Blow, Boys, Blow (I)

DESCRIPTION: Shanty. Characteristic line: "Blow, boys, blow... Blow, my bully bows, blow!" Often liberally sprinkled with floating verses, the basic version seems to be about a shining Yankee clipper on her way to China. It describes several members of the crew
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: shanty sailor ship slavery Black(s) moniker
FOUND IN: US(MA,MW,NE) Australia Canada(Mar) Britain(Scotland(Aber)) West Indies(Jamaica,Tobago)
REFERENCES (30 citations):
Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman, pp. 25-29, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (4 texts, 2 tunes)
Walton/Grimm-Windjammers-SongsOfTheGreatLakesSailors, pp. 60-62, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 composite text plus some loose verses, 1 tune)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, pp. 93-94, "A Yankee Ship Came Down the River" (1 text, 1 tune)
Stout-FolkloreFromIowa 18, p. 27, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 fragment, probably this although it's too short to be sure)
Bone-CapstanBars, pp. 57-58, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Linscott-FolkSongsOfOldNewEngland, pp. 126-127 "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Eckstorm/Smyth-MinstrelsyOfMaine, p. 238, "Rolling John" (1 short text, with lines typical of this song although it has the chorus "Ha, ha, rolling John" rather than "Blow, boys, blow")
Shay-AmericanSeaSongsAndChanteys, pp. 59-60, "Blow, Bullies, Blow" (1 text plus a verse of another, 1 tune)
Greig/Duncan1 2, "Blow, Boys. Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Terry-TheShantyBook-Part1, #15, "Blow my bully boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
Botkin-TreasuryOfNewEnglandFolklore, pp. 558-560, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Covell/Brown-FolkSongsOfAustraliaVol2, pp. 91-92, "Blow Bullies Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie-BalladsAndSeaSongsFromNovaScotia 100, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text)
Pottie/Ellis-FolksongsOfTheMaritimes, p. 29, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Colcord-SongsOfAmericanSailormen, pp. 50-51, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text plus 3 fragments, 1 tune)
Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips, pp. 66-67, "Blow Boys Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 224-231, "Blow, Boys, Blow'" (4 texts, 2 tunes; the 4th text is a Norwegian version taken from Sternvall's _Sang under Segal_) [AbrEd, pp. 172-175]
Hugill-SongsOfTheSea, p. 148, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp-EnglishFolkChanteys, L, p. 55, "Blow, Boys, Come Blow Together" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kinsey-SongsOfTheSea, pp. 84-85, "Blow, My Bully Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abrahams-DeepTheWaterShallowTheShore, pp. 31-34, "Oh What a Hell of a Wedding"; pp. 55-57, "Blow Boy Blow" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Thompson-BodyBootsAndBritches-NewYorkStateFolktales, 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)
Garland-FacesInTheFirelight-NZ, p. 128, "(Blow, Boys, Blow)" (1 excerpt)
Heart-Songs, p. 465, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Zander/Klusmann-CampSongsNThings, p. 30, "Blow, My Bully Boys, Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Zander/Klusmann-CampSongsPopularEdition, p. 35, "Blow, My Bully Boys, Blow" (1 tet)
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, Boys, Blow" is in Part 1, 7/14/1917.
Olive Lewin, "Rock It Come Over" - The Folk Music of Jamaica (Barbados: The University of the West Indies Press, 2000), p. 99, "Blow Boy Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)
Olive Lewin, Forty Folk Songs of Jamaica (Washington: General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, 1973), pp. 45-46, "Blow Billy Boy Blow" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #703
Noble B. Brown, "Blow, Boys, Blow" (AFS, 1946; on LC26)
cf. "Shallow Brown (II)" (lyrics)
cf. "Blow, Blow, Bully Boys, Blow" (lyrics)
The Glasgow Lasses
NOTES [440 words]: Doerflinger-SongsOfTheSailorAndLumberman reports that "[The] captain was sometimes said to be 'Bully Hayes ["Haines," in Bone-CapstanBars's text], the Down East bucko,' who was lost in 1848 with the clipper ship Rainbow (not to be confused with the later South Seas blackbirder)." There was at least one other well-known captain called "Bully Hayes," however; according to Robert Hoskins, Goldfield Balladeer: The Life and Times of the celebrated Charles R. Thatcher, William Collins (New Zealand), 1977, p. 68, in 1863, several shanties opened in 1863 in the Arrow region of New Zealand. "The proprietor of one hotel was the infamous Captain William Henry Hayes, known to all as Bully Hayes. Hayes was a picturesque villain -- big, handsome, powerful, pleasant in manner, an astute financier, and a clever navigator. He was also the Prince of Rogues -- unprincipled adventurer, liar, fraud, and notorious American freebooter." Apparently he decided to settle down in 1863, but Hoskins tells nothing of his previous career as a seaman. Obviously he did the Pacific, however, which fits the trip to China in some versions of the song. He was also missing an ear, which resulted in a good deal of ridicule from his competitors (Hoskins, pp. 70-71). - RBW
Other versions of the song are about a slave-ship taking contraband slaves past the embargo (after slaving was outlawed). - PJS
An example of this is Shay's text, and Bone-CapstanBars had heard such verses though they aren't part of his main version.
The importation of slaves into the United States was forbidden as early as 1808, with stronger enforcement passed in 1819. This wasn't entirely a moral act, however; legislators from northern slave states supported it because it let them breed slaves for the deep South. (Which is one reason why the Confederacy, after breaking off from the Union, maintained its own ban.)
The side effect of that was, of course, smuggling -- and a worsening of conditions aboard slavers. Native-born slaves had to be fed and housed as they grew up, making them expensive. Imported slaves were less useful, but the only expense was the importing. Even at prices far below American-born slaves, they brought high profits.
And, because even a sick slave brought some money, and there was no one regulating them, there was no incentive at all for the slaver to treat them decently. "Wastage," they called it, and treated it as part of the job. Somehow the words "wilful murder" never entered their vocabulary. - RBW
Abrahams's "Oh What a Hell of a Wedding" takes its theme and some lines from "The Monkeys Wedding," which we have from the West Indies. - BS
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File: Doe025

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