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Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army


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Lighter 01 Jun 15 - 03:09 PM
John Minear 01 Jun 15 - 07:38 PM
Lighter 01 Jun 15 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,Uncle_DaveO 02 Jun 15 - 09:16 AM
Keith A of Hertford 02 Jun 15 - 10:05 AM
Lighter 02 Jun 15 - 10:09 AM
Lighter 02 Jun 15 - 12:58 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Jun 15 - 02:28 PM
Lighter 04 Jun 15 - 08:06 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 03:09 PM

There are so many "Shenandoah" threads I thought I'd start a new one with a more specific title.

On April 5, 1924, Mr. Al Wescott sent the lyrics of a number of army folksongs to the collector Robert W. Gordon. One of these he called "Seven Long Years":

For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Hi! the rolling river,
For seven long years, I courted Nancy,
Ha! ha! We're bound away on the wild Missouri.


She would not have me for her lover....

Because I was a Cavalry soldier....

And then she went to Kansas City....

And there she had a la, la, la....

She must have had another lover....

A drinkin' of rum and chawin' tobacco....

One may easily find something to replace the "la, la, la" expurgation, even without consulting later published versions.

Fairly harmless today, the unexpurgated version would generally have been considered "unprintable" before the 1920s or even '30s.

Sandburg's quite similar version (which begins by addressing "Shannandore") was published in 1927: it suppresses the "la, la, la" stanza entirely. (Sandburg, who enlisted for the Spanish-American War in 1898, implies that he heard the song then and emphasizes the pronunciation "Mizzoura.")

Wescott added an interesting note:

"Do you know anything about the above? Would sure like to get the dope on its history. Is sung in the army but only by real old enlisted men and by field officers (Majors, Lt. Col & Cols.) with quite a few years service. Practically unknown by junior officers & newer enlisted men from which I suspect that it was formerly sung a lot in the old army."

Early printings of the "Shenandoah" chantey often have "Ha ha!" or "Aha!" instead of the now universal "Away."

Compare the story of "Seven Long Years" with some versions of "Sally Brown."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: John Minear
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 07:38 PM

Hi Lighter. Way back in the old "SF to Sydney" thread I stumbled across an enigma that I never did solve. It had to do with the two versions of "Shenandoah" in the Lomax book, AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, and how these also managed to show up in a WPA collection of ex-slave narratives. I'm having no luck getting Muscat to bring those posts up on the original thread so I have copied this one from back in April 12, 2010:
I made it into the library today and was able to check out the reference to "Shenandoah" in the WPA ex-slave narratives. It is pretty interesting. First of all, here is the reference information: THE AMERICAN SLAVE: A COMPOSITE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Supplement, Series 2, Volume 8, Texas Narratives, Part 7, George P. Rawick, General Editor, p3153. This was taken down by a Miss Effie Cowan, McLennan County, Texas, in 1937, from a Mr. Allen Price, R.F.D. Mart, Texas. The synopsis says:

       "This story of a slave born during the war [Civil War] tells of the history handed down by his Master, one of the decendents (sic) of General Price of the Confederate Army, dates back to the emigration of the Price family from Virginia to Missouri when the pioneers were forcing their way against almost insurmountable hardships to the new state of Missouri." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price begins:

       "I wuz born in Fannin County Texas in a covered wagon, in 1862, when my parents wuz on dey way wid their Master's, John an Jim Price from Misourri ter Texas ter make their home." (p. 3149)

Mr. Price tells the story of the immigrants going across the Mississippi River on a steamboat and being attacked by Indians. He is passing on the stories that he has been told, since he hadn't been born yet. He says some of the group stopped in St. Louis, and some went on to Kansas City, and some went up the Missouri River, and some went out across Missouri on what he thinks was the Santa Fe Trail. His parents would have been in this last group. Then he interrupts his story to make this comment:

       "In de early days dey had de river boat songs, but dey has been changed until dey are de ones dat wuz sun w'en de rebels an' de Yankees fought but dey cum down from de song's of de early days, one went like dis,

       "I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       Hi! Oh! the rollin' river,
       I'm drinkin of rum an chawin terbacco,
       H! Ha! I'm bound away fer de wild Miz-zou-rye.

and another dat goes like dis, jes a little different,

       "Missouri she's a mighty river,
       Away-ay, you rollin' river,
       De Indians camp along hits borders,
       Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across de wide Missouri." (p. 3153)

Mr. Price goes on from there to talk about the involvement of the "Master's" family in the Civil War, and also that of his father. There is no further mention of these songs.

Now, the next to last verse in the "Old Cavalry Song" given by Major Isaac Spalding, to John Lomax and found in Lomax's AMERICAN BALLADS AND FOLK SONGS, (1934), on pp. 543-546, is exactly the same as the first version from Mr. Price. The only difference is that "terbacco" is "tobacco", and "fer de wild" is "for the wild". (p. 546)

But what is really weird, and I mentioned this earlier in the thread when I was looking at this is that the second version that Mr. Price gives, matches exactly the first verse of Lomax's second version of "Shenandoah", which follows immediately upon his "Calvary" version. Again, the only changes are to make "de" into "the", and "hits" into "its". And, "Ha! Ha! I'm bound away across" becomes "Aha, I'm bound away, 'Cross..." (p. 546)

For me, this is still just too much of a coincidence. Lomax's book was available after 1934. The WPA account was recorded in 1937. Lomax gives two complete songs. The "Cavalry" version has nine verses! And the other version, which he says was sent to him by "Captain A.E. Dingle, Cove Cottage, West Bermuda," has seven verses. Mr. Price, by his own account, is very interested in history. His mention of these two songs is an aside in his narrative. I would have to suppose that he had seen Lomax's book.

I really don't want to come to that conclusion, because the alternative would be that we have an ex-slave born in the early 1860's who has received the stories of his family's move to the frontier and is accurately recalling the use of a version of "Shenandoah" as a river song, prior to the Civil War. I'm not suggesting that his historical recollections are faulty. But he may have added to them. It's a bit of a mystery, and we no longer have either Mr. Price or Mr. Lomax, or Major Spalding or Captain Dingle to consult on these matters.
The earlier post was on April 2, 2010 in the SF to Sydney thread. Lomax was the only other place I found a reference to a "Cavalry" version, other than Sandburg's comment. I was never able to finally sort out the WPA/Lomax situation.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 09:00 PM

Hi, John. You seem to have uncovered a real conundrum. While there's nothing especially unlikely about "Shenandoah"/ "Seven Long Years" being sung in Texas in 1862, the near identity between Price's (reported) lyrics and Spalding's, plus the order the songs appear in, is surprising.

I suppose, though, that stranger coincidences have happened. After all, versions of "Seven Long Years" and "Across the Wide Missouri" do tend to be similar. And there's nothing unlikely about remembering the first stanza of a song. Another possibility is that Cowan, to make a more interesting story, inserted the lyrics from Lomax & Lomax. I certainly think it more likely that the WPA interviewer was the one with access to "American Ballads and Folk Songs." Or perhaps Price mentioned a line or two and she filled them out from the "authoritative" book.

It's hard to forget songs learned in childhood, and it must have been harder without radio, TV, etc., to distract you. All one can say is that Price seems to have recollected the songs from his childhood. That in itself would not be surprising.

Captain Whall in his book (1909) also recalled the chantey "Shenandoah" from the 1860s.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: GUEST,Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 09:16 AM

I don't see (hear) Shenandoah as a
shanty. Too slow, and the lines too long to serve
work-timing purpose of shanties, in my opinion.

Dave Oesterreich

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:05 AM

It was though.
I think shanties were slower when accompanying work than we sing them now.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 10:09 AM

Yeah, but sailors didn't croon it like we do. It went at a "Santy Anna" clip.

Remember when Ken Burns's "Civil War" played "Dixie" as a lament?

Same principle in reverse. Most of the lines of "Shenandoah" aren't especially sentimental, and it sounds fine, albeit unusual to us, sung faster.

Compare "Oh, Shannadore, I long to see you!" with "Blow, my boys, for I long to hear you!" in that unsentimental halliard chantey.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 12:58 PM

Keith, it depends on whom you mean by "we."

The average sing-along folkie act does sing them way too fast. The speed of singing on shipboard depended to some extent on the difficulty of the task, who was hung over, how hot and humid was the weather, etc.

But on a brisk sunny day, homeward bound with everybody sober and healthy, the pace would likely have been a moderate one or, depending on the song, a little quicker than usual.

Thirty years ago I saw chanteying demonstrations at the capstan at Mystic. It was a cool day, and the pace of heaving round the capstan was neither fast nor sluggish.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Jun 15 - 02:28 PM

Thirty years ago I saw chanteying demonstrations at the capstan at Mystic. It was a cool day, and the pace of heaving round the capstan was neither fast nor sluggish.

And yet there they never (i.e. that I know of) sing "Shenandoah" (Rolling River) at the capstan, nor do they in capstan demos elsewhere (SF's Balclutha is what I have in mind) because the demo does note allow participant to work slowly enough! (Due to the light load, you'd feel funny trying to sing it.)

Not aiming to take this thread off track, but here is an example of Rolling River/Seven Long Years at a working speed -- as the St. Vincent whaler men sang it for rowing whaleboats. I (from the audience) specifically requested that they gesture to show the place/speed of rowing. A sharp observer will notice that there are other interesting issues/problems with rowing to this chanty -- problems from the theoretical point of view, but not problems from a practical place. I got to row a whaleboat while singing this later on, and it worked out.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 'Shenandoah' in the U.S. army
From: Lighter
Date: 04 Jun 15 - 08:06 AM

This may be the earliest complete text of "Shenandoah" - from the 1860s.

It includes lines about seven years of courting, plus rum and chewing tobacco - and in the same order as above. Not only that, it already contains elements of "Sally Brown" and "Blow, Boys, Blow."

Anon., "Sailors' Songs," The Riverside Magazine for Young People (Apr.,1868), p.185:

"Man the capstan bars! Old Dave is our 'chanty-man.'* Tune up, David!
"Oh, Shannydore, I long to hear you!                
Chorus.-- Away, you rollin' river!                                                                O, Shannydore, I long to hear you!
Full Chorus.--Ah ha! I'm bound awAY
On the wild Atlantic!
Oh, a Yankee ship came down the river:…
And who do you think was skipper of her?…

Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her:…
Oh, Jim-along-Joe was skipper of her!…

An' what do you think she had for cargo?…
She had rum and sugar, an' monkeys' liver!…

Then seven year I courted Sally:
An' seven more I could not get her….

Because I was a tarry sailor,--
For I loved rum, an' chewed terbaccy:…

*Chanter (French), to sing. The words to the songs given here were from the lips of a veritable 'old Dave,' during the writer's recent voyage across the Atlantic."

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