Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!
DESCRIPTION: A song of the eternal tasks of the sailor, repeated from generation to generation. The sailors all enjoy their rum, find girls in the towns, get drunk, spend their money, and have to return to sea, as their fathers did before him.
AUTHOR: Words: Edward Harrigan / Music: David Braham
EARLIEST DATE: 1885 ("Old Lavender")
KEYWORDS: sailor work drink
FOUND IN: US(MA,NE) Britain(England(North))
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Kidson-Tunes, pp. 106-108, "Outward Bound" (1 text, 1 tune)
Warner 71, "The Jolly Roving Tar" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 33, "Get Up, Jack" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 493-494, "Get Up, Jack! John, Sit Down!" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "We're Homeward Bound" is in Part 4, 8/4/1917.
DT, GETUPJCK JACKJOHN
Stanley Baby, "Homeward Bound" (on GreatLakes1)
Lena Bourne Fish, "Jolly Rocing Tar" (on USWarnerColl01)
cf. "Outward and Homeward Bound"
NOTES [462 words]: Written by Edward Harrigan and his father-in-law David Braham for the play "Old Lavender," which is listed as premiering September 1, 1885. (Information supplied by Philip Harrigan Sheedy.) The song has since entered oral tradition, as known versions exhibit significant variations. - DGE, RBW
The song has cross-fertilized with "Outward and Homeward Bound"; it may be that that was the inspiration for this song. Nonetheless the handful of versions in oral tradition, although typically shorted than the Harrigan/Braham original, clearly retain large parts of the original. It's a rather odd piece in the Harrigan/Braham repertoire; Ned Harrigan had worked as a ship's caulker, and his father had been a seaman, but he rarely wrote about the sea in his plays.
The song was from the play "Old Lavender," one that Harrigan worked on for many years (the first version they performed was one of the few Harrigan shows that didn't do well, but he eventually got it right): "Harrigan toyed with Old Lavender most of his life. In 1885 he added more songs: "Poverty's Tears Ebb and Flow"; "Please to Put That Down"; a tribute to liquor, "When sorrow sits down on your brow, / and sadness peeps out of your eye, / don't stop to think but take a drink"; and one of the swingiest Braham-Harrigan tunes, "Get Up, Jack, John, Sit Down" (see Richard Moody, Ned Harrigan: From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square, Nelson Hall, 1980, p. 81).
Old Lavender was a character Harrigan played himself (there is a photo of Harrigan in the role in the photo insert following p. 54 of Moody); according to Moody, pp. 78-79, "The seedy and lovable reprobate, Old Lavender, copied after an eccentric who had achieved celebrity on Corlear's Hook, was one of Harrigan's finest portraits. His counterpart might be found among the soggy inhabitants of any waterfront saloon, but few devout drunks could match Lavender's astonishing resistance to inebriation and to the deprivations of poverty. His elegant circumlocutions emerged in greater profusion with each dash of lubrication, and his natural dignity was unimpaired by his damaged top hat, his ragged frock coat, and his fingerless gloves. Harrigan had spotted the costume on an old man on lower Broadway."
Harrigan said of him, "I think Old Lavender fits more of my own individuality in stage characterization than any other part I ever played. I never could see his rags. He was the sort of fellow who could be welcomed anywhere, and was man enough to set off a little from the rest of the crowd. With his conversational powers he could hold his audience. He drank not for drink's self [sic.], but for sociability -- and I've seen many Lavenders" (Moody, p. 81).
For background on Harrigan and Braham, see the notes to "Babies on Our Block." - RBW
Last updated in version 5.1
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 2020 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.