Blow the Man Down

DESCRIPTION: A tale of a sailor's adventures. Perhaps he serves under a difficult captain; perhaps he meets a girl (and "[gives] her my flipper") who spends his money or sells him off to sea; perhaps his heroic exploits in port earn him a night (or more) in prison
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1867 (Syracuse _Daily Courier_, July 25 edition, according to Jonathan Lighter)
KEYWORDS: bawdy shanty sailor travel shanghaiing
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Mar) West Indies(Bahamas,Tobago,Nevis,St Vincent)
REFERENCES (31 citations):
Doerflinger, pp. 17-22, "Blow the Man Down" (5 texts, 2 tunes. The first text is influenced by "Ratcliffe Highway"; the fourth is "The Three Ravens" (!); the last is largely "The Salt Horse Song")
Walton/Grimm/Murdock, pp. 57-60, "Blow the Man Down" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Colcord, pp. 53-59, "Blow the Man Down" (3 texts, 1 tune. First text is what Hugill would call the Blackballer version; second text is the Flying Fish Sailor; third is along the lines of Ratcliffe Highway)
Harlow, pp. 92-95, "Blow the Man Down" (2 texts, 1 tune. Both texts are related to Ratcliffe Highway)
Hugill, p. 122, "Goodbye, Fare-Ye-Well" (1 text, version C of "Homeward Bound") [AbrEd, p. 105]; p. 200, "Knock a Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune -- quoting Sharp-EFC) [AbrEd, p. 155]; pp. 203-214, "Blow the Man Down" (6 texts plus several fragments, 1 tune. The first text is a sanitized "Ratcliffe Highway" version; the fourth is the "Song of the Fishes," the fifth is a version of "Rolling in the Dew," and the seventh is "Quare Bungo Rye.") [AbrEd, pp. 158-167]
Sharp-EFC, XXXIX p. 44-45, "Knock a Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bone, pp. 77-82, "Blow th' Man Down" (2 texts, 1 tune; the second text may have a bit of "Cruising Round Yarmouth" in it)
Elder-Charlotteville, p. 48, "Yankee Backra" (1 text, 1 tune)
Linscott, pp. 128-131, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
ThompsonNewYork, p. 209, "(Blow the Man Down)" (1 text, which appears to be two verses of "Blow the Man Down" and three of "Blow, Boys, Blow (I)" combined)
Shay-SeaSongs, pp. 38-39, "The Black Ball Line" (1 text, 1 tune); pp. 39-40, "Blow the Man Down, I" (1 text); p. 40, "Blow the Man Down, II" (1 text plus an alternate chorus)
Smith/Hatt, p. 21, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text)
Mackenzie 107, "Blow the Man Down" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Randolph-Legman I, pp. 459-460, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thomas-Makin', p. 31, (no title) (1 text, short, perhaps not this song but with the key line in modified form and too short to link to anything else)
Terry-Shanty1, #16, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abrahams-WIShanties, pp. 62-63,99-100,104-105, "Blow the Man Down" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 491-493, "Blow the Man Down" (1 full +2 partial texts, the second seemingly being actually "Brian O'Lynn (Tom Boleyn)", 1 tune)
Parrish 48, p. 205, "Knock a Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownSchinhanV 778, "Blow the Man Down" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Fahey-Eureka, pp. 52-53, "Radcliffe Highway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg, pp. 404-405, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Finger, pp. 157-158, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Darling-NAS, pp. 310-311, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text)
Arnett, pp. 54-55, "Blow the Man Down!" (1 text, 1 tune)
PSeeger-AFB, p. 39, "Blow The Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fireside, p. 152, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber-FSWB, p. 90, "Blow the Man Down" (1 text)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 146-147, "Blow the Man Down"
DT, BLOWDOWN* BLOWDWN2* BLOWDWN3* BLOWDWN4* BLOWDWN5 BLOWDWN6*
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Blow the Man Down" is in Part 3, 7/28/1917.

Roud #2624
RECORDINGS:
Almanac Singers, "Blow the Man Down" (General 5016A, 1941; on Almanac02, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
Noble B. Brown, "Blow the Man Down (I)" (AFS, 1946; on LC27)
Woody Guthrie, "Blow the Man Down" (Commodore 3006, n.d. -- but this may be the same recording as the General disc by the Almanac Singers)
G. Lotson, "Blow the Man Down" (AFS A-397, 1926)
Richard Maitland, "Blow the Man Down (II)" (AFS, 1939; on LC27)
Minster Singers, "Blow the Man Down" [medley w. "Rio Grande"] (Victor 61148, n.d., prob. c. 1903)
Pete Seeger, "Blow the Man Down" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07a) (on PeteSeeger23)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Ratcliffe Highway" (lyrics)
cf. "The Salt Horse Song" (lyrics)
cf. "The Three Ravens" [Child 26] (lyrics)
cf. "Ane Madam" (tune)
cf. "Et Nous Irons a Valapariso" (partial tune)
cf. "A Ship Was Becalmed in a Tropical Sea" (tune and form)
SAME TUNE:
Roll 'Im On Down (sung by David Pryor on AFS 507 B, 1935; on LC08)
Ane Madam (File: Hugi215)
Johnny Fernandes (Harold Courlander, _A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore_, Crown Publishers, 1976, pp. 218-219)
NOTES: Hugill defines six versions of this: a) The Flash Packet (from Ratcliffe Highway); b) The Sailing of the Blackballer; c) The Flying Fish Sailor or Policeman - where a sailor is mistaken for a "Blackballer" or "packet rat" (whom the crews of clippers generally considered to be a lower form of marine life); d) The Fishes (i.e. "Song of the Fishes/Blow Ye Winds Westerly"); e) The Milkmaid (i.e. "Rolling in the Dew"); and f) Bungyereye (i.e. "Quare Bungo Rye"). - SL
The David Pryor recording ["Roll 'Im On Down"; see the "Same Tune" field] is actually a boat-launching song with different lyrics but the same tune and structure. - PJS
Some versions of this song mention that "Kicking Jack Williams commands the Black Ball." Williams was a historical figure, known for driving his crews hard; he commanded the American clipper Andrew Jackson (launched 1855 as the Belle Haxie and given a new name after changing owners). In 1859-1860, Williams caused the Jackson to make the fastest clipper trip ever, "pilot to pilot," from New York to San Francisco -- 89 days 4 hours. (The record for fastest trip, anchor to anchor, is held by the Flying Cloud, but circumstances were somewhat different in that case.)
The above information comes from Lincoln P. Paine's Ships of the World (entry on the Andrew Jackson, which cites this song). Shay, however, quotes Robert Greenhalgh Albion's Square Riggers on Schedule, which states that the only Captain Williams who served on the Black Ball Line was a different John Williams, commanding the Pacific. If so, it appears the two have been conflated.
To try to solve this, I consulted Glenn A. Knoblock, The American Clipper Ship, 1845-1920: A Comprehensive History with a Listing of Builders and Their Ships, McFarland & Company, 2014, p. 87, which has a photo and bio of Williams: "Captain John E. 'Jack' Williams. This native of England came to America at a young age and settled in Mystic, Connecticut. He rose through the ranks to become a noted officer in the Black Ball Line of packets sailing between New York and Liverpool, but gained undying fame when he took over command of the clipper Andrew Jackson and set the all-time speed record on the California run in 1859 and 1860." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
File: Doe017

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