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Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?

Bert 02 Dec 11 - 05:21 AM
GUEST,Steve G 02 Dec 11 - 04:10 PM
Lighter 02 Dec 11 - 04:50 PM
Bert 02 Dec 11 - 06:21 PM
The Doctor 03 Dec 11 - 07:18 AM
Lighter 03 Dec 11 - 06:42 PM
Bert 03 Dec 11 - 07:00 PM
Lighter 03 Dec 11 - 07:15 PM
Bert 03 Dec 11 - 07:26 PM
Lighter 04 Dec 11 - 09:24 AM
Billy Weeks 05 Dec 11 - 10:33 AM
Bert 05 Dec 11 - 02:03 PM
Billy Weeks 10 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM
Billy Weeks 10 Dec 11 - 09:52 AM
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Subject: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 05:21 AM

I've always thought that Nobby Hall was derived loosely from Sam Hall.
Is that correct?

When did Nobby Hall first appear?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: GUEST,Steve G
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 04:10 PM

I'm pretty sure the full history as known must be in the DT somewhere.
It appears that the original was 'Jack the Chimney Sweep' as printed by Pitts in London. Jack was a real life chimney sweep who stole chimney pots and sold candles short of weight. In prison he was advised to give up drinking but whilst going up Holborn Hill to be hanged he was allowed to stop the cart at St Giles' for a last tipple before being hung at Tyburn. He was hanged in 1701 so Pitts printing was over a century later. His 'last goodnight' song put out by the likes of Pitts became very popular on the streets and then was taken up by W G Ross as 'Sam Hall' and sung with great venom and drama by him at the Supper Rooms like The Coal Hole. It then became even more popular in this form with the middle class merchants and was even more widely printed. Its popularity on the streets lasted well into the latter half of the nineteenth century which is presumably when the bawdy parody 'Nobby Hall' was penned. It's very difficult to date these bawdy parodies as they weren't written down till the middle of the 20th century. Ed Cray gives a long history of this and related songs in his book 'The Erotic Muse'. He misinterprets a comment from Joseph Ebsworth on the blasphemies in the song as the bawdy version, but Ebsworth is more likely referring to the swearing in Ross's version. I'd say it's more likely that the bawdy version arose more towards the end of the 19th century long after Ross was dead.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 04:50 PM

Hugill evidently heard a bawdy version of "Sam Hall" at sea in the 1920s, but his text is so completely bowdlerized that it's hard to tell which "version" it refers to.

"Sam Hall" can be (and has often been) made bawdy simply by varying the curses. "Nobby Hall" seems to me to be a more radical development.

But it's difficult to keep the two songs entirely separate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Dec 11 - 06:21 PM

One version in the DT said it was collected in Darwin in 1972.

Does anyone know when Nobby Hall first appeared. I first heard it in the 1950's.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: The Doctor
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 07:18 AM

Sam Hall was originally Jack or John Hall, sold by his parents at the age of 7 for one guinea to a chimney sweep. He quickly realised that a life of crime was far more appealing, and soon gained a reputation as an expert housebreaker, albeit a violent one. He was sentenced to death in 1700, and many books and internet sites give his death as 1701. However, his sentence was commuted to exile, and he left for America - possibly an early government initiative on crime. But he came back after only a matter of months, and was eventually hanged on 17th December 1707, as recorded in the Newgate Calendar. Whilst waiting for the end he compiled a glossary of cant terms, and so appears in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as a lexicographer. The earliest text of the song dates from the 1780s and comprises just two verses - I have furnished all my rooms' and 'I sailed up Tyburn Hill in a cart' . A full version was published by John Pitts between 1820 and 1844, but the version we have today, whether Sam or Jack Hall, is based on that performed by WG Ross, an unsuccessful actor, in the 1840s and 50s. The tune is that of the song Captain Kidd, who was hanged in 1701, and is related to that of Admiral Benbow, Ye Jacobites by name, Davy Lowston and many others. Where Nobby Hall fits in to all this I don't know.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 06:42 PM

My guess is that "Nobby Hall" began as an adolescent parody of "Sam Hall." "Sam" is concerned with a defiantly unrepentant character. "Nobby," however, is more concerned with naughty rhymes - or ostentatiously avoiding naughty rhymes.

I don't think the word "wank," which features in "Nobby," was much used before WWII.

FWIW.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Bert
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 07:00 PM

Lighter,

I don't know the verse with the 'wank' rhyme in it.

Will you post it for me.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Lighter
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 07:15 PM

You can hear an entire performance here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytZY-AhUOn0


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Bert
Date: 03 Dec 11 - 07:26 PM

Great Thanks again that's quite a different version to the one that I sing here


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Dec 11 - 09:24 AM

Thanks, Bert. If you learned it in the '50s, it's one of the earliest datable texts. Do you remember where and when? Did it use the YouTube singer's tune?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 10:33 AM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Bert
Date: 05 Dec 11 - 02:03 PM

I first heard it at school Churcher's College, Petersfield, Hants. around 1952 or maybe 1953.

I actually learned it from some workmates in Basildon, Essex, around 1955 - 1956.

The tune is very similar to the YouTube one but more lively. Not like the Sam Hall tune. Very close to the chorus of "Come Inside". I'll see if I can post it one my website in the next day or so.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 10 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM

I think it's a bit tough to call W G (or G W) Ross 'an unsuccessful actor'. Any performer who could silence a noisy Cyder Cellars audience in the small hours of the morning must have had a powerful presence. Ross took pre-existing ballads and created a dramatic monologue and a style of delivery that thrilled the supper rooms. It was his great misfortune to reach his peak (in 1849) before the new music halls, that took the likes of Jack Sharp and Sam Cowell to their bosom, had come into existence.

An even greater misfortune was to become so closely associated with a single song that, when that song went out of fashion, as it was bound to, he ceased to be noticed. It was impossible to think of Ross without Sam Hall. The two went down together and poor Sam finished up as a supernumerary in an opera bouffe company.

Incidentally, it is time to demolish some of the myths surrounding Ross's performance.   The anachronistic word 'wankers' (first recorded by Partridge in 1948) has already been mentioned. And although the early and mid Victorian mens' supper rooms were tolerant of some pretty salacious stuff, Ross would never have used the word 'muckers' or anything more explicit. The Coal Hole in its prime period had a reputation for uttering obscenities 'plain and right out' and the Cyder Cellars sailed very close to the wind, but not that close. Increasing caution was being exercised by the 1840s by licensees who were concerned to retain their their licences (the Cellars finally lost its licence for far lesser indiscretions).

The fact that Ross's performance was described at the time as 'blasphemous' has to be considered in the light of the fact that expressions like 'Damn your eyes!' 'Indeed to God' and 'Kingdom Come' were so regarded by goodly people who did not frequent the Cellars, but knew its reputation, while some who did attend and wrote about what they heard had done so with the clear intention of being shocked. The character represented by Ross as a murderer defiantly facing death by hanging, without an atom of repentance, was itself, at the time, shocking.

It is significant that, giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee in the 1860s, Paddy Green, who had been proprietor of the Cellars in Ross's time (he later ran the ultra-respectable Evans's) was at pains to dismiss the story that Ross had ever used the 'wicked' verse about the the parson who (as we learn, not from the Committee report, but from oral tradition) would 'look so gallows glum and talk of Kingdom Come, but he can kiss my bloody bum'. It seems fairly certain that the process of elaborating and adding colour to Ross's text had already stated in the 1850s and it has continued to the present day, as the shockability bar has steadily risen.

It is a pity that all the accounts of Ross's performance are so sketchy and the only contemporarily printed lyrics of his song are so obviously unreliable. W G Ross must have been a performer of some stature (Paddy Green certainly thought so), or we wouldn't be going on about him today.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Sam Hall & Nobby Hall which was first?
From: Billy Weeks
Date: 10 Dec 11 - 09:52 AM

Must learn to proof read my own work. Para 2 should refer to 'poor Ross' of course.


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