
Mexico is the place that I belong in,
Round the Bay of Mexico.

Oh, why those yellow girls they love me so?
'Cause I don't say everything that I know.

When I was a young man, in my prime,
I loved those young gals two at a time.

Those Nassau gals ain't got no comb,
They comb their hair with a whipper (grouper??) backbone.


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Subject: ADD Version: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 12:57 AM

Here's the version from the Weavers recording and Travelin' on with the Weavers Songbook:

BAY OF MEXICO

'Round that Bay of Mexico
Way, O, Suziannah,
Mexico is the place that I belong in,
'Round the Bay of Mexico.

Goodbye gals of Nassau town,
Way, O, Suziannah,
I'm bound away for the fishing ground. (Refrain)

When I am an old man bowed and bent,
Way, O, Suziannah,
Oh, never will I forget the happy hours I spent,
Around the Bay of Mexico. (Refrain)


Goodbye Sally, goodbye Sue,
Way, O, Suziannah,
And you that are listening, goodbye, too,
We're off to the Bay of Mexico. (Refrain)


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Subject: ADD Version: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 01:10 AM

Here's one more, recorded by Harry Belafonte and attributed to Irving Burgie. Can't say I like this one.

'ROUND THE BAY OF MEXICO
(Irving Burgie)

'Round the Bay of Mexico
Way, O, Susianna,
Mexico's the place that I belong in,
'Round the Bay of Mexico.

Been to sea for a month or more...
Lookin' forward to my time on shore...

The wind is high, the sky is blue...
Bound to anchor in a day or two...

I can see it all before my eye...
A big cafe and a bottle full of rye...

Some beans and rice to soothe my taste...
I ain't gonna let nothin' go to waste

Put some kerchiefs in my bag...
Tell a tale or two, so I can really brag...

There's Rosita and Chiquita and pretty maid Belle...
If I meet 'em all at once, I'll never get well...


I'm glad Harry Belafonte provided steady employment for Irving Burgie for so long, but this is really bad....


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Subject: RE: Origins: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Lighter
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 07:08 AM

> Are there any sources earlier than the 1935 Lomax "Southern Journey" recording from the Georgia Sea Islands?

Nope. All subsequent versions stem ultimately from "Paul Campbell's."

As for "wiggling their arse with a roll and go," it is almost certainly authentic - though it may never have been sung to this chantey, which seems to have been virtually unknown elsewhere.

In "Shanties from the Seven Seas," Hugill gives "Waggle an' dance with a toll 'n' go" as a line in "Donkey Riding." In the slightly more outspoken "Shanties and Sailors' Songs" the line is "Waggle and wriggle wid a roll 'n' go"; as well as "Where they waggle their backsides too."

The modern standardization of chantey lyrics has completely obscured the fact that after three or four "regulation" verses, any chantey might be filled out with verses from any other (as long as they scanned), or with lines ad-libbed, or lines lifted or modified from other chanteys and non-chanteys.

This freedom to improvise explains why most chanteys collected from real nineteenth-century seamen are so short: all they could recall, evidently, were the regulation verses that they'd heard repeatedly.

Because it told a coherent story, "Reuben Ranzo" rarely varied. That made it, and a few others, exceptional.

Some chanteymen were undoubtedly better at ad-libbing than others. Many - perhaps most - undoubtedly sang their own personal combinations of verses, with minor variations, all the time.

Hugill's texts, moreover, are a melange of what he actually heard at sea, what he undoubtedly made up himself at sea (or in some cases may have occurred to him later), and stanzas from earlier collectors. He wanted to offer texts that were as "complete" as possible and as printable as possible.


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Subject: ADD Version: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Mar 15 - 07:22 PM

Here's the version that's been proposed for the Rise Again songbook. It comes from one of "those" Websites, the ones I don't usually trust: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/k/kingston_trio/bay_of_mexico.html
Turns out the lyrics are from the self-titled Kingston Trio album (1958).


Round the Bay of Mexico

Round that Bay of Mexico / Way oh, Susianna!
Mexico is the place that I belong in / Round the Bay of Mexico
C - G C / - - F C / F Em Dm G / C - G C
Wind from the East & it's blowin' strong / Way oh…
Looks like a hurricane comin' along, well / Round…

Wind will blow & that rain will pour
Better get the sugar boats up on the shore, now

Why those young gals love me so?
'Cos I don't tell ev'rything that I know

When I was a young man & in my prime
Court those young girls 10 at a time, boys

Nassau girls ain't got no comb
Comb their hair with a whipper back bone

When I leave the sea, I'll settle down
With a big, fat mama from Bimini town

trad. (Amer.)
Rec by Belafonte, Weavers, Kingston Trio, etc.
In Coll Reprints fr SO V1-6, SO 7:4
c + jk


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Subject: RE: Origins: Round the Bay of Mexico
From: Lighter
Date: 31 Mar 15 - 06:44 AM

I'll backtrack a little from "Many - perhaps most -" to "Some - perhaps a good many -."

Joe, "big, fat mama" is a little too modern for some tastes.


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