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Minstrel songs and chanties

Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 08:45 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 09:38 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 09:46 AM
Lighter 21 Jan 21 - 10:02 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:08 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:12 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:18 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:23 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:28 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 10:35 AM
Richard Mellish 21 Jan 21 - 11:40 AM
Steve Gardham 21 Jan 21 - 01:30 PM
meself 21 Jan 21 - 02:51 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 21 Jan 21 - 03:20 PM
Charley Noble 21 Jan 21 - 03:24 PM
Gibb Sahib 22 Jan 21 - 04:49 AM
Gibb Sahib 22 Jan 21 - 05:19 AM
Gibb Sahib 22 Jan 21 - 05:43 AM
Steve Gardham 22 Jan 21 - 08:45 AM
GUEST 22 Jan 21 - 10:16 AM
Lighter 22 Jan 21 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Jan 21 - 02:48 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Jan 21 - 03:01 PM
Steve Gardham 22 Jan 21 - 03:28 PM
Lighter 22 Jan 21 - 05:48 PM
Gibb Sahib 23 Jan 21 - 12:39 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Jan 21 - 08:44 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Jan 21 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 24 Jan 21 - 02:29 AM
Steve Gardham 24 Jan 21 - 10:22 AM
Steve Gardham 24 Jan 21 - 02:53 PM
meself 24 Jan 21 - 03:36 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Jan 21 - 06:20 PM
Lighter 24 Jan 21 - 06:47 PM
meself 24 Jan 21 - 08:25 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Jan 21 - 08:29 PM
Gibb Sahib 24 Jan 21 - 08:34 PM
meself 24 Jan 21 - 08:50 PM
Steve Gardham 25 Jan 21 - 09:32 AM
Steve Gardham 25 Jan 21 - 10:01 AM
Steve Gardham 26 Jan 21 - 07:40 AM
Gibb Sahib 27 Jan 21 - 12:13 AM
mayomick 27 Jan 21 - 10:42 AM
Steve Gardham 27 Jan 21 - 03:02 PM
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Subject: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 08:45 AM

https://pitt.libguides.com/c.php?g=1020663&p=7393639

https://pitt.libguides.com/c.php?g=1020663&p=7393639

Okay as promised some of that link above should take you to the website where I found all of the following songs. There's such a mass of material that I probably only skimmed the surface, but there's also a lot of duplication and I intend to go back and have a more thorough browse.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 09:38 AM

All of the following are in the song books section. This one surely tells much of the story of how a minstrel song covered the New Englander going down to Mobile Bay to screw cotton. Chorus format and sentiments all occur in the chanty genre.

Storm Along Stormy
As sung by J. White of White's Serenaders at The Melodeon

O I wish I was in Mobile Bay
Storm along Stormy
Screwing cotton all de day
Storm along Stormy
O you rollers storm along
Storm along Stormy
Hoist away an' sing dis song
Storm along Stormy.

I wish I was in New Orleans
Eating up dem pork and beans
Roll away in spite ob wedder
Come, lads, push all together.

I wish I was in Baltimore
Dancing on dat yankee shore,
One bale more, den we be done,
De sun's gwan down, an we'll go home.

From White's New Illustrated Ethiopian Song Book, p71
printed by T. B. Stebson & bros. 306 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
The website dates it 1850-59


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 09:46 AM

This one comes from 'De Shiny Eye, Crooked Shin, & Oh Susannah Songster', dated 1843, Printed by Turner & Fisher, New York and Philadelphia. Gibb tells us that one of the sources of the chanties was the songs of the firemen on the river steamers.

I'll Fire Dis Trip

I'll fire dis trip but I'll fire no more
Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh!
Oh, pay me my money and I'll go on shore,
Fire down below.

Miss fanny Bell, oh, fare you well,
I'm going away p'r'aps to ---.

A bully-boat and a bully crew,
And a bully-raggin' captain too.

De possum jump and de panther roar,
I woke dis morning at half past four.

I creep out safely from my hive,
And took a dram at half past five.

Says I, ole boat, lets have no tricks,
Her biler bust, --at half past six.

So now we trabel under sail,
Cause Jonah's de man dat swallow'd de whale.

I'll fire dis trip but I'll fire no more,
Pay me my money and I'll go on shore.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:02 AM

That's a great site, Steve, and you've dug out a couple of important items.

But in my experience, minstrel songs with a direct link to chanteys (or I should say, "existing chantey texts") are rare.

Which is not to say that various lyrics could have been and probably were ad-libbed into chantey singing, or that the minstrel stage wasn't a significant source of pop music.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:08 AM

This one is quite well known.
It comes from p62 in The New Negro Forget Me Not Songster. for 1850

Clar De track (Tune, Dan Tucker)by James Kierman

Oh here's a song that never was sung
By any n----- old or young   (my deletion)
An if you all will listen to me,
I'll sing about some n-----s that's free
   So clar de track, de bullgine's coming,
      Clar de track, de bullgine's coming
      Clar de track, de bullgine's coming
      See de n-----s how dey're running

Oh dandy Jim an my Aunt Sally
Both live down in Shinbone Alley
Lucy Neal and Mister Brown
lives in a house that's out ob town.

2 verses I've omitted as not relevant.

De Guinea Maid an my old Dad,
One night a little fun dey had,
Ring the bells, an Jim crack corn
I never see the like since I was born.

P70 has 'Jenny git your hoe cake done'
Sung by J. W. Sweeny & W (Billy) Whitlock, the celebrated banjo players.

p75 has 'Long Time Ago'

As I was gwoin down Shin Bone Alley
Long time ago.
To buy a bonnet for Miss Sally
Long time ago. (has 11 verses)

Shinbone Alley seems to crop up a lot and numerous yellow gals.

A new title page and pagination then starts up on the same book so at p52 we have
Down Below, a Doleful Ballad of the Olden Time, as sung by T. G. Booth

Oh! the sons of Uncle Sam's
Down below, down below,
Oh, the sons of Uncle Sam's
They're all as poor as damns
But they be mighty fond of clams
Down below, down below
Oh, yes! they are tarnation fond of clams,
Down Below

V3
I've been down to Uncle Sam's
Down below, down below

Oh potatoes they are small
For they plant them in the fall,
And then eat them skins and all
Down below, down below
And then eat them skins and all
Down below.

Lots to think about here 'The Praties they grow small' the 'Captain Kidd' format, and the 'Dahn Below' song published as a Cockney song about the sewer workers in London of WWII.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:12 AM

Hi Jon
Yes, these were very popular pop songs and wouldn't the cotton screwers be likely to sing a song specifically about them? And the firemen.

At the risk of being seen as racist, again a similar thing occurred with many of the songs that ended up in Irish oral tradition, songs that were written as skits on the Irish, stage Irish. Teddy O'Gra and many others.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:18 AM

Further on in that same volume just selected from is at p63 a long version of The Raging Canal ancestor of a large family of songs, p102 a full version of Captain Kidd, p107 Fanny Blair.

Also worth noting, in all of the early songsters 'Buffalo Gals' is actually given as 'Bowery Gals' but that might be down to the fact that by the time they were putting out these songsters by the million the minstrels had moved on to New York.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:23 AM

Nothing to do with chanties as such but interesting all the same to people here:

New Negro Forget-me-not Songster, for 1850 has
Come Day, Go Day, or Massa is a Stingy Man, sung by Old Dan Emmett.

Oh, massa is a stingy man,
And all his neighbours know it,
He keeps good whisky in his house,
And neber says here goes it.
    Sing come day, go day,
    God send Sunday,
    We'll drink whisky all de week,
    And buttermilk on Sunday. 10 verses in total.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:28 AM

BTW I'm not saying all of this material was moving in one direction North to South. It's quite possible, though less likely, that the likes of Whitlock, Emmett, Pelham etc were taking ideas from southern
workers and putting their own stamp on them, at least the tunes, themes and choruses. They performed quite early on in the Gulf ports and in towns along the rivers.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 10:35 AM

Hi all you techies out there. I'm struggling to print off selections from this website. Normally I can copy and paste something into Word, doctor it and then print it off, but this site isn't letting me do that. Any suggestions welcome.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 11:40 AM

Steve,
> Further on in that same volume just selected from is at p63 a long version of The Raging Canal ancestor of a large family of songs, p102 a full version of Captain Kidd, p107 Fanny Blair.

Is this The New Negro forget-me-not songster? The numbers on the pages are a bit different from those above the scroll bar at the bottom, but I can't find those songs at either set of numbers.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 01:30 PM

These are the actual page numbers on the images, Richard. I was busy scribbling them down onto scraps of paper last night, but I thought those last references were from TNNfmns but at the back where another songster 'Popular Songs' has been attached or bound into one book. I'm going back on for another look soon and I'll check. In the same volume there were also p110 Canada I O and p112 an interesting ballad titled there The Butcher's Daughter which I seem to remember was a staple of the Dicey-Marshall dynasty. If it helps the volume was somewhere towards the end of the listings.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: meself
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 02:51 PM

Thanks for all this - very interesting!


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 03:20 PM

Serious questions: Aside from media tech, what's the difference in minstrelsy chanties, Assassins Creed chanties and TikTok chanties?

Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer (1843) has more than one 'sing out, proto-chanty' per at least one (Afro)American, 600 year-old sea shanty proponent.

Is the German composer a taker, giver, all/none-of-the-above in the 1800s sing-out sub-genre?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Charley Noble
Date: 21 Jan 21 - 03:24 PM

Steve,

I've also been mining the minstrel song inventory, and exploring the connection between those songs and roustabout and stevedore work songs and chants. I've also led workshops at Mystic and NEFFA on this topic.

I've been singing a version of "Storm Along Stormy" for years, fitted to the tune of "Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away."

My version runs:

Based on a song by John Smith of White's Serenaders at the Melodeon, New York City, from White's New Ethiopian Song Book, published by T. B. Peterson & Bros., Philadelphia, US, © 1854, p. 71.
Adapted by Charles Ipcar 3/29/10
Tune: after Sail Away, Ladies, Sail Away
Key: F (5/C)
Storm Along Stormy-2

C-----------------------G-------C
Now I wish I was in Mobile Bay,
-----------------------F---C
Storm along, Stor-my, storm along!
------------------------G-C
Screwin' cotton all de day,
-----------------------F---C
Storm along, Stor-my, storm along!

---------------------F
Oh, you rollers, storm along,
---------------------C
Oh, you rollers, storm along,
F-------C---------G
Hoist that bale an' sing dis song --
-----------------------F---C
Storm along, Stor-my, storm along!


I wish I was in New Orleans,
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!
Dancin' with them Cajun queens,
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Hoist that bale an' sing dis song --
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

I wish I was on the Midway Plasance,
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!
Watchin’ Lil’ Egypt do the Hoochi Coochie Dance,
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Hoist that bale an' sing dis song --
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Now I thought I heard our Captain say,
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!
"Sun's g'wan down, go get your pay!"
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Oh, you rollers, storm along,
Hoist that bale an' sing dis song --
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Drop your hook an' give a hollar,
Drop your hook an' give a hollar,
We's ashore for the Yankee dollar --
Storm along, Stormy, storm along!

Cheerily,
Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 04:49 AM

Yes, "Stormy" appears to have been the case of minstrel songsters taking a cotton screwing song (i.e. a piece of African American "folk" repertoire) and putting it on the popular stage — part of the project of mining African American song material for their genre that was meant as (often) a representation of the same.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 05:19 AM

By the way, cool archive, Steve!

IMHO, if you're just browsing, you're best starting off with the ones from the 1840s and 50s. (The 1830s ones are a bit TOO early to be rich with material. And by the 60s, the songs have been around the bend and back again a few times.)

My favorite ones, not on this list, are the 1840s collections _The Negro Singer's Own Book_ and _Nigga Songs_. I'm not finding them perusable online, however. (I recall checking one out of a library's Special Collections once, and the young attendant gave me some pretty strange looks!) At least one of them (can't remember which... they must be deeply buried in my PAPER files) is presented less as a collection of minstrel artists' stage material and more like a resource of "collected" material from Black singers. Sort of like a raw archive of songs that White minstrel performers might draw on to create stage versions.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 05:43 AM

My favorite minstrel > chanty connection is "Cynthia Sue" > "New York Girls," which I've explained (argued?) in this 2013 post:

New York Girls discussion


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 08:45 AM

Hi GUEST. When putting out info on certain songs in the Irish repertoire, I have been chastised for suggesting that the originals were actually comic stage Irish songs poking fun at the Irish. Is this not similar to the Minstrel song situation? The overwhelming perception in modern society is all of these songs racial stereotyping are racist to some degree. And I agree with that perception.

However I would hope no-one would suggest we stop studying them, as that is denying history, and we all know where that leads.

Some interesting additions. I think it would be useful to add in other examples here now we have this thread running. Gibb, could you paste the New York Gals version here please? I take your point about the earlier the better. It might also be worth a look at the pre-minstrel black-face repertoire.

I will have another look at my early minstrelsy books for further possible examples.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 10:16 AM

Ah, I see. On some of these supposedly Irish music-hall pieces, one can do no better than recall the judgment of Donal O'Sullivan, "Songs of the Irish", c. 1960; he wrote that they seemed to have been made "for mental defectives". Mind you, Irish people still love French's "Mountains of Mourne" (for instance), with its simple-minded protagonist thinking that navvies are "digging for gold in the street", or that a policeman directing traffic must be Head of the Force, since of course he "stopped the whole street wid wan wave of his hand". Anyway, "thread drift".


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 11:43 AM

Why did he assume that "digging for gold in the street" is simple-minded rather than wryly humorous - which is what the singers evidently think?

Surely O'Sullivan appreciated wit. (Or did he?)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 02:48 PM

Steve via Guest: Why "at the risk of being seen as racist" when pointing out a parallel between the history of these "Ethiopian" pieces and the adoption and evolution of contemporaneous Stage-Irish songs? Sure, ain't dat de Folk Process same as fo' reg'lar folks?

Gibb: ...i.e. a piece of African American "folk" repertoire.

I give up. What's a HOGEYE?

If you validated with the same metrics as for J.B. Whall's ...railroad nigger with his sea boots on, And a hog-eye... &c then again… “needs improvement.”

I find Whall's lyric more likely to be lifted from the similarly WASPy Scourge of the Seas serial in British Boy's Life.

Real California history is very different from the Afro-centrism you and Whall teach via the history of the chanty.

Anglo-American minstrelsy is capable of being racist towards anthing that isn't White; Anglo-Saxon and Protestestant. So-called Latino or Hispanic Catholics are not served any better than African-Americans of any faith.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 03:01 PM

Same for the American Gulf Coast here: Cotton screwing songs

Lyrics mentioning "cotton screwing" isn't a metric for work song.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 03:28 PM

Interesting assertion, Phil.
In going through all of those songsters I can't remember one racist song about Latinos or Hispanic Catholics, but now you mention it I shall certainly keep a hog-eye out for them. Irish, German/Dutch, Chinese, all seem to get their share, but others seem to get off lightly. 'twould make an interesting study.

Hog-eye: Personally I find the more widespread literal eye description more plausible than the barges but only marginally. More earlier references would certainly help, e.g., the barges seem to have originated in 1850 so if we find the term being used earlier in another context it would add more weight to the other theories.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 22 Jan 21 - 05:48 PM

Robert James, M.D., "A Medicinal Dictionary" (1743-45), Vol. II (s.v. Hyophthalmos):

"Hog's-eye, is a Name for the Aster Atticus, and, also, for a Species of Achates."

"Aster Atticus" appears to be known today as "Aster amellus," the European Michaelmas daisy.

The commonly alleged "hog-eye" barge is not known to the OED or to the multivolume Dictionary of American English. Nor, as I mentioned some time back, is it in the multivolume (American) Century Dictionary of 1889.

I'm starting to think it was imaginary....


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Jan 21 - 12:39 AM

Excerpted from the linked post:
//
"Cynthia Sue" was a song sung by Christy's Minstrels. Mahar (_Behind the Burnt Cork Mask_, 1999) dates it to 1844.

Here's a link to one version of lyrics, as they appeared in _Christy's Nigga Songster_ (1850). It begins,

Long 'fore dis time, dis nigger dwell
In a place called Tuscanoe;
I loved a gal with tarry [tawny?] skin—
Her name was Cynthia Sue.

Oh, Cynthia, my darlin' honey,
Oh, Cynthia, I lub you more den money!
//

Steve, by pre-minstrel do you mean the solo blackface performers like TD Rice ("Coal Black Rose") and Joel Sweeney ("Jenny Get Your Hoecake Done") -- in other words, before the minstrel groups i.e. 1843, Virginia Minstrels?

I was drafting a chapter on minstrelsy when I was working on a book about chanty history, before getting sidetracked. Looks like I haven't touched the file since 2014... I remember a specific 1830s reference to some sailors going ashore and attending a performance by Rice of "Coal Black Rose."

As an aside, I love this rendition of "Hoecake."
Home Front's rendition
Surely the basis of "Whoop Jamboree."
Not to say we can be sure Home Front's is a completely accurate reconstruction, but it gives a glimpse of what might have been heard as a pretty exciting "new" sound (parallel to the phenomenal success of Lil Nas X's 2019 blockbuster, "Old Town Road".
Kids and adults alike reacted to it automatically, it was so familiar to the flavor of everything in American music.

I have the pleasure of owning one of James Hartel's reconstructions of the Sweeney banjo... though I haven't much learned to play it yet! It's a great teaching tool though.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Jan 21 - 08:44 AM

Thanks, Gibb
Which chanty does the Cynthia Sue piece relate to?

Yes, by pre-minstrel I do mean the solo artistes that predated the Minstrel troupes of 1843, but they were this side of the pond as well though that is unlikely to have had any crossover with the work songs.
There are several printings of 'Jenny get your Hoecake done' in those Pittsburghe songsters.

Liked the Home Front rendering. Makes it easier to see the musical connection with the chanty as well. Album cover made me drool with all those old bound sheet music books.

I have a D banjo in the loft that should get played. It hasn't been touched for over 20 years. Last time it was played was by one of our band members. He put a capo on it and used it as a tenor banjo.
I'm a squeezebox man myself.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Jan 21 - 08:56 AM

Here's one I found last night, but, Gibb, you might already be familiar with it.
In Jenny Lind Forget Me Not Songster (which is actually a load of songsters published together totalling about 770 pages)
P516 has 'My Old Aunt Sally' tune The Locomotive Bullgine
has chorus:
Sally, O Sally! my old Aunt Sally
.....
Ra-ree-ri-ro, round de corner Sally.

At p671 we have 'A Darkey Band and a Darkey Crew

A darkey band and a darkey crew
Tally ya ha higho
Are out in de west care killers so true,
Tally ya ha higho.

The latter songster is dated 1850. The whole book is probably c1850.

The version of Raging Canal, a comic pathetic ballad, is at p486 and has more performance info this time.
Written by M Henney (?) Esq. and now sung nightly with tremendous thunders of applause, by Mr T. G. Booth, at the American Museum, NY. Air 'Caroline of Edinburgh Town'. (Laws P27)


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 02:29 AM

If Mudcat mentions any real world maritime tradition or vocabulary, of any faith, in your new and revised history of the San Francisco 'hog-eye' well, I missed it again.

You wouldn't be my first choice as look-out. Your frame of reference for all things Afro-Americana is the Tom show. The standard chanty paradigm has the same relationship with minstrely's “locomotive lecture” as the Greek keleusma. It has been processing the bulgine as a real world piece of African-American ship's gear.
Ship Margaret Evans, songs


The glossary debating minstrely's authenticity and racism is a multi-volume set. If you lot have solved the age old riddle of the tragic mulatto all by your lonesomes… show your work. It's a reasonable request.

The informed, intellectually honest answer is “we.do.not.know.;” but… De History 'Ob de World lecture sub-genre probably shouldn't even be lumped in May Irwin's Bible Stories (Darkie Sunday School &c &c ad nauseum. – Baptist Sunday School words offensive?)

Much less with a Harriet Beecher Stowe piece promoting the Northern abolitionist cause.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 10:22 AM

Phil
I struggle to understand anything you write. If anyone else can translate for me I'd be obliged.

All we're doing is looking for possible connections. The obvious connection between African/American and Minstrel song and vocabulary, and chanties, is both multiple and has been well-known for over a century. Are you saying there is no connection, or just that we are overemphasising it?

By adding in the Minstrel connections all I'm doing is adding to Gibb and others stressing the wider African/American connections, which again are obvious and irrefutable.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 02:53 PM

Had a good look through Nathan's 'Dan Emmett and the rise of Negro Minstrelsy'. As I suspected might be the case nothing written by Emmett is relevant here except obviously some of his more famous songs were sung at sea and possibly even used as capstan chanties, Dixie for instance.

However an example of a corn-shucking song from S. carolina is given as possibly influencing some minstrel songs, and it certainly can be related to 2 different chanties.

Johnny come down de hollow. Oh hollow!
Johnny come down de hollow. Oh hollow!
De nigger-trader got me. Oh Hollow!
De speculater bought me. Oh hollow!
I'm sold for silver dollars. Oh hollow!
Boys, go catch de pony. Oh hollow!
Bring him round de corner. Oh hollow!
I'm goin' away to Georgia. Oh hollow!
Boys, good-bye for ever. Oh hollow!

Might help to clear up where 'Hilo' came from, and the other connection is obvious, Shallo Brown.

Off to have a look through Courlander now.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: meself
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 03:36 PM

A bit off topic, but ... can anyone explain the accent in that Homefront recording? Is it supposed to be a re-creation of the way a 19th century middle/upper-class White American might have sung those 'minstrel' songs, southern Blacks of the time might have done so, or is it the singer's natural accent with the lyrics as written, or something else? I'm not being snarky; I just don't know what the intent is, and what to make of it.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 06:20 PM

Steve,
Yes, we have those in the "Advent" thread, etc. -- but don't worry. You're assembling things under this topic, so go for it and keep going!

"Cynthia Sue" was copied, as you had asked, from the post about "New York Girls", with "Cynthia" (pronounced in 2 syllables) as my supposed origins of the familiar "Santy" in NYG. There's a link in the other post to a YT performance of "Cynthia Sue" where we can easily hear the NYG melody. Now, one can reason that NYG gave birth to "Cynthia Sue" or that the two songs derive from a common ancestor. But it seems to me that the inscrutable "Santy" in NYG derives from "Cynthia", rather than the other way around.

meself,

Good question and I don't know the answer, can only guess. I'd guess not *aiming for* middle/upper-class, since the minstrels were better described as "working class"—though whether *he* sounds upper-class is up to you. (To me he just sounds like an everyday [middle class?] American dude and yeah, I guess White.) I'd guess the singer wants to distance himself somewhat and is just reading the "dialect writing" in a kind of matter of fact way, rather than going to deep into what one might imagine as an exaggerated "imitation" of an 1840s Black American. I don't know how far Joel Sweeney went in caricature, but my rough impression is that he was someone generally interested in performing in the genre of "Black" music, attempting to imitate the sound but not caricature or derogate. The standard narrative is that Sweeney learned to play banjo from a Black neighbor. I'm of the opinion that the racism of minstrelsy, which can't help but come up, is something that evolved with audiences and with the years. Sweeney was like "Vanilla Ice" of his time. One might judge his actions as "racist" or based, unwittingly, in the "general racism" of his time, but his *intent* was not to perpetrate racism or create a presentation to be consumed as fuel for active racists. It was an interest in performing Black music -- or else a music that had emerged to a degree out of both White and Black communities but which society marked as "Black" -- and signaling an acknowledgement of that, through blackface, etc. was a necessary gesture to deflecting certain criticisms. "This isn't really me, it's a character I'm playing on stage" -- balancing society's judgement and what he wanted to do, in a negotiation.

I think of this as rather equivalent to myself wanting to perform Country ("Southern") music as a Northerner. I don't have a Southern accent, but if I sing Country I will take on some of the accent of the genre without trying to be totally silly and paint a picture of a Southern stereotype. So I think what you said, "the singer's natural accent with the lyrics as written" is accurate. Just an opinion, of course.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 06:47 PM

This may not even be true, but somewhere long ago I read or imagined that minstrel singers sang their dialect lyrics in a formal "concert" style.

But it may be true, because the incongruity would make the performance even more ridiculous, i.e. "fun."

Has anybody else come across this idea?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: meself
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 08:25 PM

Lighter: that might explain what I'm hearing in this singer's rendition - the 'dialect' pronunciations are not so much exaggerated as given a kind of stiff, unnatural precision.

Gibb: When I was talking about middle/upper-class, etc., I wasn't thinking so much that the singer was trying to re-create minstrel-singing, but rather, trying to re-create the way that minstrel-songs might have been sung once they'd been published and taken into respectable parlours - perhaps I was influenced by the visual with the vid.   You know, I imagine the proper young man standing beside the piano with song-lyrics in hand. Of course, the instrumentation in the recording has nothing to do with that - no piano or pump-organ - so I might be on the wrong track there.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 08:29 PM

Jon,

Based on my non-rigorous, reader, that sounds plausible to me as something that happened at times. The send up of all kinds of "upper class" stuff, through ironic juxtaposition, was part of the humor in minstrel shows.

In the same non-rigorous way, however, I would not imagine that was the case with Sweeney, i.e. one of the early performers.

People may be familiar with Chris Smith's book "The Creolization of American Culture." His thesis (I hope I'm summarizing correctly) was that what came to be performed on stage was already extant, more or less, as a musical genre among working class people in certain multiethnic spaces of labor -- on America's frontiers, on rivers, in ports. The quick success of the music on stage is explained by the theory that it was already so familiar to the target audience (such as those types who patronized the Bowery Theatre in New York). There was an excitement of seeing "their" ("Creole," "American") music on stage for the first time.

I personally analogize this audience to the hepcats, Teddy Boys, Mods, Skinheads, and other working class youth subcultures who, predominately (but not exclusively) "White," forged their distinctive identities in part through synthesis with "other cultures'" styles of dress, speech, values, and music. (In California these days, such subcultures are dominated by the majority "nationality" of working class background, Mexican-Americans.) For that crowd, I don't think making fun was as much of a priority, then.

There is a shift when the music goes even more "mainstream" and broader audiences, of a different composition, demand more of what they seek from the performances. In any case, I image the conflict between performers' intentions and audience expectations was always something to be negotiated. We can imagine when blackface performers toured to England. How might those audiences have viewed the performance without (presumably) an understanding of American life?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 08:34 PM

Ah, I see, meself. I hadn't paid mind to the image. It's the album cover. I don't what else is on the album -- likely a range of material. But I see this track as trying to project the "country," "down on the farm" sound, this music being antecedent to American Country music.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: meself
Date: 24 Jan 21 - 08:50 PM

Well, whatever is going on, the singer clearly has decided to sing the lyrics as they must have appeared in some publication. In Oh, Susanna, for example, which I found elsewhere, he sings, "Do not cry for me", rather than the usual "doncha" or "don't you". Anyway, I'll drop the matter for now.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Jan 21 - 09:32 AM

If you look at the album cover their source is obvious, the original sheet music, bound up into volumes, drool, drool.

This may or may not be relevant to the discussion, but I'm more au fait with English stage performance in the early to mid 19th century, think Joe Grimaldi and Sam Cowell. The important feature of mass entertainment of the time was performance. The actual songs themselves were pretty lacklustre in most cases and only contained a modicum of humour (by our standards Anyway). The over-riding element seems to have been extreme exaggeration of gesture, facials, emotion, bodily movement, costume etc. 'It's the way I deliver 'em!' Looking at numerous illustrations of Minstrel performers, particularly the earlier ones, I get the same impression. Even a possibility that the black face and cultural appropriation were secondary to the exaggerated antics.

The African-American, though the most dominant form of racial exaggeration and mimicking, was part of the wider performance of other racial characteristics as Gibb points out. Probably the next most influential was the stage Irishman, etc.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 25 Jan 21 - 10:01 AM

Yes, to back up what Gibb is saying, having just reread Nathan's book on Emmett the build-up to the minstrel troupe explosion was actually quite gradual starting with soloists from the middle of the 18th century then various duos, then trios, then came the explosion with the quartets and then quintets. Whether you follow the Christy or the Virginian claims the build up was the same. By February 1843 the Virginia Minstrels with Emmett, Brower, Pelham and Whitlock were performing in New York and by the middle of the year were performing in Liverpool, England, so rapid was their success. Just prior to that Emmett and Brower had been performing as a duo.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 26 Jan 21 - 07:40 AM

Had a skim through Courlander 'Negro Folk Music' and there's surprisingly little that can be directly related to chanties. Of course the language and formats are there, but no full choruses or verse like there are with the Minstrel songs.

However the same phrases kept cropping up which also occur in chanties. I particularly noted:
Never seen the like since I was born
Comb their heads with an old jaw bone
Hand me down my (accessory or article of clothing)
Carry me to my burying ground
Dig a grave with a silver spade and lower me down with a golden chain

Old John Booker songs occur in the African-American repertoire and in the Minstrel and chanty genre.

Strong reference made to the influence of Scottish and other European tunes.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 27 Jan 21 - 12:13 AM

Steve,

It's going to be mostly group action songs, which Courlander doesn't focus on in particular. Moreover, I believe song styles developed between early 19th-early 20th c. So you see more in certain older historical samples (of which we have primary sources elsewhere).

There is some in the Work chapter ("High-o" (Parrish) p 116, "Jenny Gone Away"(Kemble) p118, "Molly Was a Good Gal" p119, "Shiloh" p120) and the Ring Games chapter ("Amasee," "Rosie Darling Rosie")

It's cool that he makes a transcription of "Rosie" (Alan Lomax recording), though his notation is displaced by a beat and that is in the "hammering song" genre.


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: mayomick
Date: 27 Jan 21 - 10:42 AM

Steven re Teddy McGra
Would you consider Jonny I Hardly Knew You as a music hall skit poking fun at the over-sensitivity of the Irish towards their war-wounded ?


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Subject: RE: Minstrel songs and chanties
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 27 Jan 21 - 03:02 PM

Hmm. Now you're asking. If you want my honest opinion I'd say no in this case. Also we're talking about a different era. Teddy O'Gra in its original form of the early 19th century, definitely stage Irish skit. I don't see this in Joe Geoghegan's song of the late 60s. Geoghegan presumably was of Irish extraction though probably born in Bolton, Lancashire. His songs are about 50/50 serious/comic.

Nobody has ever suggested any 'over-sensitivity of the Irish towards their war-wounded', quite the opposite in fact. I'd say the O'Gra song is pitilessly insensitive and nasty. People still sing it as an anti-war song though and why not? There are lots of songs in the folk repertoire that are now sung as serious songs that started out as comic songs.


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