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Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold

DigiTrad:
SUGAR IN THE HOLD


GUEST,Mark.................... 01 Sep 06 - 08:24 AM
Jeri 01 Sep 06 - 08:31 AM
Charley Noble 01 Sep 06 - 02:58 PM
Azizi 01 Sep 06 - 03:13 PM
Jeri 01 Sep 06 - 03:31 PM
leeneia 01 Sep 06 - 03:39 PM
Jeri 01 Sep 06 - 03:40 PM
Azizi 01 Sep 06 - 04:52 PM
Helen 02 Sep 06 - 01:52 AM
Joe Offer 17 Mar 13 - 02:17 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Mar 13 - 01:25 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Mar 13 - 01:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 17 Mar 13 - 02:17 PM
SaltyWalt 18 Mar 13 - 07:40 PM
SaltyWalt 18 Mar 13 - 08:07 PM
SaltyWalt 18 Mar 13 - 09:02 PM
Gibb Sahib 19 Mar 13 - 05:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 19 Mar 13 - 07:01 PM
SaltyWalt 20 Mar 13 - 04:40 AM
Gibb Sahib 20 Mar 13 - 02:18 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Mar 13 - 04:12 PM
SaltyWalt 20 Mar 13 - 06:16 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Mar 13 - 07:32 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 20 Mar 13 - 07:49 PM
SaltyWalt 22 Mar 13 - 04:44 AM
Marc Bernier 22 Mar 13 - 07:58 AM
Joe Offer 22 Mar 13 - 09:45 PM
SaltyWalt 24 Mar 13 - 04:18 PM
SaltyWalt 24 Mar 13 - 04:36 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Mar 13 - 06:59 PM
Charley Noble 24 Mar 13 - 08:00 PM
SaltyWalt 25 Mar 13 - 12:07 AM
GUEST 25 Mar 13 - 11:00 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Mar 13 - 12:40 PM
alanww 10 Sep 13 - 05:57 AM
alanww 12 Sep 13 - 03:38 AM
GUEST,Peter 12 Sep 13 - 03:58 AM
alanww 12 Sep 13 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,Bob Walser 12 Sep 13 - 04:07 PM
GUEST 31 Oct 14 - 05:07 PM
Charley Noble 01 Nov 14 - 01:23 PM
Charley Noble 10 Nov 14 - 09:42 PM
GUEST 09 May 15 - 03:51 PM
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Subject: Sugar in the hole
From: GUEST,Mark....................
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 08:24 AM

Could anyone please help me locate the words for this song? I'm not sure if this is the correct title but I heard it sung at a festival in Holland recently. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Jeri
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 08:31 AM

It's not Sugar in the HolD, is it?


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 02:58 PM

Fine old stevedore song. The Johnson Girls do a nice rendition of it.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 03:13 PM

Am I the only one who thinks these lyrics are...um..."suggestive?"


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Jeri
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 03:31 PM

It's quite likely you are, Azizi! I wonder if it's sarcastic. The guy wants to screw cotton all day, and from what I understand, that's one of the hardest jobs going. Maybe loading cotton in the ships hold is harder work than screwing cotton in. I don't know - never done either.


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: leeneia
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 03:39 PM

Historical note - in the olden days, people used to ship cotton by packing it as densely as they could (screwing it down, perhaps) in the holds of ships. A lot of the ships disappeared.

Come to find out, the cotton would absorb water through leaks in the hull, swell, and break the ship apart. Sad. It must have been a terrible way to die.


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Jeri
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 03:40 PM

There's some explanation of 'screwing cotton' here, but it's not what I'd thought, which was that there was some actual twisting involved.


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole
From: Azizi
Date: 01 Sep 06 - 04:52 PM

Okay. I confess. I was thinking 'suggestive' thoughts.

I'm old enough.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one who read this song's title and lyrics and thought about you know what.

But I see you gals wanna act like you are goody two shoes.
That's okay.

Maybe you've never had the pleasure of thinking 'suggestive' thoughts.

How sad.

;o)


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Subject: RE: Suger in the hole (Sugar in the Hold?)
From: Helen
Date: 02 Sep 06 - 01:52 AM

Azizi,

I'm with you, girl!

Bessie Smith sang:

Tired of bein' lonely, tired of bein' blue,
I wished I had some good man, to tell my troubles to
Seem like the whole world's wrong, since my man's been gone

I need a little sugar in my bowl,
I need a little hot dog, on my roll
I can stand a bit of lovin', oh so bad,
I feel so funny, I feel so sad

The song is called I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl by Brymn / Small / Williams recording of November 20 1931 (according to this site: Blues lyrics

And I left out the steamy bits!

When I used to work at our local Council the Occupational Health & Safety man there was a musician, and one day he started saying about just how many of the African-American jazz & blues lyrics were actually very specific about sex.

Goody Two Shoes, I ain't!

Helen


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Subject: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Mar 13 - 02:17 AM

This song has been recorded by both NexTradition and Johnson Girls, people who are known to a number of us. Anybody had origins information and alternate versions for this song? Gibb, do you have anything?

The Traditional Ballad Index has very little:

    Stow'n' Sugar in de Hull Below

    DESCRIPTION: "I wish I was in Mobile Bay, Rollin' cotton by the day, Stow'n' sugar in de hull below, Below, belo-ow, Stow'n' sugar in de hull below." A steamboat chant, mentioning the Natchez and depicting the engineer and captain.
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1924
    KEYWORDS: river nonballad work floatingverses ship
    FOUND IN: US(MW)
    REFERENCES (1 citation):
    Botkin-MRFolklr, p. 592, [no title] (1 text)
    CROSS-REFERENCES:
    cf. "Belle-a-Lee" (floating lyrics)
    cf. "Hieland Laddie" (floating lyrics)
    NOTES: This uses lyrics from "Hieland Laddie," which is far better known, but the form appears different enough that I separate them. - RBW
    File: BMRF592B

    Go to the Ballad Search form
    Go to the Ballad Index Song List

    Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
    Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

    The Ballad Index Copyright 2012 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.




Here's the version from the Digital Tradition:

SUGAR IN THE HOLD

I wish I was in Mobile Bay, screwing cotton all of the day
But I'm stowing sugar in the hold below,
Below, below, below

Hey, ho, below, below
Stowing sugar in the hold below
Hey, ho, below, below
Stowing sugar in the hold below

The J.M. White, she's a new boat
Stem to stern she's mighty fine
Beat any boat on the New Orleans line
Stowing sugar in the hold below

The engineer shouts through his trumpet
"Tell the mate we got bad news.
Can't get steam for the fire in the flue"
Stowing sugar in the hold below

The captain's on the quarter deck
Scratchin' 'way at his old neck
And he cries out, "Heave the larboard lead"
Stowing sugar in the hold below

as sung by Jon Pfaff
@sailor @work
filename[ SUGRHOLD
AJS
oct97


No listing in the Roud Folksong Index.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Mar 13 - 01:25 PM

Lyrics add:

Stow'n' Sugar in de Hull Below
B. A Botkin, "Mississippi River Folklore", p. 592

Belle-a-Lee's got no time,
Oh, Belle! oh, Belle!
Robert E. Lee's got railroad time,
Oh, Belle! oh, Belle!

Wish I was in Mobile Bay,
Oh, Belle! oh, Belle!
Rollin' cotton by de day,
Oh, Belle! oh, Belle!

I wish I was in Mobile Bay,
Rollin' cotton by de day,
Stow'n' sugar in de hull below,
Below, belo-ow,
Stow'n' sugar in de hull below!

De Natchez is a new boat; she's just in her prime,
Beats any oder boat on de New Orleans line.
Stow'n' sugar in de hull below, &c.

Engineer, t'rough de trumpet, gives de fireman news,
Couldn't make steam for de fire in de flues.
Stow'n' sugar in de hull below, &c.

Cap'n on de biler deck, a scratchin' of his head,
Hollers to de deck hand to heave de larbo'rd lead.
Stow'n' sugar in de hull below. &c.

Note by Bodkin: "The following [the two above] are fragments of rather lengthy chants, the words being almost similar in both, but the choruses and airs being very different. The air of the first is sonorous and regularly slow, like a sailor's chant, when heaving anchor; the air of the next is quick and lively." Airs not given.

I haven't found these chants in my other references.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Mar 13 - 01:32 PM

In the above, the first chant is the two short verses at the beginning.

Botkin gives lyrics to several more of these songs or chants. He says the "prettiest of all these songs is "The Wandering Steamboat-man" ..."
No tune given. Partial lyrics only.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 17 Mar 13 - 02:17 PM

Lyrics to "Stow'n'....." previously posted in the thread, "Steamboat Coonjine Songs."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 18 Mar 13 - 07:40 PM

Thanks Joe for putting this up.

Thank you also "Q", but you could not psychically know what I was asking since I haven't done so here yet.


I really thought that there would be more on this song here on Mudcat. I assumed I just wasn't finding it.

About the quote's above:
I found the Natchez version in Botkin as well, but the information had little to do with him, it was "lifted" to say nicely.

As a Professor from Minnesota reminded me, B.A. Botkin was an anthologist. He assembled his stories and songs from other print collections. I hadn't realized until recently how liberally he quoted. When I first read the above in his book, I too wondered about his out of context musings. It seems that even in a pre-computer age cutting and pasting without obvious footnotes can be unclear.
That whole section is made of bits and pieces he found interesting (musings too) from other sources. The First two stanzas are from a completely unrelated chant - other than the subject of "rollin' Cotton" in "Mobile Bay", and not part of "Stowin Sugar in the hull below."

I think it likely they came from the observations of Lafcadio Hearn (1850 - 1903). It is possible that Hearn was quoting some other printed source, I just don't know. I haven't the moxie for research that I once did. Please look for yourself here:

Google Books Lafcadio Hearn - Levee Life

I'll post my question (or object d' research) separately to keep it neat.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 18 Mar 13 - 08:07 PM

The oldest version of "Stowin' Sugar in the Hull Below" seems to be this one from Lafcadio Hearn's writings on riverside life in New Orleans and Cincinnati.

Google Books Lafcadio Hearn - Levee Life

Whose lyrics are printed earlier in this thread.

They differ significantly (especially in the chorus) from the version in the DT (lyrics further above) which was popularized by NexTradition.

Years ago I asked Ken and or Ali where they got there version and ** what I remember was ** "an old Folkways record". At the time I scoured through the catalog and found only one recording of it, by Morrigan. This led me to contact W.Pint to ask where they got it. 30 years and a band or two in between did not lend itself to him remembering.
My recent search of Smithsonian Folkways has come up with less than that. I haven't even found the track I did before, so Morrigan might not be right.

MY QUESTION:
Does anyone know the history, lineage, or even folklore surrounding how the song got to the current version?
I'm beginning to suspect the longer chorus and de-vernacularizing of the version we all enjoy may be completely the product of the revival.
Does anyone have older recordings?
Does anyone have pre-revival published lyrics?
Can Anyone walk me through it's transformation, or do I finally have a paper for Mystic?

I know a number of you folks have access to archives and resources I don't, and some are just better scholars. I'm looking forward to what anyone can tell me, even just leads.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 18 Mar 13 - 09:02 PM

P.S.- I put names in the last post, to be clear, I spoke to members of both groups.

As long as the Cat is out of the bag, I also fond these versions of "Mobile Bay" which don't really sync with the others on the thread; one which seems to be a "Blow the Man Down" variant and one that works to either "Round the Corner Sally" or "John Dameray."


Living Age


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 19 Mar 13 - 05:37 PM

Hi,

I've not seen this song in any history except Lafcadio Hearn.

Evidently, before being gathered into _Lafcadio Hearn's America_, it appeared in Hearn's _Miscellanies (Vol. 1)_ (1924), _Selected Writings_ (1949), and _Children of the Levee_ (1957), along with being borrowed into books like Botkin and _The Book of Negro Folklore_ (L. Hughes & A. Bontemps, 1958).

The excerpt originates in the news article "Levee Life: Haunts and Pastimes of the Roustabouts: Their Original Songs and Dances," _Cincinnati Commercial_, March 17, 1876.

SaltyWalt,

The version performed by recent singers does look (IMO) adapted to someone's personal taste.

I think you've already done most of the work in eliminating suspects.

Pint & Dale state in the the notes to their 1997 album _Round the Corner_ that the song was introduced to their local Seattle chanty-singing community by Marc Bridgham—former Morrigan with Pint (1978-1980). I doubt Morrigan would have performed this sort of material themselves; I am guessing that this was after the break up of Morrigan! Bridgham evidently moved away from Seattle, so if you find the date of that move it *might* narrow things down.

The song seems to have stayed in the Seattle/Vancouver scene (e.g. lyrics from Jon Pfaff in the DT). One of the albums featuring Pacific Northwest musicians, the "Victory Sings at Sea" series, includes it: 1995's _The Curse of the Somers_. It would be good to know who sang that one.

So perhaps between 1980 and 1995 one would find how it was adopted/adapted.

If there were other historical sources, it would make the story more interesting.

It would be interesting to know why the person changed the boat to J.M White.

Incidentally, I've never sung the song myself.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 13 - 07:01 PM

The J. M. White,, if not previously mentioned in mudcat, was launched in 1878, and was on the Greenville, Vicksburg, New Orleans run.
A powerful boat, capable of beating any other, it proved expensive to run and pushed the owner, Capt. John W. Tobin, towards bankruptcy. It burned at the Blue Store landing in 1888, with the loss of 28 lives.

http://www.museum.state.il.us/RiverWeb/landings/Ambot


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 04:40 AM

That J.M White was one of 4 boats to bear the name, but in Steamboat circles the Natchez (at least 2 old ones and 1 new one built in 1974 and still floatin'} was probably a more famous boat in the 19th century. I believe she was the winner of a famous steamboat race, and Courrier & Ives print of same.

If the quote is from a newspaper article from 1876 that puts the 1878 launch of a J.M. White out of the question.

I will defer to someone with superior geekitude of mid 19th century steamboat racing.

I've got a few books on such, but that's all you get at 1:30 AM!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 02:18 PM

OK, but what would be the significance of the dating of the JM White? (i.e. besides general interest?)

This is the type of song that seems as though its lyrics would change at the whim of the singer. If someone was still singing this song in 1878, I see no reason why they might not slip in the name JM White. Not out of the question.

However, I haven't seen any reason to suspect there *is* an historically documented performance "out there" that was sung with "JM White." The popular version, with the exception of the JM White swap, has all the earmarks of Lafacdio Hearn. It implicates itself as an adaptation of a modern singer because it follows the same lyric themes in the same order. Given the variable nature of lyrics in this style of song, I'd expect that if another version turned up its verses would at least be partly different or in a different sequence.

It's more logical to suspect it was rebooted in the Seattle scene, along with the grunt in "John Cherokee"! Those zany Northwesterners.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 04:12 PM

All current versions seem to be at the whim of the singer; the only early version is the one collected by Lafcadio Hearne and copied by Botkin.
I made no mention of any newspaper article but quoted from the link given, the article in the Illinois Museum article.

Continuing my digression: The J. M. White was launched in 1876 (I mis-read the first line of the Illinois Museum article, which stated, "Captain John W. Tobin, a successful river magnate, first piloted the J. M. White to New Orleans in the summer of 1878.").

The article states that, although the most advanced steamship in New Orleans service, it never raced against the Robert E. Lee, although it had beaten that boat's record by 40 minutes. It did defeat the Natchez in a race, in record time.
The J. M. White was large and luxurious, seating 250 at dinner. Much of her loading technology was steam-powered.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 06:16 PM

So it's safe to say there was no tune associated with it, and that too is modern?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 07:32 PM

Hearn said it did have an air, "quick and lively," which is lost.
Feel free to manufacture your own.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Mar 13 - 07:49 PM

More digression:

"The most famous steamboat race in history had the venerable Rob't E. Lee against the newly built Natchez," 1870. The Natchez arrived in St. Louis about six and one-half hours after the Rob't E. Lee.
http://www.museum.state.il.us/RiverWeb/landings/Ambot/SOCIETY/SOC7.htm


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 22 Mar 13 - 04:44 AM

So was the Robert E. Lee on the New Orleans line?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Marc Bernier
Date: 22 Mar 13 - 07:58 AM

@Walt; You want me to ask Allison where she and Ken got their setting?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Joe Offer
Date: 22 Mar 13 - 09:45 PM

Marc - please do.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 04:18 PM

I already had , once , a long time ago.
I thought I wrote that who chain of questions above.

I'm sorry if the thread has become tiresome.

I suppose I should've directed the last question to Q directly.
He or She has turned out to be a wealth or riverboat information.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 04:36 PM

Sorry,
That last post was unclear.
I re-wrote it, but over-wrote a part.

I was referring to having tracked down the history of variants before:

"
Years ago I asked Ken and or Ali where they got there version and ** what I remember was ** "an old Folkways record". At the time I scoured through the catalog and found only one recording of it, by Morrigan. This led me to contact W.Pint to ask where they got it. 30 years and a band or two in between did not lend itself to him remembering.
My recent search of Smithsonian Folkways has come up with less than that. I haven't even found the track I did before, so Morrigan might not be right."

I do appreciate any help though.
Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 06:59 PM

Rob't E. Lee mostly Natchez to New Orleans, but occ. to St. Louis.

Google Robert E. Lee (or any of the old riverboats). Information easily found.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Charley Noble
Date: 24 Mar 13 - 08:00 PM

Well, this one is definitely not nailed down.

I certainly first heard it from Victory Sings Songs of the Sea.

Don't know why folks aren't asking their members where they got it. Some still walk this earth.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: SaltyWalt
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 12:07 AM

That's who I asked Charlie.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Mar 13 - 11:00 PM

Hi this message is for Charley Noble: I have a SS Stewart Universal Banjo - No. 3 with an 11" head and a 19" neck. SN is 17205. It has the moon and stars inlay (alot like yours maybe?).   I was wondering if you can tell me what year it would have been made. THis was my fathers banjo and had it tuned as a guitar - so my question is whats the proper strings and where in Canada where I could have it restored or just tuned up properly.

Thnaks,

Ken Boswell - email at kenboswell3@gmail.com


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Mar 13 - 12:40 PM

www.acousticmusicshop.com
Edmonton, AB

www.12fret.com
Ontario

Both will help with banjo repairs.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: alanww
Date: 10 Sep 13 - 05:57 AM

This is certainly a great song and its fascinating to read the history of the J. M. White.
Thanks for the references.
Perhaps the steamboat techies can help me with the answers to a couple of further questions about how steamboats used to work.
Would the song actually be a shanty/chanty (ie a work song) and, if so, for what sort of task on a steamboat would it be appropriate?
Also, in the last verse the captain says "Heave the larboard lead". Is that last word "lead" a cable or a heavy lump of metal? And how would the heaving of it help to get the steam up, as requested by the engineer (for instance would it open a vent to get more air to the fire)?
Thanks!
"The engineer shouts through his trumpet...!"
Alan


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: alanww
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 03:38 AM

Having spoken to a sailor friend, I think that I may have the answer to my questions!
The first point is that in the third verse the engineer says "Can't get steam for the fire in the flue". Surely, steam comes from the fire and hence the line should read "Can't get steam FROM the fire in the flue".
That being the case, with the steamboat losing steam and therefore power, it will start to drift and, if it's on a river rather than at sea there is a danger that it might drift into the river bank. Hence, Captain Tobin would want to check the depth of the river and that would be done by swinging the lead into the river and testing the water depth from the length of rope.
What do you steamboat experts think?
All the best.
"... screwing cotton all of the day!"
Alan


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 03:58 AM

Never expect a song to be 100% accurate on technical or historical detail. There is a little thing called the "folk process" getting in the way.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: alanww
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 11:25 AM

Yes, sure, Peter
Lots of thing change because they are mis-heard, mis-transcribed or whatever.
But it's good to be clear.
Stay healthy.
"The engineer shouts ...!"
Alan
Fully paid up member of Pedants Anonymous


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: GUEST,Bob Walser
Date: 12 Sep 13 - 04:07 PM

A folksong and its travels. I had some fun a while back chasing this one down. Here's what I found:

As noted, the Lafcadio Hearn text is one source of the song but his verses lack a melody and offer no hints or suggestions. This was noted by Dr. Harry Oster as he was compiling material for the 1976 National Geographic LP "Steamboat's A-Comin'" (Issue number 07787. "Wish I was in Mobile Bay" appears on side 1, track 3). In the liner notes, Oster and James A. Cox write: "In folk music, good tunes appear over and over in different forms, serving as molds into which fresh words can be poured. This roustabout song, which talks of loading cotton and sugar in the riverboat, is such a synthesis, for the lyrics are grafted on to a traditional 19th-century sea-chantey called Highland Laddie. In Mobile and other southern ports visited by sailing packets, rousters and deepwater sailors often exchanged chanteys and other rhythmic tunes and soon adapted them into new work songs of their own."

On the LP sleeve with the lyrics the title is marked with an asterisk which takes you (when you turn it over) to the note "*Collected and adapted by Dr. Harry Oster"

Curious about how the song got from the album to its current (relative) popularity, I followed the trail back from NexTradition and it led me to Marc Bridgham. Years ago, Marc (who sang with William Pint and Mary Malloy in the group 'Morrigan') heard the song. He e-mailed me: "That is the right recording. I've never had a copy of personally. I heard it at a now un-remembered acquaintance's house (not folksingers) and just listened to over and over again in one afternoon so I could memorize it."

If I remember the path correctly, in turn the song then passed to Mariide, thence to Mary Benson and Victory Sings at Sea then over the puddle to Poland (don't know the singer's name) and back again to NexTradition (was it Ken or Alison who brought it?). Been making the rounds ever since. It would be fun to try and figure who added particular verses . . .

Here are the lyrics as printed on the sleeve:

Wish I was in Mobile Bay
Rollin' cotton by the day
Stown' sugar in the hull below,
Below, below, below

Chorus: Hey ho, below, below
Stowin' sugar in the hull below.

The J.M. White is a new boat
From stem to stern she's mighty fine
Beat any boat on the Orleans line
Stowin' sugar in the hull below

Engineer yells through his trumpet
He give the firemen bad news
Couldn't make the steam for the fire in the flue
Stowin' sugar in the hull below

Capt'n on the boiler deck
Scratchin' away at his head
Hollers, 'Heave the larboard lead."
Stowin' sugar in the hull below.

On this recording the song was sung by Raymone Bazemore Harry Brown, William Common, Melvyn Ivy, the Gentlemen of Harmony (Ralph Bolden, Harry Brown, William Cammon, Melvyn Ivy, and Elliot Williams)


Hope this is of interest.

Bob Walser


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 14 - 05:07 PM

Came across a reference in a Quebec newspaper of 1851 to the opening lines "Wish I was in Mobile Bay, screwing cotton all the day...."

Greg Marquis


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Charley Noble
Date: 01 Nov 14 - 01:23 PM

The captain's command "'Heave the larboard lead!" has to do with assessing the river depth off the left bow of the steamboat. One of the deckcrew would be up forward with a coiled lead line (with a weighted head) which he would throw out and then determine the depth by markings on the line after it struck bottom. If Sam Clemens was the pilot, he might shout "Mark Twain" if he were a smartass.

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: Charley Noble
Date: 10 Nov 14 - 09:42 PM

Just got my copy of Steamboat a-Comin' via Amazon.com. Nice of Bob Walser to provide such good notes! I suspect this was the recording that Victory Sings at Sea used to work up their version as recorded.

Charlie Ipcar


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Subject: RE: Origins: Stowing Sugar in the Hold
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 15 - 03:51 PM

Thanks Bob!

I appreciate it.
Joe reminded me that you provided the missing bits to the trail I followed. I forgot to say "Thanks" but thought I had.

Even more importantly, Thanks for posting these solutions to the puzzle here for other folks to find.

There seems to be a break in information of the late folk revival. So many folks who performed in the 70's & 80's remember the situations surrounding events and specific songs that little of this information is written down for a younger generation to find. After my generation, it all goes to searchable digital discussions. I appreciate references like this that allow us to bridge the gap.


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