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Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker

DigiTrad:
MY JOHNNY WAS A SHOEMAKER


Related thread:
Lyr Req: My johnny is a shoemaker - response (3)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
My Johnny Was a Shoemaker (from Colm O'Lochlainn's Irish Street Ballads (Vol.II) It was noted from Alice Deady of Waterford.)
My Johnny Was A Shoemaker (tune as modified by Gay Woods and Maddy Prior.)


pavane 01 Aug 01 - 07:18 AM
MMario 01 Aug 01 - 10:33 AM
pavane 01 Aug 01 - 10:37 AM
pavane 01 Aug 01 - 11:34 AM
IanC 01 Aug 01 - 11:49 AM
IanC 01 Aug 01 - 12:13 PM
Big Tim 01 Aug 01 - 01:55 PM
MMario 01 Aug 01 - 02:01 PM
pavane 01 Aug 01 - 06:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 02 Aug 01 - 07:35 AM
pavane 02 Aug 01 - 08:32 AM
the lemonade lady 10 Sep 03 - 01:27 PM
pavane 10 Sep 03 - 04:50 PM
OldPossum 11 Sep 03 - 02:12 PM
Leadfingers 12 Sep 03 - 05:11 AM
Peg 13 Sep 03 - 12:24 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 13 Sep 03 - 02:35 AM
Sonnet 13 Sep 03 - 03:26 PM
Malcolm Douglas 13 Sep 03 - 08:48 PM
GUEST,David Ingerson on another computer 13 Sep 03 - 09:25 PM
pavane 14 Sep 03 - 03:25 AM
pavane 14 Sep 03 - 06:15 AM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Sep 03 - 06:27 AM
pavane 16 Sep 03 - 03:05 AM
GUEST,MMario 16 Sep 03 - 10:24 AM
Malcolm Douglas 16 Sep 03 - 10:40 AM
pavane 16 Sep 03 - 03:40 PM
GUEST 17 Sep 03 - 08:05 AM
Joybell 20 Feb 10 - 07:31 PM
the lemonade lady 21 Feb 10 - 01:07 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Feb 10 - 03:30 PM
Joybell 22 Feb 10 - 04:15 PM
Joe Offer 19 Nov 10 - 11:03 PM
Joe Offer 19 Nov 10 - 11:30 PM
Joe Offer 20 Nov 10 - 12:30 AM
Reinhard 20 Nov 10 - 04:00 AM
DebC 20 Nov 10 - 09:03 AM
Dave Hanson 29 Jun 13 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,guest 03 Sep 13 - 10:51 AM
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Subject: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 07:18 AM

According to an entry in the Levy sheet music collection, My Johnny was a Shoemaker was composed (words and music) in or before 1859 by one W.J.Florence and sung in Europe by Mrs W.J.Florence. Does anyone know if this is true?
The two printed copies in the Bodleian Library were both printed in the USA.


According to his sheet music, Mr Florence also seems to have composed The Captain and his Whiskers, and Bobbing Around.


I have been unable so far to find prior references which would contradict these claims, although the other versions of Bobbing Around I have looked at seem to have far more verses.

Levy test is: Title: Songs of the Florences. Johnny Was a Shoemaker. Composer, Lyricist, Arranger: Word and Music by W.J. Florence. Arranged by T. Comer. Publication: Boston: Oliver Ditson & Co., 277 Washington St., 1859. Form of Composition: strophic with chorus Instrumentation: piano and voice First Line: My Johnny was a shoemaker, And dearly he loved me First Line of Chorus: My Johnny was a shoemaker Performer: As Sung by Mrs. W.J. Florence Throughout the Various Theatres in Europe and America


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: MMario
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 10:33 AM

Can you "see" the music on this one, pavane? I get blanks when I try to look it up on levy.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 10:37 AM

No, unfortunately it doesn't seem to be there, just the reference to it. I would certainly be interested to see what tune it had!


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 11:34 AM

As I mentioned in different thread, I have heard another tune used, quite different to the one used by Steeleye Span. If I find time, I will make an abc of it (unless someone else has already posted it). But I have no idea where it came from.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: IanC
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 11:49 AM

The best information I've found on this so far is from Lesley's site:

"This appeared in English County Songs (1893) under Songs of the Sea. It had been printed previously in a collection of southern country songs, Besom Maker and Other Country Folk Songs (1888) by Heywood Sumner. Broadwood states that in printed versions the A appears as A sharp in bars 4, 8 and 14, but she altered it to natural A, as that was "possibly the older form of the tune." Rev. Baring-Gould also collected the tune. It was printed on broadsides which is listed in the Charles Sanderson catalog.

The song was popular in Britain, Ireland and in Wales."

Now, this may well have been composed - as Levy says - by W. J. Florence around 1859. However, it seems quite possible to me that, since it was being collected in different modal versions as early as (some time before) 1888 in fairly far flung parts of the English countryside, there may be more to it than that. After all, it's not new to claim a song as your own, especially when you think you may get away with it.

More to follow, I sincerely hope.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: IanC
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 12:13 PM

Pavane

There are 2 references, undated, published by De Marsan - both essentially the same - undated on the Library of Congress C19th site. The one below is one of them. Shoemaker

By the style of decoration and type it looks about the same period as the ones in Levy.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Big Tim
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 01:55 PM

What or who is Levy? Is he, she, them or it available on the net? I think the first time I head this song was by Ray Fisher in the 60s.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: MMario
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 02:01 PM

The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music - whose search engine is here


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 01 Aug 01 - 06:48 PM

Can anything be inferred by the style/mode of the tune? Maybe Mr Florence was a master of the genre, or maybe he just claimed authorship - this is what I wanted to establish. If we can't find a prior example, then he may well be the author. What about the other songs?


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 07:35 AM

It's perfectly possible that the song is a mid-nineteenth century stage piece; a good few "traditional" songs are exactly that, and nowadays it's increasingly easy to find background material that wasn't necessarily available to the folksong collectors of a century ago.

I know of only one tune found in tradition for this song, and it doesn't vary all that much.  Beside the set that appeared in Heywood Sumner's The Besom Maker (1888; no source is named) and the modified form of it re-printed in Lucy Broadwood and J.A. Fuller Maitland's English County Songs (1893), there is one in Frank Kidson's Garland of English Folk Songs (1926) -which I haven't seen- and one in Colm O Lochlainn's Irish Street Songs (vol. 2, 1965), which came from Alice Deady of Waterford.  This last was the source of Steeleye Span's arrangement of the song; again, the usual tune, but they interfered with it a bit to give it a faintly exotic rhythm of the sort that Bert Lloyd used to favour.

It's a great pity that images are not available at Levy; assuming for a moment that it's the same tune, I'd be particularly interested to see if the A sharp that Fuller Maitland (not Lucy Broadwood) "corrected" to A natural appears in the sheet music; Alice Deady's set, which was much more recent than the others, has (if transposed) the natural, which is what one might expect in a traditional song.  It might be, however, that the sharp would be more characteristic of a composed piece; Fuller Maitland's alteration clearly reflected traditional practice, but may perhaps have been premature.  Of course, it is perfectly possible that Alice Deady may have learned the song from the book, either directly or at one or more removes, so without more information we can't make any useful deductions on that score.

W.J. Florence was an actor, best-known in America, though I don't know if he was born there or not, and apparantly also a prominent Freemason.  His wife was Malvina Pray, also a professional performer; her father, Samuel, had worked at the Broadway Theatre until his death in an accident involving stage-machinery (specifically, a curtain-roller).


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 02 Aug 01 - 08:32 AM

I have emailed the Levy site asking about it. They obviously have the printed copy, so maybe we can get at the tune. (If they answer, that is). If I get a chance to transacribe the other tune, as sung on a BBC Folkweave program, into abc, I will post it. It is actually quite similar in some places to the one I know, now that I listen again.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 01:27 PM

I've just started singing this song, so if anyone has any more info on it I'd love to see it.

Sal


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 10 Sep 03 - 04:50 PM

No more info, I am afraid. I never got a reply to the email.
the image I saw was only lyrics.
But apparently the composer and his wife toured Europe in the 1860's, and this may be where the collected versions came from.

Versions have been recorded by Pentangle and Silly Sisters.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: OldPossum
Date: 11 Sep 03 - 02:12 PM

The McCalmans did a very beautiful version on the LP "An Audience with the McCalmans", RCA LSA 3179.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 12 Sep 03 - 05:11 AM

Mudcatter Hamish does a lovely job on this with the delightful Laura
Try a P M to him for info .


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Peg
Date: 13 Sep 03 - 12:24 AM

John Renbourne's instrumental version is fairly well known.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 13 Sep 03 - 02:35 AM

This song is track 5 on the album entitled "Collected", by Steeleye Span, [MCCD 370].


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Sonnet
Date: 13 Sep 03 - 03:26 PM

Rachael McShane sings this. Her mudcat name is Nightingale. Try a PM to her, but don't be offended if she doesn't reply immediately, as she doesn't have permanent access to a computer.

JMcS


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 13 Sep 03 - 08:48 PM

Quite a few people sing, or have recorded arrangements of, this song. Whether many of them know anything about its history is another matter. As we've already seen, it was published as sheet music and on broadsides in the wake of the Florences' extensive tours of European and American theatres in the 1850s. It also appeared in songsters of the day such as Beadle's Dime Song Book (no.5, 1860) and The Comic Songster (Boston, Oliver and Ditson, 1870); the tune from the latter was reproduced in The Journal of the Folk Song Society, vol. III (issue 10, 1907/8, p.33).

Although we haven't seen the music at Levy, the Comic Songster tune is from the same publisher, and it is reasonable to suppose that the melody line will be essentially the same. Here it is:

X:1
T:My Johnny was a Shoemaker
C:[W.J. Florence]
B:The Comic Songster (Boston, Oliver and Ditson, 1870)
L:1/8
Q:1/4=100
M:4/4
K:Bb
G4 FDCB,|C2 C2 G2 (GA)|B2 B2 A2 A2|G2 G2 FDCB,|C2 C2 HG2 (GA)|
B2 B2 A2 A2|HG6 (GA)|B2 B2 A2 A2|G2 G2 D2 G2|FDCB, C2 C2|
(B3G) A3 _G|HG4 z2 FD|B,B,B,B, C2 C2|{D}G4 z2|]

Only a very few examples have been found in oral tradition (Roud currently lists two from England, two from Scotland, and one from Ireland), and, so far as I know, all (I can't speak for one of the Scottish sets, which I haven't seen) use forms of this tune. Of the two midis indicated at the beginning of this thread, only the first was taken from tradition; the second is a modern, non-traditional adaptation of it, and should be disregarded for purposes of comparison. It's likely, though, that the majority of Revival singers who have recorded the song will have used the adapted tune, having learned it at one remove or another from the Steeleye Span record, which is mainly responsible for disseminating it in recent years. Oral examples may derive from printed sources or have been learned from stage performances, of which there seem to have been plenty during the second half of the 19th century.

There was some discussion of these issues in the Journal piece referred to above. Lucy Broadwood pointed out J. A. Fuller Maitland's opinion that there was a noticeable resemblance between a form of the tune quoted there from the Rev. J. Kirk Maconachie, who had learned it (one verse only) from his childhood nurse in Aberdeenshire, and a (major key) form of Shule Agra noted by Frank Kidson from an Irishman who had learned it in Liverpool (Journal, II (9) 253); this is likely a red herring, though, as the resemblance really is not close enough to suggest a significant relationship. Maconachie's tune, incidentally, though clearly derived from the usual one, is a little odd in any case.

This wouldn't be worth mentioning were it not for further conclusions which were drawn by Miss Broadwood. Pointing to further points of resemblance between Maconachies's Shoemaker tune and the Seeds of Love tune published by Chappell (Popular Music of the Olden Time, II, 520-3) and to versions of Johnny Doyle appearing in the Petrie Collection, she went on to say

"These proofs of an old form of the song are of importance, as it has sometimes been suggested that, My Johnny was a shoemaker, as given in English County Songs is merely a modern street-ballad popular in the 'sixties' of the last century. The reason for this idea has been explained by Dr. George B. Gardiner's correspondence with the secretary of the late comedian Mr. J. Toole. Mr. F. Arlton, writing on Feb. 9th, 1906, says "Mr. Toole sang 'My Johnny was a Shoemaker' in three or four different characters. He cannot remember the first time he sang it, or the source from which he obtained it. The last characters in which he sang it were as 'The Artful Dodger' in 'Oliver Twist' and (he sometimes sang it) as 'Simmonds' in the 'Spitalfield Weaver', but not often. As far as my memory serves me, it was at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, as 'the Dodger', in about 1894, that he sang it last." Mr. Toole's illness prevented Dr. Gardiner from learning more."

The "proofs of an old form of the song" referred to are the suggested tune-correspondences and the occurrence of some similar turns of phrase in other songs. They are not, on re-examination nearly a century later, particularly convincing.

It is made clear, however, that the song turned up on the stage in a number of contexts at least until the 1890s. A further example can be seen at the  Adelphi Theatre Project,  where there is a reference to a performance of My Johnny Was a Shoemaker by Miss Julia Daly on 25 March 1871.

We still have no reason to suppose that the words of the song are older than the 1850s, or that they were not written by Mr Florence. The tune, however, is another matter. I have already quoted the Comic Songster example, which was added by Frank Kidson immediately following Miss Broadwood's comments in the Journal; this may be taken, for now, as the closest we can get to the form in which Florence published it. Following that, Anne Gichrist added

"My sailor friend, Mr. Bolton, says that My Johnny was a Shoemaker was a well-known forecastle song when he was at sea."

William Bolton was at sea, on and off, between 1852 and about 1888, so this doesn't take us out of our time-frame. However, Miss Gilchrist went on to quote a tune (apparently deriving from a traditional source) from the Welsh Calvinist Methodist Hymn Book, Caernarvon, 1897, which certainly suggests that Mr Florence's tune was, if not directly adapted from a traditional melody from somewhere or other, at least modelled on one.

X:1
T:Caerlleon
N:Alaw Gymreig=Welsh Air
B:Welsh Calvinist Methodist Hymn Book, Caernarvon, 1897.
L:1/8
Q:1/4=100
M:4/2
K:C
A4|G2 F2 E2 D2 C2 D2 E4|c8 B4 A4|(G2 F2) (E2 D2) (C2 D2) E4|A12:|
B4|c4 e4 d4 G4|c8 e4 e4|e4 A4 G4 E4|G12||
A4|(G2 F2) (E2 D2) (C2 D2) E4|c8 B4 A4|(G2 F2) (E2 D2) (C2 D2) E4|A12|]

This is not to suggest that Mr Florence necessarily based his tune on a Welsh Methodist hymn; but the existence of the above, and Miss Gilchrist's reasonable presumption that it was quite old, may reasonably be taken to suggest that there is a good chance that the tune of My Johnny was a Shoemaker is, at least in part, older than the song which it carries. My Johnny appears never to have been found in oral tradition in Wales, so Lesley Nelson's reference (quoted earlier) to its supposed popularity in that country appears to derive from a misunderstanding, by whover wrote the sleeve notes for Steeleye Span's Hark the Village Wait, of the Journal piece I have quoted from.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: GUEST,David Ingerson on another computer
Date: 13 Sep 03 - 09:25 PM

Hey Malcolm, that was a lot of time and effort you put into this thread! And a lot of interesting information. Thank you.

David


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 03:25 AM

As the starter of the thread, I too must thank you for such a comprehensive review


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 06:15 AM

Malcolm,
In the abc file of My Johnny, above, there are a number of occurrences of HG (HG2, HG6, HG4)

Are these correct - my program Harmony does not understand them, and I cannot find any reference in the abc specification (Maybe I don't have the latest one)

(The file has also highlighted 3 minor errors in my code!)


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Sep 03 - 06:27 AM

H is a fermata. It's been a "proposed" extension for quite some time, but the abc people seem unable to agree on a new set of standards, so it's implemented in some readers and not in others. I'd rather use it now than wait for a decision that may -at this rate- never be made. I abandoned the abc programs I used to use as they became obsolete, and now use the online facility at concertina.net, which does what I need. I only use abc for web stuff, really.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 16 Sep 03 - 03:05 AM

Just so I know and can put it in my program. Can you describe exactly what a Fermata does?

The draft I saw uses !xxxx! for the various musical terms.
Thanks


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 16 Sep 03 - 10:24 AM

as I understand it - the most common usage it to prolong the note beyond the duration written.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 Sep 03 - 10:40 AM

Good heavens! You write music software and you don't own a music dictionary? It is as MMario says, with the addition that it can also be used similarly to extend a rest, and placed over the double bar it indicates the end of the piece. The meaning he gives is the one most commonly used in the notation of folk music.

Enclosure in !! also works with some programs, I believe, but not with the ones I've tried. Too many clashes with other usages, I suspect.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: pavane
Date: 16 Sep 03 - 03:40 PM

You are right, I should expand my library! The software has expanded way past the original requirement.

Most of these modifiers/decorators are irrelevant to the core concept of adding chords, but obviously the program has to recognise (and then ignore) them.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Sep 03 - 08:05 AM

I just love threads like this, I learn so much. Thanks all.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Joybell
Date: 20 Feb 10 - 07:31 PM

I just wanted to add the small piece of information that this song was also performed in Australia and New Zealand during the 1860s.
One of the performers singing it was "Little Marion Nathan" who was 4 years old.
How I miss Malcolm.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 21 Feb 10 - 01:07 PM

Just to split hairs, but one should get things accurate; The tops'l is reefed against the yard, To close reef a modern double topsail, the upper half is merely furled. No so simple the old style single sails. Most of them had three reefs, some four. The yard was lowered to the cap (or lower masthead). The sail was then gathered in fold by means of clewlines and buntlines. Next, the reef tackle was manned, both sides and the outer edges or leech being hauled to the proper reef earring. This earring was lashed to the yard arm. The reef points were tied around the sail, which was then hoisted reefed. This operation sometimes took hours of heartbreaking labor in foul weather. The above diagram shows: as in this diagram not the mast.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Feb 10 - 03:30 PM

Hmmm! This shoemaker appears to have been pressganged.

Yes, Joy, I'm sure we all miss Malcolm terribly.

Nothing much to add to Malcolm's lists but the only broadside references I have are after the Levy date. Sanderson of Edinburgh was printing right into the 1930s. The Glasgow Poets Box printed one dated 1877 and the only other is the New York De Marsan printing. De Marsan is usually given as c1860 which would figure.

The De Marsan is on the Bodleian site Harding B 18 (366)

I'd say there's a strong chance Florence wrote it.


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Subject: RE: My Johnny was a Shoemaker - origins?
From: Joybell
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 04:15 PM

During the 1960s in Melbourne -- I remember being told, by a folklorist who performed this song, that Johnny was indeed press-ganged. He didn't explain how he knew this and I was far too shy to ask. The idea got filed away in my head though.
I've always loved the sweet innocence of the girl with her picture of her handsome young Johnny, with his golden hair against his blue jacket, who will be a captain one day. (Of course he will:-( )
It's such a contrast to the reality of life at sea at the time.

Now I have the picture of Little Marion singing from an unamplified mid-19th century stage. Many of the men in her audience would have been sailors who'd jumped ship. They knew the life at sea well. She made strong men weep -- and no wonder.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Nov 10 - 11:03 PM

Jon Boden chose this for his A Folk Song a Day project as the song for 20 November.

-Joe-
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry for this song:

    My Johnny Was a Shoemaker

    DESCRIPTION: "My Johnny was a shoemaker But now he's gone to sea." He will be a captain "Of a bold and galliant crew And then across the sea he'll roam All for to marry me ... And when I am a captain's wife I'll sing the whole day long"
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: before 1865 (broadside, LOCSinging as202550)
    KEYWORDS: courting separation sailor nonballad
    FOUND IN: Ireland
    REFERENCES (2 citations):
    OLochlainn-More 44, "My Johnny Was a Shoemaker" (1 text, 1 tune)
    DT, JOHNSHOE

    Roud #1388
    BROADSIDES:
    Bodleian, Harding B 18(366), "My Johnny Was a Shoemaker," H. De Marsan (New York), 1861-1864; also Harding B 18(670), "My Johnny Was a Shoemaker"
    LOCSinging, as202550, "My Johnny Was a Shoemaker," H. De Marsan (New York), 1861-1864; also sb20295b, "My Johnny Was a Shoemaker"

    Notes: Broadsides LOCSinging as202550 and Bodleian Harding B 18(366) are duplicates.
    Broadsides LOCSinging sb20295b and Bodleian Harding B 18(670) are duplicates.
    The description is from broadside LOCSinging as202550.
    Broadside LOCSinging as202550 and Bodleian Harding B 18(366): H. De Marsan dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
    File: OLcM044

    Go to the Ballad Search form
    Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
    Go to the Bibiography
    Go to the Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Roud Index Entry


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Subject: ADD Version: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Nov 10 - 11:30 PM

Here's a broadside edition of this song, from Bodleian Ballads Catalogue: Harding B 18(670)

Publisher: H. De Marsan, Publisher, 54 Chatham Street, N.Y
Publication date: about 1860


MY JOHNNY WAS A SHOEMAKER

My Johnny was a shoemaker, and dearly he loved me;
My Johnny was a shoemaker, but now he's gone to sea,
With nasty tar to sile his hands,
And sail across the briny sea, e, e, e —
My Johnny was a shoemaker.
    CHORUS:
    But now he's gone to reef top-sail,
    And sail across the briny sea, e, e, e —
    My Johnny was a shoemaker.

His jacket was a deep sky blue, and curly was his hair;
His jacket was a deep sky blue, it was, I do declare;
But now he's gone to reef top-sail,
And sail across the briny sea, e, e, e —
My Johnny was a shoemaker.
CHORUS

A captain he will be bi'm bye, with a sword and spy-glass too;
A captain he will be bi'm bye, of a bold and gallant crew.
And then across the sea he'll roam, all for to marry me, e, e, e —
My Johnny was a shoemaker.
CHORUS

And when I am a captain's wife, I'll sing the whole day long;
Yes, when I am a captain's wife, why, this shall be my song:
May peace and plenty be our lot, and a little son on our knee, e, e, e —
My Johnny was a shoemaker.
CHORUS

As stated in the Traditional Ballad Index, there are two broadsides of this song at Bodleian Ballads, and two at the Library of Congress. Apparently, they're all the same H. De Marsan edition - I didn't check the ones at the Library of Congress.
I suppose most people know the Steeleye Span version of this song, which does not include the last (captain's wife) verse. The version recorded by the John Renbourn Group on the Maid in Bedlam is much closer to the text in this broadside. Who's the female vocalist on the John Renbourn Group recording?


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Subject: ADD: Vice Versa; or, Lines on a Pullman Car
From: Joe Offer
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 12:30 AM

Well, it looks like the earliest printed version indexed is in an 1859 book called Songs of the Florences. It's at the Washington State University library in Pullman - anybody know how to get documents from them?

In the meantime, I found a song in Punch (December 31, 1881) that's sung to this tune:

VICE VERSA; or, LINES ON A PULLMAN CAR
Air: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker!

Oh, riding on a Pullman Car!
To Brighton by the sea
In an hour and a qua-ar-tar!
Is the thing that just suits me.
There's a drawing-room, parlour, smoking-room, and bar
For Mocha and the best Bohea-ea-ea!
Oh, don't I like a Pullman Car!
Lighted by electricitee.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: Reinhard
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 04:00 AM

The John Renbourn Group's CD notes list both Jacqui McShee and Sue Draheim as singers but on this track the voice sounds like Jacqui.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: DebC
Date: 20 Nov 10 - 09:03 AM

I spoke to Jacqui about this song and asked her where she got it. She said that in the early days they heard it sung by a man (I cannot recall where) and learned it from him. It was about 9 years ago when she told me this and the details that I can recall from my conversation with her are sketchy.

It almost sounds like Renbourn and McShee "collected" their version of the song but I could be mistaken.

Anita Best also has a version of the song as well that comes from Newfoundland.

Debra Cowan


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 29 Jun 13 - 10:08 AM

I first heard this song from Irish duo The Matthews Brothers when they played the English folk clubs, in the 1970s

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Johnny Was a Shoemaker
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 03 Sep 13 - 10:51 AM

With reference to the tune Caerlleon from the Calvinistic Methodist Hymn & Tune book. An article in Y Cerddor Cymraeg (Medi 1864) states that the melody showed up in "Flora Opera", (1729), "Cobblers' Opera"(1729)and "Opera Achilles"(1733)and was known in England as "Come open the door, Sweet Betty". This information I got from "Tonau a'u hawduron" by Huw Williams(Llyfrfa'r MC, Caernarfon. 1967)


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