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Reuben Ranzo


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Ranzo You'll Rue the Day (25)
Lyr Req: Reuben Ramso: Arlo Guthrie (11)
(origins) Origins: Ranzo Ray (11)

SPB-Cooperator 21 Feb 23 - 07:57 AM
GUEST 16 Feb 23 - 09:24 PM
Lighter 14 Feb 23 - 12:54 PM
Steve Gardham 29 Jan 23 - 03:04 PM
Lighter 29 Jan 23 - 08:34 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 07:20 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 06:40 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 06:03 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 05:04 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 01:32 AM
Gibb Sahib 29 Jan 23 - 01:03 AM
RTim 28 Jan 23 - 09:45 PM
Lighter 28 Jan 23 - 08:19 PM
Gibb Sahib 28 Jan 23 - 08:12 PM
Lighter 28 Jan 23 - 03:21 PM
Lighter 28 Jan 23 - 03:11 PM
Gibb Sahib 27 Jan 23 - 09:51 PM
Lighter 27 Jan 23 - 05:36 PM
GUEST,Wm 27 Jan 23 - 02:28 PM
Lighter 27 Jan 23 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Wm 27 Jan 23 - 08:11 AM
Lighter 26 Jan 23 - 07:54 AM
Lighter 25 Jan 23 - 10:03 PM
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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: SPB-Cooperator
Date: 21 Feb 23 - 07:57 AM

I used to introduce this as being about someone who got to the top through nepotism.

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Date: 16 Feb 23 - 09:24 PM


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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Feb 23 - 12:54 PM

Here's another case of "Ranzo" being extended to show his benevolence, not his bastardy:

Hugh St. Leger, "Chanties," Black and White (July 2, 1892):

"...after a few more stanzas, we find him an excellent skipper.

    'Now Ranzo is our old man (Captain),
    Ranzo - boys - Ranzo.'

This lyric goes on to say that Ranzo was a captain who supplied his men with a generous amount of grog,...and the lines alluding to this trait are sung in a very pointed manner when the captain is near, on a ship where no grog or very little is allowed."

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 03:04 PM

To my mind the most useful and interesting point from the last 2 posts is the 'ploughboy' mention. White tells us R was a ploughboy and Haswell tells us he sold his plough and harrow. We have plenty of ploughboy turned sailor ballads but none that mention a Ranzo/Lorenzo that I know of.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 08:34 AM

Rutzebeck’s tune, like Haswell’s, is recognizably the “same.” I haven’t found my copy of Sampson’s “Seven Seas Shanty Book,” but I’m confident that it also is the “same.”

Here is Haswell’s full text - reprinted by Graham Seal from the “Paramatta Serio-Comic Sun” in “Ten Shanties Sung on the Austraian Run 1879” (1992).


Oh! poor old Reuben Ranzo!
Ranzo, boys! Ranzo.        

He sold his plough and harrow….

Ranzo was no sailor….

He shipped on a Yankee whaler….

He could not do his duty….

He could not furl a “Royal.”…

The “Mate” he was a bad man….

The Captain was a good ‘un….

They took him to the gangway….

And gave him six and thirty….

He was taken in the cabin….

And there had wine and brandy….

And they taught him navy-gation….

Now, he’s skipper of a whaler….

I wish I was old “Ranzo’s” son….

I’d build a ship of a thousand ton….

I’d give my sailors plenty of rum….

Old “Ranzo” was a good old man….

But now old “Ranzo’s” dead and gone….

And none can sing his funeral song….

[Note:] Ranzo is suspiciously like a “crib” from a well-known old sea song concerning a certain “Lorenzo”, who also “was no sailor.” -Mus. Ed.

I too have looked in vain for that "old sea song" about "Lorenzo," allegedly known to Mark Twain or Bret Harte. (Maybe it was in the pre-Civil War song book where Whall saw “Shannadore.” Yeah, right.)

The anonymous author of "Man Overboard" may have had a muddled understanding of the difference between a "chantey" and a "fore bitter."

(Compare William Fender's chantey chorus recorded by Carpenter in the '20s:

"To me way, hey-ay-ay-ay, high low man!")

"Orlonzo" now lets us speculate that the real Ranzo was named Orlando Ranzo, which sounds more likely than Reuben Lorenzo. (Just messin' with your mind.)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 07:20 AM

So, to follow up on the "wellknown [sic] old sea-song," there's this.

[no name] Man Overboard. London: F.V. White & Co., 1887.

This novel was published in or before May 1887. It's shipboard but not a working context. Indeed, the song is implied to be a "fore bitter" (something for entertainment) though our chanty chorus is there.

Pp 61-62
Then there was a long silence. No one seemed inclined to break the ice. At last the Captain called out to the First Officer.
“Come on, Mr Beattie; if nobody else will sing, you must, for the honour of the ship;” and Mr Beattie, a jovial, good-natured seaman, was dragged out to the piano by half-a-dozen willing hands.
“Give us a fore bitter!” cried O'Shea.
“Yes, a fore bitter, a fore bitter,” repeated a dozen voices.
“All right. What will you have ?” asked he good-humouredly. "'High randy dandy high-ho Chiliman,' or what? And who'll play my accompaniment?”
“Give us Orlanzo,' and Mr Oxenham will accompany you on the banjo. Never mind the piano: we're not educated enough for that,” said the impudent O'Shea; “but we'll give you a chorus, at any rate."
“All right,” said Beattie; “anything to oblige. Will you play, Mr Oxenham?”
“Oh, do,” said Grace Chippendale; "you play so beautifully, Mr Oxenham."
A remark which her mother unfortunately overheard, and thereupon looked poison at her.
“Here you are,” said a young passenger, who had run to Hugh's cabin and fetched the banjo. “You have no excuse now; and we must have your own song afterwards."
So, after Hugh had put the instrument in tune, he played a bar or two of the accompaniment, and then Beattie struck up in a manly bass the simple and affecting ditty: “Orlanzo was a Ploughboy," and every one in the cabin, with the exception of Mrs Chippendale and half-a-dozen others, perhaps, joined in the not too scientific chorus of "Orlanzo, boys, Orlanzo;” and the watch below, most of whom were on deck this hot night, could be heard echoing it in the distance.
This song brought down the house. The veil of stiffness, if not of propriety, which Mrs Chippendale had thrown over the performances of the evening, was torn completely aside, and it seemed as if the audience were now really going to enjoy themselves.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 06:40 AM

George Haswell's exposition of chanties in the shipboard newspaper _The Parramatta Sun_, 1879, includes the note (reproduced in LA Smith),

Ranzo is suspiciously like a 'crib' from a wellknown old sea-song concerning a certain 'Lorenzo,' who also 'was no sailor.' However the versions of Reuben Ranzo may alter one salient point in each remains, and that is the fact of 'his being no sailor.'

What is that well known old sea-song?

I don't have Haswell's full text. These are the lyrics I have:

O poor old Reuben [Ruben?] Ranzo
   Ranzo Boys Ranzo
O poor old Reuben Ranzo
   Ranzo Boys Ranzo


I wish I was old 'Ranzo's' son.
“I'd build a ship of a thousand ton;

I'd give my sailors plenty of rum
Old 'Ranzo' was a good old man,

But now old 'Ranzo's' dead and gone,
And none can sing his funeral song.

Thus, it ends with a typical "Stormy" theme.

M/F S F M / R D M - /
/R R R - / M R - /
R/R M F MR / D l s - /
/D M S M / R D - (-)//

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 06:03 AM


D/ M M MR DR/ M- R D/
/R R R D/ M - R - /
R/ R R RD lt/D - s - /
/D M M D/ R D - (-)//

LA Smith - This tune's notation is messed up. Smith (or the singer) got turned around and switched keys mid-stream; it makes no musical sense. It doesn't even match the rhythm of the text. She's got the key signature in Bb but clearly starts the tune in F, goes somewhere, and ends in Bb.

/D R D t / l - t - /
/l l t - / l - t - /
/D R D t/ l - t -/
/D R M - /R - D - //

RC Adams (1876)

/M S F M / R - M - /
/R R R - / M R - /
s/D - D l/ D - s - /
/D M M - / R D - (-)//


M/F S F M / R - M - /
/R R R - /M R - /
MR/D R D R/ D l s - /
/D M S - / M D - (-)//

Robinson - Puts key signature as G but tune is in D

/F S F M / R - M -/
/R R R - / M - R - /
/D l D l / D - s - /
/D M S - / R D - - //

Stanton King

M/F S F M / R D M - /
/R R R D /M R - /
MR/D R Dt ls / D - s - /
/D M S - / M D - (-)//

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 05:04 AM


s/M S F M / R D M - /
/R R R - / l R - - /
/R M RD l / D - s - /
/D M S M / R D - (-)//


M/F S F M / R - M -/
/R R R - / M R - /
D/ M R D l / D - s -/
D M S - / R D - (-)//

Whall (1910 etc)

M/F S F M / R D M RD/
/R R R D / M R - /
MR/ D D t lt / D - s -/
D M S - / R D - (-)//


S/M S F M/ R - M - /
/R R R D / M R - /
R/D R D l/ D - s - /
D MS S M/ R D - (-)//


/F S F M / R - M - /
/R R R - / M R - - /
/R M RD l / D - s - /
/D M S - / R D - - //

Dick Maitland

RM/F S F M / R - M - /
/R R R - / M R - - /
RM/F S F M / D - s - /
/D MS S - / R D - (-) //

P Tayleur

S/M S F M/ R D M - /
/R R R D / M R - /
DR/R M RD l/ D - s - /
D M S F/ MR D - (-)//


S/M S F M/ R D M - /
/R R R - / M R - /
MR/D R D l/ l - s - /
D M S -/ R D - (-)//

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 01:32 AM


/F S F M / R D M - /
/ t t D - / M R - - /
/S S F M / D - s - /
/D M S - / R D - - //

Noble Brown

/F S F M / R - M - /
/R R R - / M R - - /
/R M R D / t - s - /
/D D S - / M D - - //

Tim Radford :)

M /M S F MR / R M M - /
/R R R - / l R - - /
/R M RD l / D - s - /
/D M S M / R D - (-)//

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 29 Jan 23 - 01:03 AM

Tim, I believe the simple answer is, "They are all similar."

Verbose, opinionated answer: I consider it to be all one tune, "THE" tune, where the differences between performances aren't significant enough to say "Ah, that's a different tune." I don't actually think there's really such a thing as "versions" of chanties. (For the most part. There are probably exceptional cases that aren't coming to mind.) Because that "certain degree of variability" is built in, on the one hand, and on the other hand you need "the" tune to anchor you; the tune itself "is" the chanty. (Whereas, as an example of contrast, the narrative text "is" a ballad, and when you see either the narrative going in divergent directions OR the text is set to clearly different tune, we begin to talk of "versions.") So it all comes down to what degree of difference one thinks is significant. If I say "water" and you say "water," there *is* a difference in sound. But for most situations we're concerned with, they are the "same"; it's only in some arcane context (like a linguist mapping regional phonology) that their difference is significant.

(Yes! I did just write a whole paragraph basically stating the obvious. Good thing Mudcat doesn't charge me by the word.)

Here are the texts mentioned so far, I think, that have information about tune. I can have a look at each of them later.

Gordon (This is a recording. I transcribed the lyrics from the recording at LoC. Looking in my notes, however, I see that I wrote down the tune for other songs I listened to at that time, but didn't do it for this. Which tells me I didn't think the tune was notably different from the most popular way people now sing Reuben Ranzo).

Noble Brown



Adams - I remember that the second half stands out a bit. Subjectively and without strong argument as to why, I think something sounds "older" or more "authentic" about it and I like to sing it.



Davis and Tozer


LA Smith


Dick Maitland


Rutzebeck- I don't have this. Is there a tune?




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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: RTim
Date: 28 Jan 23 - 09:45 PM

With all these different versions of the Reuben Ranzo we also have multiple tune versions also....or are they all similar..??

Tim Radford
(If this has been addressed early....I am sorry if/that I missed it!)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Jan 23 - 08:19 PM

Hugill, 1961 (and 1969):He also gives some miscellaneous extra verses, plus a Sicilian fisherman's song to clearly the same tune. Which song came first is uncertain.

Oooh! poor ol’ Reuben Ranzo
– RANZO, boys, RANZO!
Ooh! poor ol’ Reuben Ranzo
– RANZO, boys, RANZO!

Oh, Ranzo wuz no sailor,
He wuz a New York tailor,

Though Ranzo wuz no sailor,
He shipped aboard of a whaler.

The ‘Pierre Loti’ wuz a whaler,
But Ranzo wuz no sailor.

Ranzo joined ‘Pierre Loti’,
Did no’ know his dooty.

Shanghaied aboard of a whaler,
They tried to make him a sailor.

Ranzo couldn’t steer ‘er—
Did ye ever know anything queerer?

The mate he wuz a dandy,
Far too fond o’ brandy.

Put him holystonin’,
An’ cared not for his groanin’.

They said he wuz a lubber,
And made him eat whale-blubber.

He washed once in a fortnight,
He said it wuz his birthright.

They took him to the gangway,
An’ gave him lashes twenty.

They gave him lashes twenty,
Nineteen more than plenty.

They gave him lashes thirty,
Because he wuz so dirty.

Reuben Ranzo fainted,
His back with oil wuz painted.

The Capen gave him thirty,
His daughter begged for mercy.

She took him to the cabin,
An’ tried to ease his achin’

She gave him cake an’ water,
An’ a bit more than she oughter.

She gave him rum an’ whisky,
Which made him feel damn frisky.

She taught him navigation,
An’ gave him eddication.

They gave him an extra ratin’
An’ made him fit for his station.

They made him the best sailor,
Sailin’ on that whaler.

Ranzo now the skipper
Of a Yankee whaler

An’ when he gets a sailor,
Who’s iggerant on a whaler,

He takes him to his cabin,
An’ larns him navigatin’.

He married the Old Man’s daughter,
An’ still sails on blue water.

He’s known wherever them whalefish blow
As the toughest bastard on the go.

Hurrah for Reuben Ranzo,
Hurrah for Captain Ranzo!

The "Pierre Loti" is presumably the steel French whaling barque of that name, sunk by a German cruiser in January 1915.

The "dandy/brandy" couplet which we've seen before, also appears in the foc's'le song "The Campanero."

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 28 Jan 23 - 08:12 PM

Once one puts narrative in a song, it gives it some stability and discourages any improvisation aside from superficial variations... unless there is co-exists the memory of the genre as one meant for improv.

The following specimen uses the Solomon Grundy ~narrative again (seen above in L.A. Smith).

I know nothing of the author. It's a pseudonym, and the book is fiction. It's set first in the 17th century and then jumps to the 19th; Fitzerse is a time-traveller. "Ranzo" is first included in the 17th century part, and then comes back. The words, while typical enough, don't obviously match any prior publication that I know of. The author might just as well have cribbed them from a piece of writing as heard them sung by sailors directly.

Fitzerse, Alfred [pseudonym]. The Trance of Fitzerse: A Tale of Two Centuries. London: The London Literary Society, 1888.

pp 37-38
        The incidents of the voyage, with very few exceptions, were such as have often been related of others. The utmost order prevailed. The weather was favourable, though at times the wind was high and the sea rough. Alfred Fitzerse was not long in making friends with all on board, and growing accustomed to this new life. He was greatly interested in the manners and customs of the sailors, whom he found, in general, to be good-natured men, though somewhat rough and overbearing towards each other. What struck him most was their cheerfulness, by which he thought they had fairly earned their common title of jolly tars. Whenever they were called upon to act in concert, they always supported each other by singing some song, the refrain of which was the signal for a united effort. One such song in particular impressed itself upon his memory, and it may be interesting to some who read these lines:

“Ranzo was born on a Sunday,
   Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
He went to school on a Monday,
   Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
He ran away on a Tuesday,
   Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
He went to sea on a Wednesday,
   Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
He was rated mate on a Thursday,
Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
   He was cast away on a Friday,
Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo !
   He skipped the deck on a Saturday,
Ranzo, Boys, Ranzo!”

   The sailors could not give any coherent account of the origin of this song. They said they had picked it up from one another, and that they supposed Ranzo, if such an individual had ever existed, was some Portuguese sailor of whom his shipmates had made a kind of hero.

While we were still engaged in conversing upon indifferent matters, my ear caught the strain of another song the sailors had started on deck and I thought I would go and listen to it. On reaching the place I was nearly thrown off my balance by what I heard, acting as it did in the way I have found any sudden reminiscence of my former state to do upon my mind. Could I believe my senses? There was the whole history of Ranzo, the mythical Portuguese, from his cradle to his watery grave, recited in the same sing song strain which I had often heard on board the “Trustwell.” The same emphatic chorus, too, confirmed it, as the singers hauled together with a will:

Ranzo, boys! Ranzo!

   “That's an old song,” I remarked to the third officer who was standing by. “Do you know where the sailors picked it up?"
   "Hard to tell that,” said he. “Old Blowhard there would say, if you asked him, that Shem, Ham and Japhet had sung it in the Ark when Adam was an oakum boy in Chatham Dockyard."

The text also quotes "Haul the Bowline" in the 19th century episodes.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Jan 23 - 03:21 PM

Since they didn't come from books, all chanteys must originally have been improvised.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 28 Jan 23 - 03:11 PM

There also seems to have been occasional self-aware composition and subsequent memorization. That's how I account for the unique set of lyrics sing to Ivan Walton by Great Lakes sailors Harry and George Parmalee in 1932:

Oh, poor old Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Oh, poor old Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!

Oh, Ranzo came up to the Lakes,
Where sailors live on prime beefsteaks.

Now it's a widespread rumor,
That he shipped aboard a schooner.

But Ranzo was no sailor,
For Ranzo was a tailor.

The Old Man set him wheeling,
For Ranzo was appealing.

But he could not rock or shake her,
For Ranzo was no sailor.

His course was up Lake Erie,
But he grounded on Point Pelee.

The Old Man loud did curse him,
Oh, how the Old Man cursed him.

He kicked him to the galley,
With pots and pans to dally.

When they came into a grain port,
The Old Man cut his sailin' short.

But Old Ranzo became the owner,
And the Old Man now works for him.

Familiar thematically but lyrically unique.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 27 Jan 23 - 09:51 PM


re: Improvisation

My tentative theory about this runs as follows:

Early chanty singing included improvisation as one of its values. My biases incline me to suppose that this may have been because much African American music, as a generalization, tends to value improvisation highly. This is in no way to say that other cultural musical orientations would not value it, but rather only to note that its value in African American music is tangible and its presence in chanties could be said to be in accord.

At some point, the "art" of chanty singing (or of being a chantyman), I propose, undergoes a shift. The singing of chanties expands greatly to a sort of "user-base" that is far beyond the smaller set of earlier singers (both Black and White) who would have cultivated those earlier aesthetic values. An exponentially larger body of participants go on to receive the repertoire and the working techniques of chanties once the genre had become so ubiquitous in sailing vessels that everyone (no matter their background and experience) entering that space would find themselves in the position of performers. Finding themselves in the position of performers, however, would not mean, in such a diffuse environment, that they would learn to cultivate all the values that earlier singers felt were important. To them, chief values would include the value of chanties to get the work done, whereas the finer details of aesthetic values might remain unknown.

I propose that what I described in the preceding paragraph was happening concurrently while other singers still cultivated the value of improvisation.

I have documented (more tangibly) a similar sort of minimizing of aesthetics in the drumming of Punjab, as, in the last couple decades, performing has expanded from a set of exclusive "hereditary-professional" musicians to the general public.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 27 Jan 23 - 05:36 PM

We now see clearly that improvisation and variation in chantey performances, even in this basically narrative song, were more common than most people think - including people like me and an actual chantey man like Stanton King.

But many singers would mostly stick to a congenial text. Linscott's Captain Smith had also sung for James M. Carpenter about ten years before. Though the later one improves on one or two lines, Smith's two sets of mainstream lyrics are essentially the same.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,Wm
Date: 27 Jan 23 - 02:28 PM

This seems like another independent reference: VEINS OF IRON: THE PICKANDS MATHER STORY, Walter Havighurst, 1958, page 41. Link at

Down the lakes went the rich Gogebic cargoes. They averaged 60–65 per cent iron, with 2 per cent silica and .03–.04 per cent phosphorous—all well within the Bessemer limit, and the furnacemen were clamoring for Bessemer ore. To carry the tonnage Pickands Mather bought additional shares in the Ketchum and new interest in the steamers Robert. R. Rhodes and Samuel Mather, both of them wooden vessels, 246 feet long, built in Cleveland in 1887. The Rhodes had a roomy forward cabin with a large square pilothouse and square portholes; she had a clear cargo deck with masts fore and aft and a tall black stack at her stern. The Samuel Mather, the first of four vessels to bear this name, had three masts and topmasts for auxiliary sail and twin black stacks for her twin boilers. She had cabins fore and aft and a deckhouse amidships, housing the lamproom and quarters for the firemen. She towed the barges Red Wing and Newcomb, under canvas. On the Mather they ran the halyards to steam winches and made sail with a clatter, but the barges used manpower. Over the water came the old halyard chantey:

They paid us off in Liverpool,
Ronzo, boys, Ronzo—

In those years the fo'c's'les were full of shellback sailors from the coast. The first Samuel Mather had a short life. In a thick fog in 1891 off Port Iroquois in Lake Superior she collided with the steamer Brazil loaded deep with iron ore. She sank like a stone.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 27 Jan 23 - 01:18 PM

Great sleuthing, Wm. It's an enlightening desription, and the date (1865) makes this the earliest known specific performance.

Enlightening too (and unique) is the "Tommy's Gone to Hilo" theme of the verses.

Moreover, chanteying aboard a vessel of the U.S. Navy has not otherwise been recorded. The reason for its singing here may be that the ship in question, the wooden screw-steamer "Mary Sanford," was a transport and not a ship of the line. Another valuable insight.

Just before the Civil War, John Robinson went to sea at the age of fourteen. Nearly sixty years later he recalled these verses in "The Bellman" of July 21, 1917:

Oh, poor Reuben Ranso,
Ranso, boys, Ranso,
Oh, poor Reuben Ranso,
Ranso, boys, Ranso.

Ranso was no sailor.
He shipped on board a whaler.
He could not do his duty.
They took him to the gangway,
And gave him five and forty.

Robinson also wrote that he'd learned a "good many chanties which I have never forgotten" on his first voyage from Will Halpin, an elderly shellback (and the earliest known chanteyman) who'd been on the ocean since about 1800.

Unfortunately Robinson doesn't say which chanteys. Nor, maddeningly, does he give any hint that Halpin ever mentioned whether chanteying had existed before ca1830..

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,Wm
Date: 27 Jan 23 - 08:11 AM

Below is Mary Cadwalader Jones, recalling a voyage taken with her father on a Union blockade ship between Charleston and Havana, April 1865, published in 1924 in Volume 59 of the literary journal The Bookman. Found on page 160 at Google Books, here.


I think the crews liked the company of a young girl who was frankly interested in whatever they could show her, and I can honestly say I have never been in better mannered company. Sometimes when they were in the full swing of a chantey they would suddenly mumble a verse, or evidently jump it, if I came near, but I never heard a word which could shock the most Victorian propriety. One of the chanties, about Ronzo, was a favorite, for it had a lilting tune, and gave a chance for improvisation. It began:

Ronzo was a tailor,
Ronzo, boys, Ronzo,
But now he is a sailor,
Ronzo, boys, Ronzo,

and went on to take Ronzo “round the Horn, where we showed him many a storm”, and “round the Cape, where he with fear did shake”, and to every place to which a rhyme, good or bad, could possibly be tagged, ending in a fine full burst:

But now he is a sailor,
Ronzo, boys, Ronzo,
And not a damed old tailor,
Ronzo, boys, Ronzo.

(They tried to sing “darned” on my account, but they often forgot.)


Google Books has provided a few other leads on “Ronzo” texts that I am tracking down in full.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 26 Jan 23 - 07:54 AM

Tayleur's version especially seems to combine accurate recollection with some on-the-spot improv.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 25 Jan 23 - 10:03 PM

Thanks for those texts, Gibb. Valuably early, full, and authentic.

The Danish-born Hjalmar Rutzebeck (1889-1980) was known as the last American chanteyman. He went to sea before World War I. His chantey texts are often highly idiosyncratic, but his “Ransor” [sic] is pretty mainstream, combining familiar and novel elements.

From “Chantey-Man” (1969):

Oh poor old Robin Ransor
    Ransor, boys, Ransor.
Oh poor old Robin Ransor
    Ransor, boys, Ransor.

Oh, Ransor was no sailor….            [twice]

He was a New York tailor….            [twice]

One day he met a sailor….             [twice]

A sailor from a whaler….             [twice]

He shipped aboard the whaler….       [twice]

On shore he was a good tailor…
At sea he was no sailor…

The captain made him climb the mast….
All he could do was to hold fast….

A sea sick man has little worth….
They scoffed at him and called him turd….

A happy day to Robin came….
He was as good as any man.

(The meeting with a sailor resembles a similar line in L. A. Smith's version of 1888.)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 25 Jan 23 - 05:13 PM

From Doerflinger, "Shantymen and Shantyboys" (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1951):

"An almost perfect work song is ‘Reuben Ranzo’ with its swinging solo lines building up to a savage release of power in the refrains.

         REUBEN RANZO (I) [From Richard Maitland, b. ca.1860]]

Oh, poor old Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Oh, Ranzo was no sailor,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!

But he was a Boston tailor.
He went on a visit to New Bedford.

He was shanghaied in a whaler.
He could not do his duty.

So they put him to holy-stoning.
They took him to the gangway.

They tied him on the grating,
And they gave him five and forty.

The captain’s youngest daughter,
Begged her father for mercy.

The captain loved his daughter,
And he heeded her cries for mercy.

REUBEN RANZO (II) [From Captain Patrick Tayleur, b. ca.1856]

O, poor old Roving Ranzo, Hey!
Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo!
O, poor old Roving Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo!

Now Ranzo he was (Aw, Ranzo was) no sailor,

So pore [sic] old Roving Ranzo.

Now (So) they shipped him on board of a whaler.

Now the captain he liked Ranzo.

So the captain taught him how to read and write.

He taught him navigation.

When he got his first mate’s papers.

He became a terror to whalers!

He was known all over the world as

As the worst old bastard on the seas!

He would take his ship to Georgiay.

And there he’d (he would) drag for sperm whale.

He lost the only ship he had,
His first and last and only ship.

Was the Morgan, and she’s known everywhere.

Now (Oh) he’s gone to hell and we’re all glad!

Now, I’ve told you he was no sailor.

He was a New York tailor.

Whether (Oh, whether) a tailor or sailor.

He sure became a Ranzo!"

(The Charles W. Morgan was launched in 1841 and retired from the sea in 1921. As most of us know, you can go on board her at Mystic Seaport Museum. South Georgia whaling barely existed before about 1905.)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Jan 23 - 01:49 AM

Very slightly notable about the preceding is that Briggs claims that "Reuben Ranzo" could be for hoisting *and* windlass. I'd have to check if there are any other ascriptions to the windlass, but even if so, my memory tells me that it's rare.

The significance is that, for windlass work, we'd expect the song to have to be continued at length.

In the case of a topsail halyard hoist, approximately 10 verses would serve--just enough for Reuben's story. However, the little narrative would soon run out when operating the windlass. So, that might explain the large number of verses that Briggs gives and what looks to be "stringing out" (repeating each line). Incidentally, I'd have no trouble fitting the words in the verses that Briggs said were difficult!

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 25 Jan 23 - 01:38 AM

And the "ahs" might be the remnant of an earlier "Lorenzo" - or not.

Same here—sorry to jump the chronological gun, but it's worth grouping this with the above in that respect; see second version, below.

Briggs, L. Vernon. _Around Cape Horn to Honolulu on the Bark “Amy Turner” 1880_. Boston: Charles E. Lauriat Co., 1926.

The bark left Boston in July 1880 and arrived Honolulu later that year. Here's a photo of Lloyd Vernon Briggs (1863-1941).
I no longer have the book in my hands (I'm going from my notes here), but I believe Briggs was a passenger on his way to med school in Hawai'i...

[begin excerpt]
During the four weeks that we were off Cape Horn we heard the shanties every time the men were able to get on deck and pull at a rope. Such songs as “The Ship Neptune”, “Here Comes Old Wabbleton a-Walking the Deck”, “Wey, Hey, Knock a Man Down”, “Whiskey for My Johnny” or “Orenso was no Sailor, Boys”, encouraged the sailors to lay out twice their usual strength.
Many of these shanties (or “chanteys”) are quaint and very old. Their verses are legion and vary on every ship. I will give some of the words sung on the “Amy Turner”, which I have taken down or had written for me by the sailors.

A hoisting and windlass shanty frequently heard in bad weather was:


Solo: Oh Ranzo was no sailor, boys—
Chorus: Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo!
Solo: Oh Ranzo was no sailor, boys—
Chorus: Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo!

He shipped aboard a whaler, boys—

And he could not do his duty—

Oh, they took him to the gangway,

And they gave him one-and-twenty.

Oh, the Captain was a good man,

And he took him to the cabin,

And he taught him navigation.

Oh, the Captain had a daughter,

And she loved poor Reuben Ranzo—

Oh, poor Reuben Ranzo!

Oh, he now sails captain of her,

And he thinks of the times he used to have

While he hugs the Captain’s daughter.

Three cheers for Young Reuben Ranzo!

And I’ll bid adieu to the girl I loved—

Adieu to the girl with the red topped boots

We touch our glass with a good-bye lass—

(These words are as copied for me by a sailor. The last two lines are apparently improvised and difficult to fit to the tune.)

Another version of the same shanty was written for me by Lawrence, an old sailor of our crew.


Solo: Orenso was no sailor—
Chorus: Orenso, boys, Orenso!
Solo: Orenso was no sailor—
Chorus: Orenso, boys, Orenso!

He was apprenticed to a tailor—

And he did not like his master—

So he thought he’d be a sailor,

And he shipped on board, a whaler—

He shipped as able seaman.

And he could not do his duty.

The Mate he was a bad man;

He lashed him to the capstan,

And he gave him six-and-thirty.

The Captain was a good man;

He took him to the cabin,

And he learned him navigation;

And he had a only daughter—

Orenso used to court her.

Now he’s married the Captain’s daughter.

Now he sails the South Seas over.

He is captain of a whaler,

And when he gets a sailor

That can not do his duty,

He takes him down the cabin

And learns him navigation.
[end excerpt]

That added syllable in Alden has prompted me (but probably no one else!) also to consider the added syllable in the various "ju-ranzo" choruses.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Jan 23 - 03:39 PM

Alden, Harper's Mag. (July, 1882):

"Quite as popular as Stormy was another mysterious person — Randso. Of this person it is 'alleged in an unusually coherent narrative song that 'he was no sailor"; that, nevertheless, 'he shipped on board of a whaler,' and as 'he could not do his duty,' he was brought to the
gangway, where 'they gave him nine-and-thirty.' Obviously Randso was not a model for sailors.

O Randso was no sailor,
Ah, Randso, boys, ah, Randso.
He shipped on board of a whaler,
Ah, Rando, boys, ah, Randso."

(Much like Adams, but the "Randso" spelling suggests an independent source. And the "ahs" might be the remnant of an earlier "Lorenzo" - or not.)

C. Fox Smith, "A Book of Shanties," (1927) is nearly identical to Davis & Tozer. She concludes (from nothing) that the "real" Ranzo "may have been a Russian or Polish Jew named Ronzoff."

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Jan 23 - 02:23 PM

Laura Alexandrine Smith, Music of the Waters (London: Kegan Paul, 1888).

Either Smith or an informant seems to have glued two sets of lyrics together, the first of which belongs to the nursery rhyme "Solomon Grundy":

“‘Reuben Ranzo’ is, perhaps, the greatest favourite with the men of all the chanties. The tune is mournful and almost haunting in its monotony:

Pity Reuben Ranzo,
Chorus.- Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo,
Oh, pity Reuben Ranzo,
Chorus.- Ranzo, boys, a Ranzo.

Reuben was no sailor.
Reuben was no sailor.          [sic
By trade he was a tailor.
He went to school on Monday.
Learnt to read on Tuesday.
He learnt to write on Wednesday,
He learnt to fight on Thursday,
On Friday he beat the master.
On Saturday we lost Reuben,
And where do you think we found him?
Why down in yonder valley,
Conversing with a sailor.
He shipped on board of a whaler;
He shipped as able seamen do;
Oh, pity Reuben Ranzo.
The captain was a bad man,
He took him to the gangway.
And gave him five-and-forty.
The mate he was a good man.
He taught him navigation;
Now he's captain of a whaler.
And married the captain's daughter,
And now they both are happy.
This ends my little ditty,
This ends my little ditty.                  [sic

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Jan 23 - 02:10 PM

John Colgate Hoyt, "Old Ocean's Ferry" [sic] (N.Y.: Bonnell, 1900):

        Ranzo was no sailor--Chorus (very hearty) Ranzo, Ranzo.
        He shipped with Captain Tailor, Ranzo, Ranzo.
        He could not do his duties, Ranzo, Ranzo.
        They took him to the guard-house, Ranzo, Ranzo.
        He ate up all the codfish, Ranzo, Ranzo.
        They took him to the gangway, Ranzo, Ranzo.
        They gave him six and tharty, Ranzo, Ranzo.   [sic]

("Guardhouse" is a peculiar word choice.)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Jan 23 - 04:05 AM

A 1873 arrangement of _Oh! Hush! or, The Virginny Cupids_, a long-running minstrel skit (since 1833, TD Rice's time), includes several songs, including the one Hugill called "Roller Bowler" and this one with a "Johnny, my lango" chorus:

De greatest man dat eber libed was Day and Martin,
Johnny, my lango la !
For he was de lust ob de boot black startin'.
Johnny, my lango la !
Did you eber see a ginsling made out ob brandy,
Johnny, my lango la !
Did you eber see a pretty gal lickin' lasses candy ?
Johnny, my lango la.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 24 Jan 23 - 03:33 AM

From "Ranzo Ranzo Ray" and my lasted posted "Rango, rango oh," we get to a chorus of "Jango, my rango, hey!"

Symmes, Elmore. “Aunt Eliza and Her Slaves.” _The New England Magazine_ 15.5 (January 1897): 528-537.

Describing dances among slaves living a bit south of Louisville, KY, after 1838:

In learning particulars of Aunt Eliza and her slaves, an effort was made to obtain some of the old darkey songs they once sang. Those they composed were generally destitute of rhyme, and after every line there was a refrain, as “Jango, my lango, hey!” or “Ho, Jamboree!” repeated some five or six times.

Some partial music notation is given for the "Jango" song. The line is sung over an arpeggio of a major chord from low to high. However, the lyrics under the notation change jango to "jingo."

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 07:28 PM

Two from 1909:

James H. Williams, "The Independent" (July 8, 1909). "Rauzo" is presumably a proofing error.

                     REUBEN RAUZO. [sic]

                   (Hoisting Song.)

Oh, Rauzo was no sailor;
    Rauzo, boys, Rauzo!
He shipped in a Yankee whaler
    Rauzo, boys, Rauzo!

But he could not do his duty,….
But he could not do his duty….

Now the mate he being a hard man,...
He took him to the gangway….

He took him to the gangway,...
And he gave him five and forty….

Poor old Reuben Rauzo!....
Oh, poor old Reuben Rauzo!...

But the captain being a good man,…
He took him to the cabin….

He took him to the cabin….

And gave him wine and brandy….

And he taught him navigation….
And raised him in his station….

Hurrah for Captain Rauzo!...
Hurrah for Captain Rauzo!...
                   (High! Make fast!)


H.C. Jay, "Master, Mate, and Pilot I (Apr., 1909):

After each line the chorus was repeated as follows.

Pity poor Ruben Ranzo,
Chorus: Ranzo, boys, Loranzo.    [sic

Pity poor Ruben Ranzo.
Loranzo was born in Boston.
He went on a visit to New Bedford.
They shanghaied him on a whaler,--
No, Loranzo was no sailor;
He could not do his duty.
The mate, he being a bad man,
He took him to the gangway
And called out for the bos’n
Who lashed him to the grating.
“Now bos’n do your duty.”
He gave him nine and thirty.
He could not give him forty.
Because he had fainted.
They put him in the galley
To make hash for the sailors,
But he almost set them crazy.
So they threw him out of the galley.
The Captain being a good man,
He took him to the cabin
And learned him navigation;
And now he is Captain Lorenzo.
He’s married the Captain’s daughter.
So hurrah for Captain “Ranzo!”
    Ranzo, boys, Loranzo!

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 05:33 PM

Its brevity and banality make the authenticity of John Masefield's text (1906) unusually certain:

O do you know old Reuben Ranzo?
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo;
O do you know old Reuben Ranzo?
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo.

Old Ranzo was a tailor.

Old Ranzo was no sailor.

So he shipped aboard of a whaler.

But he could not do his duty.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 01:49 PM

You didn't even have to be named "Reuben":

Capt. Charles Henry Robbins (1822-1909), "The Gam" (New Bedford: Hutchinson, 1899), p. 140:

O Johnny was no sailor,
(Renso, boys, Renso)
Still he shipped on a Yankee whaler.
(Renso, boys, Renso.)

He could not do his duty….

And he tried to run away then….

They caught him and brought him back again….

And he said he never would go again….

They put him pounding cable….

And found him very able….

He said he’d run away no more….

He only waited to get on shore….

So when he put his foot on shore….

A-whaling he would go no more….

Robbins went to sea (if we can believe this semi-autobiographical fiction) in 1837. He has whalers singing the chantey while working the windlass to raise a dead whale.

Just when he first heard the chantey, Robbins doesn't say.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 12:25 PM

Bullen gives only the first stanza ("Poor old Reuben Ranzo!," etc.) and hasn't anything further to say. Nor does he include "Ranzo Ray/Way."

Davis & Tozer give the following, which is slavishly copied by Basil Lubbock in 1902 - in an account of his actual voyage around Cape Horn in 1899! Since Lubbock's text is word-for-word identical to Davis's, there's no doubt that he used the book.

My feeling is that the nature of Davis's version - not flowery, for one thing - makes his Ranzo very likely to have been based substantially on an informant's authentic lyrics:

Hurrah! for Reuben Ranzo.
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo.
Hurrah! for Reuben Ranzo.
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo.

Ranzo was no sailor….
Ranzo was a tailor….

Ranzo joined the “Beauty,...”
And did not know his duty….

His skipper was a dandy…
And was too fond of brandy….

He called Ranzo a lubber….
And made him eat whale blubber….

The “Beauty” was a whaler,...
Ranzo was no sailor….

They cared not for his groaning,...
And set him holy-stoning….

They gave him “lashes twenty,...”
Nineteen more than plenty….

Reuben Ranzo fainted,...
His back with oil was painted….

They gave him cake and whisky,...
Which made him rather frisky….

They made him the best sailor…
Sailing on that whaler….

They put him Navigating…
And gave him extra rating….

Ranzo now is skipper…
Of a China clipper….

Ranzo was a tailor,...
Now he is a sailor….

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 08:04 AM

(I too once sang "Ringo," but only in my own head.)

Otherwise these are exceptionally interesting tidbits.

Though Harlow gives both "Reuben Ranzo" and "Hilo, My Ranzo Way," he notes in between them (a little strangely) that:

"Ranzo is purely a Southern [N]egro term used in the cotton ships at Mobile and New Orleans, and also sung by 'Badian [N]egros at the fall."

Stanzas of "Ranzo Ray" do relate to the Mississippi - which doesn't ordinarily appear in chanteys. And they never mention "Reuben Ranzo."

The presence of the same unusual

I don't have Bullen at hand at the moment. Will check after lunch to see if he was Harlow's source.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,The Sandman
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 05:57 AM

I heard one singer, sing, Ringo. Presumably a fan of the Beatles

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 05:39 AM

Including this to show how a known "Ranzo" song was rendered, by one singer, as "rango."

From a recording in the Library of Congress:

The subject of the recording is Jim Archer, recorded May 29, 1939. His age was estimated 78-80, so, maybe he was born 1859-61. Archer was a night watchman on the Mississippi, starting 1881 or 1882 and ending maybe around 1904. Saw roustabouts carry loads from boats. The mate would load their backs, send them down the stage plank. Captain of the watch, a Black man, stood on the bank to direct the roustabouts in depositing their load, and send them back to the ship.

There was a line of “the Coast Boats” from NOLA up through the Delta. The boats, like Natchez and White, would approach the wharf (they didn’t sing the song on ALL of them) about 400-500 feet away. To discharge cargo they’d come out in a circle under the boiler deck. The captain would be on the boiler deck over head. “It was the rule of the boat to sing.” The mate was down in charge of the labor. When they got a certain distance, they’d sing the song. The roustabouts would select the best man that they had in their gang.

Archer sang, slowly, to the tune we'd recognize by the sailor chanty title as "Ranzo, Ranzo, Ray"

Captain captain gimme your daughter
        Rango, rango oh-o-o
Gimme your daughter I’ll marry her on the water
        Rango rango oh

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 05:18 AM

Continuing down the rabbit hole, here's a supporting piece.

Cameron, Anna Alexander. “Christmas on the Old Plantation.” _The Home-maker_, vol. 3, no. 3 (December 1889): 200-203.

More memories of pre Emancipation Christmas celebration in North Carolina, during the same time and places as the preceding. The author is sister of [Sarah] Rebecca Cameron, of Hillsborough (nee Hillsboro) NC, born 1845.

From UNC:
“The Cameron family of Orange County was one of antebellum North Carolina's wealthiest families. On the eve of the Civil War, Paul Cameron and his siblings owned over one thousand slaves and nearly thirty thousand acres of plantation land in Orange, Wake, Person, and Granville Counties, as well as plantations in Alabama and Mississippi.

Paul and Anne Cameron [parents of the sisters] lived at Fairntosh from 1837 until the late 1850s, when they moved back to Hillsborough.”

From the piece:

I allude to the custom of “Coonah dancing.” It is said to be a direct importation from Africa, and has been handed down from generation to generation.

… They bob all around, like so many tottering, awkward goblins, chanting in a low, monotonous tone, when, all at once, from amongst them, spring ten or twelve, or more…the banjos begin to play spiritedly, the bones and triangles to rattle in perfect time, and mellow voices break forth into the “Coonah” song. …

The song is very spirited and sung with an abandon of enjoyment, and yet though it is the very voice of gladness and mirth, deep in the heart of the melody is that pathetic cadence which is the soul of negro minstrelsy. …

From house to house they go, everywhere receiving more or less liberal contributions of money and Christmas cheer. …

This, amongst many other familiar customs, is now a thing of the past,…

“Dance, dance my Coonah John,
        Ho! Lady Sorna,
Coonah’s dance for one cent,
Jump, jump, oh! Coonah John!
        Ho! Lady Sorna!
Pop your whip, oh! Coonah John!
Turn your partner, Coonah John!
       Ho! Lady Sorna!
Hands up fo’ oh! Coonah John!
Swing your corner, Coonah John!
    Ho! Lady Sorna!
Honor your partner, Coonah John!

"du-sanga" doesn't feel like a satisfying connection to "ranzo," unless we account that Sarah Rebecca remembered it as "du-rango," and from there to "ju-ranzo"!

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 23 Jan 23 - 04:29 AM

Following the trail of "juranzo":

Cameron, Rebecca. “Christmas on an Old Plantation.” _The Ladies’ Home Journal_, vol. 9, no. 1 (December 1891): 5.

This is the memory, I take it, of the author's childhood in pre-Emancipation times. Her father was a slave-owner on the Cape Fear River (North Carolina). At Christmas time, slaves would cut down a tree (for wood for the Yule log) “with great ceremony, while hands chanted a part of the ‘Coonah’ song:—”

‘Christmas comes but once a year
        Ho rang du rango!
Let everybody have a share,
        Ho rang du rango!’ “

We later learn what Cameron meant by "the Coonah song."

Two days after Christmas, “The John Coonahs” came. In masking attire, their procession was accompanied by banjo, bones, triangle, castanets, fifes, drums, and “all manner of plantation instruments.”

“All the while the dance was in progress the musical voice of the leader was chanting the Coonah song, the refrain of which was taken up by hundreds of voices.”

John Coonah is clearly the Christmastide mumming tradition known by various names and especially remembered, now, in the Caribbean. Jamaicans, for example, call it "John Canoe." The author of this account conjectured that it was brought to the area from Barbados, and noted that, in the time of her memory, it was found on the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, as well as New Orleans.

[I have previously toyed with the possibility that John Canoe has something to do with the chanty "John Kana-Kana-ka." Of note, Hugill learned the song from his Barbadian friend. The chanty's opening lines about "Today is a holiday... we'll work tomorrow but no work today" smack of the Christmas custom: for the slaves to have a respite on the holiday.]

I think it's worth considering a connection between the phrase "du rango" in this song and the previously encountered "ju-ranzo".

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jan 23 - 03:35 PM

Whall, 1910, presumably from recollection of the 1860s. Whall's text and speculations were often repeated.

“This was - and I daresay is - a well-known shanty. Either Bret Harte or Mark Twain - I forget which - has a character, an old skipper, who is fond of singing about the trials of a certain “Lorenzo. ” Whether this was the original name I do not know . But as far back as fifty years ago it was plain “Ranzo.” Lorenzo it might have been, for Yankee whalers took a large number of their men from the Azores, men of Portuguese descent, among whom "Lorenzo" would have been a common name enough. In the days I speak of the shanty was always sung to the regulation words, and when the story was finished there was no at

tempt at improvisation; the text was, I suppose, considered sacred.

"I never heard any variation from the words here given.


"Oh, pity poor Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Oh, poor old Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!

O Ranzo was no sailor,
He shipped on board of a whaler.

And he could not do his duty ,
So they took him to the gangway.

And they gave him nine-and-thirty,
Yes, lashes nine-and-thirty.

Now, the captain being a good man,
He took him in the cabin.

And he gave him wine and water,
Rube kissed the captain's daughter.

He taught him navigation
To fit him for his station.

Now, Ranzo he's a sailor,
He's chief mate of that whaler.

(If Bret Harte or Mark Twain ever wrote of a skipper singing about "Lorenzo," their digitized works are silent about it.)

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 22 Jan 23 - 11:16 AM

GUEST was me.

To whom Gibb's "Lonzo" sounds real enough.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
Date: 22 Jan 23 - 09:42 AM

Nehemiah Adams,"A Voyage Around the World" (Boston:Holt) 22 [ref. to 1869]:

“Every tune at the pumps must have a chorus. The sentiment in the song is the least important feature of it, — the celebration of some portion of the earth or seas, other than here and now : "I wish I was in Mobile Bay," "I'm bound for the Rio Grande," with the astounding chorus from twenty-eight men, part of whom the fine moonlight and the song tempt from their bunks, is an antidote to monotony. The sailors were a merry set. Though only half of the crew — that is, one watch — were required each night at the pumps, all hands at first generally turned out because it was the time for a song. It was a nightly pleasure to be on the upper deck when the pumps were manned, and to hear twenty men sing. When making sail after a gale, the crew are ready for the loudest singing, unless it be at the pumps. For example, when hauling on the topsail halyards, they may have this song, the shanty man, as they call him, solo singer, beginning with a wailing strain :

Solo : O poor Reuben Ranzo !       (twice.)
Chorus : Ranzo, boys, Ranzo !   
Solo: Ranzo was no sailor!      
Chorus : Ranzo, boys, Ranzo !
Solo : He shipped on board a whaler! “
Chorus : Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Solo : The captain was a bad man!   “
Chorus : Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Solo : He put him in the rigging!   “
Chorus : Ranzo, boys, Ranzo!
Solo : He gave him six-and-thirty — “

by which time the topsail is mast-headed, and the mate cries, "Belay!"

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Jan 23 - 06:41 AM

'Does anyone know whether L & H were in contact (via EFSDS, say) in the late '50s? The same question arose here some years back concerning "Blood-Red Roses."'

I did try to look into this when I was studying Lloyd's sea songs (many of which, of course, he modified substantially) a couple of years ago. I didn't find a smoking gun, and Dave Arthur (Lloyds biographer) didn't know of any early meetings between them, but my strong suspicion is that, in the case of 'Off to Sea Once More', the 'Liverpool' version that Hugill published in 1961 was put together by Lloyd around 1957 for 'Thar She Blows'. It may be the same story for 'Reuben Ranzo'.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Jan 23 - 11:12 PM

A song sung by whalermen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was presented (with musical score) by Roger Abrahams in _Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore_ (1974) as "Little Boy Lonzo." Abrahams doesn't make clear what task (if any) the song was put to, but I suppose it may have been to pull a boat out of the water.

Pp. 96-7

Oh, me Lonzo
>Little boy Lonzo

Oh, me Lonzo
>Little boy Lonzo

Oh, me Lonzo
>Big man Lonzo

Here come Lonzo
>Little boy Lonzo

The stanzas continue with little variation. Abrahams notes 16 in total, followed by "etc." After the first six, the choral response is consistently "Lonzo, Lonzo."

Though I've spaced the stanzas as Abrahams did, each repetition of the melody comprises two such stanzas. In other words, the true musical verse is: solo-chorus-solo-chorus.

The tempo is 96 BPM—one reason to suppose that, at that speed, it may have been a hauling song rather than a rowing song. The score is marked "Very rhythmic," which is helpful in that the rhythm noted probably is, as a result, a very good representation of the sung rhythm, as compared to some of the whalermen's other songs (which I know, for example, from hearing them perform live on two occasions), which are sung rather rubato or unmetered and which Abrahams struggled to notate precisely.

I suppose Abrahams audio recorded the whalermen's performance (and his presentation represents a transcription of that recording), but I haven't looked into finding the recording. I did, to aid envisioning the song, attempt a performance of it from the score. (No attempt was made to follow the lyrical text verbatim, as I assumed it was not fixed, and inserted my own ad-libs. Somehow I neglected to vary the chorus lyrics. I guess I found it weird that a group of singers would know how to be together on randomly shifting lyrics.)

Some friends associated with the chanty performance group Pressgang Mutiny have been working, with the facilitation of Dan Lanier, with some of the folks who inherited St. Vincent's song traditions, and I look forward to what they might share if this song came up in their experience. Nevertheless, I've never heard it outside of my own feeble attempt to render the score.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: EBarnacle
Date: 21 Jan 23 - 08:10 PM

As the poet Omar put it, I believe in quatrain 27, I left by the same door through which I entered.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Jan 23 - 02:27 AM

"who cares?"

Well, I care insofar as I said when/why I care -- while in other respects, sure, I don't care :) It's the same as how in some cases I feel like the spelling of "shanty" is the most useless thing to care about, while in other cases, attention to the spelling can open or preserve lines of thought.

If I'm trying to get at the history of this song (which may not be *the* project but it is *a* project), I don't want to get off course looking for Sicilian fishermen and Cape Verdean whalers and foreclose the likelihood that I would think to look for corn song material.

I care because to locate that corn song material helps to elucidate a bigger story about the chanty genre, piece by piece, which I don't think is well served by the frame of Sea Stuff.

Because I think Sea Stuff feeds an "algorithm" through which conventional ideas grow ever stronger as it is fed the same diet, obscuring other ideas. Google etc. run on algorithms that are affecting the shape of ideas people have, most obviously, but the Archive and scholarship are not immune to a similar process. As someone currently in classrooms, I see how dissemination of information is affecting the current generation's ideas in a different way, where the previous not knowing while being cognizant of what we don't know, which I think you speak to, Lighter, is being replaced with a greater confidence in believing they know something which is not true. So, I seek ways to buffer that from happening, and my way of doing that is by not being indifferent to topics that I think can benefit from informed speculation. If we don't speculate with good information, then foregone conclusions based on poor information -- by the majority of people who won't follow the "rule" of refraining from drawing conclusions that now overwhelm the ability of other ideas to be heard-- get the upper hand.

I'm admittedly a little nuts about this stuff because I've been disturbed by seeing more people enthralled by Artificial Intelligence. The thinking we are doing here is something that AI cannot do (yet!?) so I'm enthusiastic to do it no matter what comes of it, even if only for the sheer pleasure of it.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Jan 23 - 09:52 PM

Hugill and other writers (he wasn't the first) were easily distracted by a desire to identify the "real" Reuben Ranzo. Hugill even spun a non-falsifiable and fanciful yarn about the possibility that the "original" Ranzo was a Sicilian fisherman named Lorenzo.

Well, who knows? And my own feeling is who cares? What possible difference could it make if Ranzo was really "Lorenzo" somebody, whose real life story is nearly as obscure as Homer's?

Sure, maybe there was an inept Lorenzo that his shipmates ridiculed into celebrity. But if so, so what?

All kinds of speculation are easy to come by. Whether "Shana(n)do(re)" originally meant Shenandoah or something else entirely makes me wonder how many angels actually walk like Egyptians on the head of a pin.

(Was Alexander Selkirk the "real" Robinson Crusoe? Or just one of several inspirations? Who was the "real" Mademoiselle from Armentieres? There were many contenders.)

There were so many chantey singers that almost any possible interpretation of anything must have been held by someone - if they even thought about it. The Ranzo of the chantey is imaginary.

J. Grey Newell, M.D. "Among Our Sailors" (N.Y.: Harper 1874):

"When hauling up the foretop-sail yard, after reefing or shaking out the reefs, they sing a song of more pretensions, as follows :

'Lorenzo was no sailor —
(Chorus.) — Renzo, boys, Renzo!
He shipped on board a whaler —
Renzo, boys, Renzo!
He could not do his duty —
Renzo, boys, Renzo!
They took him to the gangway,
And gave him eight and forty —
Renzo, boys, Renzo!
He sailed the Pacific Ocean—
Renzo, boys, Renzo!
Where'er he took a notion —
Renzo, boys, Renzo!
He finally got married,
And then at home he tarried —
Renzo, boys, Renzo!"

As Gibb has reminded us, the essence of a given chantey is in the frame and the tune, not the words.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: EBarnacle
Date: 20 Jan 23 - 09:11 PM

Mark Lovewell and I developed a theory that Ranzo was a Cape Verdean recruited by the whaler in which the action takes place. As a newby polliwog, the crew could reasonably ae called him a rube. Hey rube, Lorenze could readily have transmuted into Reuben Ranzo.

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Subject: RE: Reuben Ranzo
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Jan 23 - 07:04 PM

Hopefully this is not an unwelcome thread-drift-- I just want to register something I think is important to consider with songs like this. Which is, that the choruses can be considered to be unrelated to the solo lyrics and should be when exploring all options of how the songs developed.

My hypothesis -- which I can't prove and which I *can* argue but won't have the massive amount of time required to do it adequately! -- is that the chorus with "ranzo" came first. Only later was the morpheme "ranzo" taken from the chorus to form the name of a person who becomes the subject of the narrative.

Because of that, searching for "Ranzo" as the name of a person (in some speculations, a Portuguese, or a Jewish (!?) tailor, etc) may become a red herring.

I do feel compelled by Abrahams idea, which I mentioned above, that a paradigm (in the Levi-Strauss sense, ha) of someone being beaten by a superior shifted from a master-slave relationship to a captain-seaman relationship. Similarly compelling to me is the idea that some of the slave songs about being "sold off" to another plantation and being separated from family had their paradigms substituted so as to tell the tale of a sailor going across the sea being separated from home/beloved. Continuity of the "superior beats inferior" could be passed on without the "surface" elements of the inferior being called Ranzo, his being a tailor, etc.

I think the choruses are their own animal, in which certain sound formations were salient.

I think these sound formations, chorus phrases, popular morphemes -- whatever you want to call them -- transformed not only through oral transmission over time (ie "the folk process"). I theorize, further, that the transfer across cultural borders caused them to change.

If, as I subscribe to, a body of repertoire was transferred from an African American community to others outside of that community, then the "outsiders" would not understand everything they heard. The Irish, German, Scots, English men you found themselves, say, with a cotton jackscrew in their hands and tasked to acculturate to singing songs in the manner of an African American community that had been the sole practitioners of cotton screwing for decades before they arrived, would essentially be creating mondegreens as they learned the songs and attempted to parse unfamiliar phrases.

I've shared this view often in the case of "Shenandoah," where my hypothesis is that singings may not have been singing, originally, of "Shenandoah" (the river, the valley) but rather something else that later singers rationalized as the word "Shenandoah". From there, supposing that the word is Shenandoah, creators of solo lyrics would riff on lines that related to the Shenandoah (as opposed to "Sally Brown" or whatever chimera formed the object of longing in the paradigm of love and separation). I realize that that example is a tough one to argue convincingly.

As simpler example is "Hilo," wherein we know that the morpheme "hi-lo" (holler? hollow? etc) was a feature of the choruses of numerous plantation songs. In the hands of Davis and Tozer (and maybe working sailors), lacking the full understanding that "hilo" was simply a "chorus word", it was rationalized as a place, and the solo line is created, "Hilo town is in Peru"!

So, I suspect as well that "ranzo" was part of a chorus phrase that was rationalized as the name "Ranzo", whence later singers made Ranzo the name of the subject of the narrative in solo lyrics.

I think it's possible that several choruses are mixed up in this way. Some singers were supposed to have sung "Highland day" while we find elsewhere "Island day." There's "Hooker John" (a chanty noted by Hugill) on one hand and "hoojun" in other songs (which, possibly related, is among the variants of the mysterious word "hoosier" [probably a term for a rustic/redneck White working class fellow, in Black dialect) which after Hugill is sought out as a kind of boat!

I'm intrigued by the possibilities of choral phrases like "Lowlands away" and "Maringo." "Lowlands away" appears as "Lowlands a-RAY" in Alden's article, which I think is an article of such quality that I'm not prepared to dismiss the "ray" part as random. What about the chorus of "ranzo, ranzo, ray"? When I sing "lowlands a-ray" it sounds like "low ranzo ray." When I sing "Stormy's gone" it sounds like "Tommy's gone" with an S in front of it. (There's a recording of Caribbean singers who mix Tommy and Stormy in the same song.) "hilo my ranzo ray" -- "fire ma-ringo fire away." Is "maringo" really a thing, or is it "MY ringo"? I have a steamboat loading song I transcribed at the Library of Congress from a recording. It's recognizable as the "Bully Boat / Ranzo ranzo ray" song but the singer is clearly singing "rango". Is "rango" a variation of "ranzo" (it would seem to be in this context) that could lead us to "maringo" (my rango)?

I suppose all this is to say that "juranzo" and "juranzie" are pregnant with possibilities -- surely the listeners in the two accounts had no idea what they were hearing and "juranzo" was only their best attempt to transcribe the sound -- that compel me not to seek "ranzo" as a narrative character's name nor, necessarily as an independent word. Add to that the fact that "ranzo" occurs in songs that don't contain Reuben's narrative; it could have an independent existence.

The Chenault reference ("juranzie) is something I read in Abrahams and then followed up with the source. Then, with the clue of "ju-", I started searching with different spellings to find "juranzo" (the Richardson account).

Back to the thread: I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not inclined to put too much stock in the narrative of Reuben up to a point. We may locate the approximate point by which singers started to apply the Reuben narrative to a ~ranzo chorus (after which, it solidified and continued), whereas other aspects of the song may have had a more obscure life before the Reuben narrative was created.

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