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Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll

DigiTrad:
ALABAMA'S CREW
ROLL ALABAMA ROLL


Related threads:
Lyr Req: The Alabama (Victorious) (8)
Happy! - Sept 27 (Roll 'Alabama!') (1)


chico 06 Jun 05 - 12:14 AM
Abby Sale 06 Jun 05 - 09:11 AM
Keith A of Hertford 06 Jun 05 - 02:36 PM
Keith A of Hertford 06 Jun 05 - 03:01 PM
Rapparee 06 Jun 05 - 03:03 PM
Lighter 14 Sep 05 - 09:55 PM
Joe Offer 13 Aug 10 - 04:44 PM
Charley Noble 13 Aug 10 - 04:59 PM
Joe Offer 13 Aug 10 - 05:04 PM
Joe Offer 13 Aug 10 - 05:05 PM
Charley Noble 13 Aug 10 - 05:11 PM
Q 13 Aug 10 - 05:11 PM
JeffB 13 Aug 10 - 06:14 PM
Steve Gardham 13 Aug 10 - 06:18 PM
Joe Offer 13 Aug 10 - 07:21 PM
GUEST,kendall 13 Aug 10 - 07:38 PM
Q 13 Aug 10 - 08:43 PM
Charley Noble 13 Aug 10 - 09:42 PM
Gibb Sahib 13 Aug 10 - 10:05 PM
Joe Offer 13 Aug 10 - 10:14 PM
Les from Hull 14 Aug 10 - 10:47 AM
Les from Hull 14 Aug 10 - 10:52 AM
JeffB 15 Aug 10 - 12:43 PM
Charley Noble 15 Aug 10 - 01:05 PM
JeffB 16 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM
Q 16 Aug 10 - 09:48 PM
Q 16 Aug 10 - 10:29 PM
JeffB 17 Aug 10 - 09:34 AM
Leadfingers 17 Aug 10 - 12:06 PM
Les from Hull 17 Aug 10 - 12:46 PM
Q 17 Aug 10 - 01:45 PM
Charley Noble 17 Aug 10 - 02:19 PM
Q 17 Aug 10 - 02:21 PM
fox4zero 08 Nov 10 - 06:56 PM
Keith A of Hertford 09 Nov 10 - 05:45 AM
Lighter 09 Nov 10 - 06:20 AM
GUEST 09 Nov 10 - 06:49 AM
Lighter 09 Nov 10 - 08:09 AM
Charley Noble 09 Nov 10 - 01:04 PM
GUEST 10 Nov 10 - 12:24 AM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Nov 10 - 09:36 AM
Lighter 10 Nov 10 - 10:54 AM
GUEST 10 Nov 10 - 06:29 PM
Greg F. 10 Nov 10 - 06:33 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Mar 12 - 05:28 AM
Charley Noble 02 Mar 12 - 08:57 AM
Gibb Sahib 02 Mar 12 - 04:09 PM
Dave Earl 02 Mar 12 - 04:36 PM
Charley Noble 02 Mar 12 - 04:56 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Mar 12 - 05:10 PM
GUEST,Lighter 02 Mar 12 - 05:11 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Mar 12 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,Lighter 02 Mar 12 - 06:01 PM
Charley Noble 02 Mar 12 - 09:15 PM
Gibb Sahib 02 Mar 12 - 11:37 PM
Charley Noble 03 Mar 12 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,Lighter 03 Mar 12 - 08:23 PM
Q 04 Mar 12 - 03:30 PM
Q 04 Mar 12 - 03:46 PM
Peter C 04 Mar 12 - 04:14 PM
GUEST 04 Mar 12 - 04:48 PM
Gibb Sahib 04 Mar 12 - 07:45 PM
Q 05 Mar 12 - 02:19 PM
Charley Noble 05 Mar 12 - 07:53 PM
Gibb Sahib 05 Mar 12 - 08:40 PM
Q 06 Mar 12 - 02:31 PM
GUEST,Lighter 06 Mar 12 - 02:34 PM
Q 06 Mar 12 - 02:40 PM
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Subject: Lyr/Chords Add: ROLL, ALABAMA ROLL
From: chico
Date: 06 Jun 05 - 12:14 AM

    G                          D7
In eighteen-hundred and sixty-one,
D       G      D7
Roll, Alabama, roll!
      G             7 Em B7 Em
The ship's building it was begun,
C    G       D7    G
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!

At first she was called "The Two-Ninety-Two,"
In honour of the merchants of Liverpool

To fight the North [Captain] Semmes did employ
Ev'ry method to sink and destroy.

The Alabama sailed for two whole years,
Took sixty-five [Yankee] ships in her career.

It was early on a summer's day
Captain Semmes he docked in Cherbourg Bay

It was there she met the Yankee Kersearge
With Captain Winslow in her charge

Outside the Three mile limit they fought
'Tween Navy steel and British shot

'Till a shot from the forward pivot they say
Took the Alabama's gear away

The Kearsarge won; the Alabama so brave
Sank to the bottom of a watery grave.

On June nineteenth, eighteen sixty-four,
They sent the Alabama to the ocean floor.

[Omit?]
Then the British did the crewmen save
Roll, Alabama, roll!
From sharing their vessel's watery grave
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Roll, Alabama Roll (Chords)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 06 Jun 05 - 09:11 AM

Good version. Any idea where it comes from? I notice the "omit" - do you know something about that verse that "delegitimizes" it?

Do you know that there _were_ any British in the area who did save crewmen? I know that many French went to the coast to watch the fun from land (could they see three miles?) but hadn't heard this.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Roll, Alabama Roll (Chords)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 06 Jun 05 - 02:36 PM

Most of the crew were indeed saved by a british warship.
Keith.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Roll, Alabama Roll (Chords)
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 06 Jun 05 - 03:01 PM

Correction.
Survivors including Semmes rescued by English yacht, deerhound.


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Subject: Lyr Add: ROLL, ALABAMA ROLL (from Schooner Fare)
From: Rapparee
Date: 06 Jun 05 - 03:03 PM

This is from Schooner Fare's website; the song is on their "Schooner Fare -- Alive!" album. (Sorry, I don't have the chords 'cause I play trumpet.)

ROLL, ALABAMA, ROLL
Trad. Arr. Schooner Fare

We borrowed this old halyard chantey from the collection of the
great Bill Bonyun from Westport Island, Maine, and added a little
Stephen Foster, and a dash of John Jameson. This great sing-a-long
recounts the demise of the British-built Alabama during the
American Civil War at the hands of the Maine-built Kearsarge in the
English Channel.

When the Alabama's keel was laid;
Roll, Alabama, roll.
It was laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.
Down the Mersey ways she rolled then
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

        Oh, Susannah, don't you cry for me;
        I still sail the Alabama with my banjo on my knee.

From the Eastern Isles she sailed forth;
Roll, Alabama, roll.
To destroy the commerce of the North.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.
And many a sailor saw his doom.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
As the Kearsarge hoved into view.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

        Chorus

A ball from the forward pivot that day;
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Shot the Alabama's stern away.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.
Off the three mile limit in sixty-four.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
The Alabama was seen no more.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

        Chorus

Roll, Alabama, roll.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

        Chorus

Off the three mile limit in sixty-four.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
The Alabama was seen no more.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.
And the captain promised to his men
Roll, Alabama, roll.
That like the South, she'd rise again.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

        Chorus
        Chorus

Roll, Alabama, roll.
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Roll, Alabama Roll (Chords)
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 09:55 PM

Chico, you never told us where your version came from.

Colcord, _Songs of American Sailormen_ (1938) gives three stanzas only. Hugill, whose source told him in 1925 that she was the widow of a member of _Alabama's_ crew, offers nine. Doerflinger's shantyman, Dick Maitland, sang a version that was mostly improvised and unrhymed.

Does anyone know anything about the authenticity of Bill Bonyun's version ? He learned a number of shanties in the 1950s (?) from a former Anglo-American seaman named Garfield, I believe, but I don't know if "Roll Alabama, Roll" was one of them.

I don't know of any other "field collected" versions. Does anybody ?


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Subject: RE: ADD Version: Roll, Alabama Roll (Chords)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 04:44 PM

It would be nice to know the source of the lyrics in the first post. Are they historic, or are they the work of a recent songwriter? here's what the Traditional Ballad Index has to say about this song:

    Roll, Alabama, Roll

    DESCRIPTION: The Alabama is built in Birkenhead by Jonathan Laird. After a long career of commerce-raiding, the Kearsarge catches her off Cherbourg and sinks her
    AUTHOR: unknown
    EARLIEST DATE: 1925
    KEYWORDS: shanty battle navy Civilwar
    HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
    May 15, 1862 - Launching of the C.S.S. Alabama
    June 19, 1864 - The Alabama sunk by the U.S.S. Kearsarge
    FOUND IN: US(MA) New Zealand
    REFERENCES (7 citations):
    Doerflinger, pp. 35-37, "The Alabama" (2 texts, 1 tune)
    Colcord, p. 65, "Roll, Alabama, Roll" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Hugill, p. 159, "Roll, Alabama, Roll!" (1 text, 1 tune) [AbEd, pp. 126-127]
    Scott-BoA, pp. 245-247, "Roll, Alabama, Roll" (1 text, 1 tune)
    Darling-NAS, pp. 350-351, "The Alabama" (1 text)
    Silber-CivWar, p. 70, "Roll, Alabama, Roll" (1 text, 1 tune)
    DT, ROLLALAB*

    Roud #4710
    CROSS-REFERENCES:
    cf. "Roll the Cotton Down" (tune)
    Notes: When the Civil War began, the Confederates had neither navy, nor merchant fleet, nor significant shipbuilding capability; all rested in the hands of the North. Facing economic strangulation, the South explored every avenue to build a fleet.
    Early in the war, the British were willing to help the Confederates build a navy. One of the ships built for this purpose was the Alabama, a fast commerce-raider. Built by Jonathan Laird, Ltd. at Birkenhead near Liverpool, the Federals protested her building from first to last, but somehow the papers never quite came through in time. (Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: War Becomes Revolution 1862-1863, Scribners, 1960, pp. 266-267, describes how American Minister to Britain Charles Francis Adams kept bringing new details to the British government about the Alabama. The British government theoretically agreed to try to stop work on the ship, but the local customs inspectors ignored their instructions.)
    After the completion of the hull in 1862, the Alabama sailed for the Azores to pick up arms and her Captain, Raphael Semmes (brother of the Confederate General Paul Semmes, killed at Gettysburg).
    Over the next two years, the Alabama sank a total of 69 Union merchant vessels, formally valued at $6,547,609.
    Although she once ran the blockade to enter the Confederate port at Galveston, the Alabama was generally unable to stop at Confederate ports; when she needed repairs in 1864, she stopped at the French port of Cherbourg. An American got off word of her presence there, and the Kearsarge was waiting when the Alabama sailed. Soon after the Alabama crossed the three mile limit, the Kearsarge moved in; the Confederate ship sank some forty minutes later. Her crew was rescued by a British yacht.
    According to Fletcher Pratt, A Compact History of the United States Nacy, pp. 151-152, there wasn't much difference in actual fighting power between the Alabama and the Kearsarge. But the Kearsarge was a well-drilled ship with properly-trained gunners. Alabama, which constantly had to change bases, could never lay in an adequate supply of powder and shot, so her gunners were much less accurate. And Kearsarge had two very heavy 11-inch guns. As a result, Kearsarge was able to score many more damaging hits and destroy her opponent while taking very little damage.
    The Alabama was a great success, but few ships followed her. The Americans demands for reparation, known as the "Alabama Claims," caused the British to stop building ships for the Confederacy. (In fact the claims covered the damage done by eleven ships; the total bill was $19,021,000, largely due to the Alabama, the Shenandoah, $6,488,320; and the Florida, $3,698,609). The Americans were finally paid some $15.5 million in 1873.
    According to James P. Delgado, Lost Waships: An Archaeological Tour of War at Sea, Checkmark, 2001, p. 122, the wreck of the Alabama was found off Cherbourg in 1984, and some artifacts have been recovered.- RBW
    For a broadside on the same subject see
    LOCSinging, as112570, "The Sinking of the Pirate Alabama," J. Magee (Philadelphia), 1864; also hc00026b, "The Sinking of the Pirate Alabama"; cw103190, "Kearsarge and Alabama"
    attributed to Silas S. Steele, "Tune: 'Teddy the Tiler,' or 'Cannibal Islands.'" - BS
    File: Doe035

    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.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 04:59 PM

I'm not sure whether there was one source for our old friend Bill Bonyun's version of "The Alabama." He was certainly familiar with the three verses in Songs of American Sailormen by Joanna Colcord. On his recording Roll & Go, © 1962, it's actually Frank Warner who leads the song; it's probably Warner's version that Schooner Fare worked from.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: ADD Version: The Alabama (Doerflinger #1)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 05:04 PM

MMario posted the versions from Doerflinger in another thread. for comparison, they should probably also be posted here.

Thread #54759   Message #849770
Posted By: MMario
18-Dec-02 - 03:28 PM
Thread Name: Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman
Subject: Add:The Alabama (1)
THE ALABAMA (1)
(from the singing of Richard Maitland)
(Doerflinger - 'Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman' - pp 35-36)

When the Al-a-bam-a's keel was laid
[Roll, Al-a-bam-a, Roll!]
They laid her keel in Birk-en-head,
[Oh, Roll, Al-a-bam-a, Roll!]

Oh, she was built at Birkenhead,
she was built in the yard of Jonathan Laird.

And down the Mersey she rolled away,
And Britain supplied her with men and guns

And she sailed away in search of a prize,
And when she came to the port of Cherbourg,

It was there she met with the little Kearsarge.
It was there she met the Ke-arsarge.

It was off Cherbourg harbor in April, '65,
That the Alabama went to a timely grave.


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Subject: ADD Version: The Alabama (Doerflinger #2)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 05:05 PM

Thread #54759   Message #849773
Posted By: MMario
18-Dec-02 - 03:29 PM
Thread Name: Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman
Subject: add: The Alabama (2)
THE ALABAMA (2)
(from the singing of Richard Maitland)
(Doerflinger - 'Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman' -pp36-37)

In eighteen hundred and sixty-one,
[Roll Alabama, roll!]
The Alabama's keel was laid,
[And roll, Alabama, roll!]

Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird
At the town of Birkenhead

At first she was called the 'Two Ninety two'
For the merchants of the city of Liverpool

Put up the money to build the ship,
In the hopes of driving the commerce from the sea.

Down the Mersey she sailed one day
To the port of Fayal in the Western Isles.

There she refitted with men and guns,
and sailed across the Western Sea,

With orders to sink, burn and destroy
all ships belonging to the North.

Till one day in the harbor of Cherbourg she laid,
And the little Kearsarge was waiting there.

and the Kearsarge with Winslow was waiting there,
And Winslow challenged them to fight at sea.

Outside the three mile limit they fought (repeat)

Till a shot from the forward pivot that day
Took the Alabama's steering gear away

And at the Kearsarge's mercy she lay
And Semmes escaped on a British yacht.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 05:11 PM

I always like the verse that Sara Grey and the Friends of Fiddlers Green used to sing:

A ball from the forward pivot that day;
Roll, Alabama, roll.
Shot the Alabama's ass away.
Oh, roll, Alabama, roll.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 05:11 PM

What happened to the thread with the old Boer song, Dar Kom die Alibama?
I'm sure it is here somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: JeffB
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 06:14 PM

My version, which is entirely from oral sources, seems to be the English "standard", except for the first verse which I have heard only once. It makes a good finishing verse too. The last verse here is usually - Off the three-mile limit in '65 / the Alabama went to her grave, but I've changed that as the year is wrong. Perhaps I should do something about the claim that she was in Cherbourg to pick up prize money as well.

Let us build the Alabama they said
and she'll be a vessel all men will dread.

Oh the Alabama's keel was laid
in the Atlantic yard of Jonathan Laird.

Down the Merseyway she sailed and then
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men.

To the Western Isles she then set forth
to destroy the commerce of the North.

And to Cherbourg town she came one day
to collect her count of prize money.

But those sailor boys they met their doom
when the Kearsage sailed in view.

For a cannonball that fateful day
shot the Alabama's stern away.

Off the three-mile limit in '64
she sank and never did rise no more.

The Western Isles are the Azores, where Semmes took on water and stores.

Some years ago I came across a digitalised book written by one of the Alabama's officers about her career, which took her as far as the East Indies. I've had a look but can't find it now (no doubt it's still somewhere on the Net; I believe it was done by an Ivy League University) but among many interesting details he mentioned that about a third of her crew were British.

The British Government turned a blind eye to her construction and was generally pro-Confederate because the Union blockade of the southern cotton ports was damaging the valuable English textile industry. During the war the Manchester mills had to import Indian cotton which was much inferior.

In the duel in the Channel the Kearsage enjoyed two distinct advantages. One was that Winslow had prudently fitted her with chain armour which prevented a lot of damage; in fact Semmes later said that if he had known this he would have refused to fight. A second was that the Alabama's explosive ammunition had deteriorated. I saw somewhere a photo of the Kearsage's sternpost, which is preserved somewhere with an unexploded shell embedded in it. Once the Alabama's steering was hit her outside chance dwindled to zero.

I notice that the earliest date of collection is 1925. Would that be Hugill's version?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 06:18 PM

The version given by Duncan Emrich in 'Folklore on the American Land'
1972 is said to come from Dick Maitland but is different from the above version attributed to Maitland. I am informed that Emrich 'edited' some of his texts. FWIW here it is. I recognise the tune as the one I have heard and sung.

When the Alabama's keel was laid
R, A, r
They laid the keel at Birkenhead
Oh, r, A, r.

She was built in the yard of Jonathan Laird
She was built in the yard at Birkenhead

And away down the Mersey she sailed one day
And across to the westward she ploughed her way

'Twas at the island of Fayal
Where she got her guns and crew on board

Then away cross the watery world
To sink, to burn, and to destroy

All the Federal comers that came her way
'Twas in the harbour of Cherbourg one day

There the little Kearsarge she did lay
When Semmes and Winslow made the shore

Winslow challenged Semmes out to sea
He couldn't refuse, there was too many around

Three miles outside of Cherbourg
There the Kearsarge sunk her down below

A rather strange concoction in which shunting of lines seems to have occurred. The lack of rhyme could easily have been remedied.


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Subject: ADD: There Come Alibama (Marais and Miranda)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 07:21 PM

Charley Nobel posted the Marais & Miranda song in another thread, but it probably should also be here. There's also a phonetic post of "Daar Kom Die Alabama", but I won't post that because the spelling is tenuous.

Thread #45493   Message #675356
Posted By: Charley Noble
24-Mar-02 - 10:03 AM
Thread Name: Marais and Miranda Documentary
Subject: ADD: There Come Alibama (Marais and Miranda)
Here's one of their intriguing songs, as folk-processed from the original dock workers song relating to the Confederate raider Alabama in the 1860's.

THERE COME ALIBAMA

(As sung by Joseph & Mirandra Marais Souvenir Album, © 1979 Legend Records Glendale Records, P.O.Box 1941 Glendale, CA 91209 Produced by John Kniest Traditional South African Folksong)

There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea,
There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea;

You'll bring me spice, sugar and rice,
You'll bring me spice, sugar and rice,
You'll bring me malt, pepper and salt,
You'll bring me malt, pepper and salt;

There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea,
There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea;

You'll bring me thyme, ginger and lime,
You'll bring me thyme, ginger and lime;
You'll bring me curry, coffee and tea,
You'll bring me curry, coffee and tea;

There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea,
There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea;

There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea,
There come Alibama,
Alibama over the sea.

The song never made much historical sense to me but was lovely to sing. As a child I was also fond of "Out in the Wide World Kitty" which I assumed was about some feline.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 07:38 PM

I read a book on the life of the Alabama, very interesting.


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Subject: Lyr. Add: Daar Kom die Alibama
From: Q
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 08:43 PM

DAAR KOM DIE ALIBAMA
Woorde: Tradisioneel
Musiek: S. A. Volkswysie; verwerk: Chris Lamprecht

Daar kom die Alibama, die Alibama die kom oor die see.
Daar kom die Alibama, die Alibama die kom oor die see.
Nooi, nooi, die rietkool, nooi, die rietkol is gemaak,
die rietkool is vir my gemaak om daarop te slaap.
Nooi, nooi, die rietkool, nooi, die rietkool is gemaak,
die rietkool is vir my gemaak om daarop te slaap.
Die Alibama, die Alibama, die Alibama kom oor die see.
Die Alibama, die Alibama, die Alibama kom oor die see.

Daar kom die Alibama, die Alibama die kom oor die see.
Daar kom die Alibama, die Alibama die kom oor die see.
Die Alibama, die Alibama, die Alibama kom oor die see.
Die Alibama, die Alabama, die Alibama kom oor die see.

Afrikaans song about the visit of the Alabama to the Cape. Apparently it created quite a stir.

http://esl.ee.sun.ac.za/~lochner/blerkas/woorde/257.txt

Ons Blerkas van Afrikaanse volkmusiek, song 257, with MIDI.
Ons Blerkas

An excellent site, MIDIs for all Afrikaans songs a well as lyrics. No translations on this South African site.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 09:42 PM

With regard to historic accuracy the Alabama was not "fitted with guns and men" in Liverpool., although the song is frequently sung that way. There was a temporary crew shipped to sail her to the Azores (the Western Isles) where another ship joined her with the guns, some Confederate officers and other crew members. Some of the original crew were also recruited for the cruise but not many.

I was always bemused that the African stevedores who put together "THERE COME ALIBAMA" seemed under the impression that the ship was coming to free them. But I'm not sure where I ran across that background info. They certainly were caught up in the general excitement generated by the raider's brief visit.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 10:05 PM

This book review, from Feb. 1903, of Lubbock's ROUND THE HORN,,. (1903) purports that in it Lubbock mentions the "old favourite" chanty, "Roll, Alabama, roll."

http://books.google.com/books?id=X2tIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA206&dq=%22roll,+alabama%22&hl

However, I am unable to locate it in Lubbock's book itself! (?)

In any case, FWIW the date of 1903 trumps The Traditional Ballad Index's "Earliest Date."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Aug 10 - 10:14 PM

Hi, Gibb-
Be mindful that the "earliest date" in the Traditional Ballad Index is the earliest date referenced to in the sources indexed. The Ballad Index does not ordinarily attempt to determine the date of composition of a song.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Les from Hull
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 10:47 AM

JeffB The book written by Semmes (Alabama's captain) is available on the internet


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Les from Hull
Date: 14 Aug 10 - 10:52 AM

Memoirs of service afloat - Admiral Raphael Semmes

(sorry, should have been included above)

Incidently, Semmes makes no mention of any particular shot from the Kearsage doing any significant damage (shot from the forward pivot that day...) only the cumulative shell fire that sank Alabama. He mentions one shot that carried away his CSN ensign, which he quickly replaced


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: JeffB
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 12:43 PM

Thanks Les, I'll enjoy reading that. However, the book I had in mind was not by Semmes but one of his officers. It was over five years ago that I found it so have forgotten a lot of the content but recall one remark he made about the British contingent of the crew, who were apparently a pretty rough and tough lot, saying that they only worked well when given rough treatment. They were contemptuous of anyone who spoke to them decently.

As I remember the writer said that the Alabama's steering was damaged. There are some accounts of the fight on the Net which repeat this. She then broke up under the impact of shelling, and he commended the courage of the ship's surgeon (I think he was Scottish) who was drowned.

Charley Noble's post above jogged my memory and he is correct. The Alabama was called something else (forgotten what it was) when launched, but during a mid-Atlantic commissioning ceremony during which the Confederate flag was raised she was formally named.

While passing through South African waters she captured a small vessel which Semmes used as a tender for a while. The ship and crew were given a huge welcome in Cape Town, but a conversation with a South African convinces me that the African Alabama song above does not refer to the CSS warship but to a coastal trader. No doubt the high regard white south Africans had for the ship made hers a popular name.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 15 Aug 10 - 01:05 PM

JeffB-

"but a conversation with a South African convinces me that the African Alabama song above does not refer to the CSS warship but to a coastal trader."

You're probably right on this. The story of the connection is most likely romantic nonsense, a good story that folks like to repeat, myself included.

I believe the original name of the Alabama was the Sea King when she was launched, not consulting my reference books but it seems correct.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: JeffB
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 07:45 PM

I've found what is probably the book I was talking about above. It's "Recollections of a Naval Life" by John McIntosh Kell, who was Semmes's EO. It is on docsouth.uncv.edu/fpn/kell. NB - no mention of the steering being damaged, so I was mistaken there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 09:48 PM

Perhaps the best information on the CSS Alabama's two visits to South Africa could be found in this book, published in South Africa:
Bradlow, Edna and Frank, 1958, Here Comes the Alabama, Capetown, A. A. Balkema.
Also:
Sinclair, Arthur, 1989, Two Years on the Alabama, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis.

South African Newspaper Accounts:
Transcript of Articles in Various Newspapers and Periodicals Relating to the "Alabama." Microfilm copy of three notebooks belonging to Mr. and Mrs. F. Bradlow, Rondebosch, South Africa.
Gorgas Microforms MICRO-FILM B28. Univerwity Alabama Libraries.

The Alabama made two stops in South Africa, the first at Saldanha Bay, 29 July 1863. In an accident, Simeon W. Cummings, 3rd Asst. Engineer, lost his life there.
The ship next spent six months in the East Indies, destroying seven ships there before returning to Table Bay in South Africa.
At the Cape Town Museum, a battle ensign of the Alabama is preserved, of the design known as the 'Stainless Banner', 67"X114".
It was left ashore before the ship returned to Cherbourg.

A second banner made in South Africa, presented to her by 'ladies of South Africa', is preserved in the Tennessee State Museum.

"Daar Kom Die Alabama" is almost certainly about the raider's visits to South Africa; many newspaper articles printed in South Africa made much of her visits.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 16 Aug 10 - 10:29 PM

While the "Alabama" was in Table Bay, the Cape Town photographer Arthur Green took photographs aboard the ship. These are preserved at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

An interesting book. Dr. Denis Constance-Martin, 1999, Coon Carnival, discusses the minstrels of Cape Town and their local language, "klopse."
The book mentions the "Alabama" sailing into Table Bay 5 Aug. 1863, towing the prize "Sea Bride;" "a huge crowd of excited spectators on Cape Town's Signal Hill gathered to watch the fun and the ever-popular song was immediately created."
The song itself, in Martin's words, "is definitely a Cape Town song; it shows the impact American minstrelsy had there in the 1860s and illustrates how it was reworked into a true creole production."
"The song has two aspects, the first being the simple relation of "there comes the Alabama", but the second verse has some element of social commentary, perhaps alluding to cross-racial sexual liaisons, or with the experience of racial oppression of the Cape creole people.
    Nooi, nooi, die rietkooi nooi
    Die rietkooi is gemaak,
    Die rietkooi is vir my gemaak,
    Om daarop te slap.
    (Miss, miss, the reed bed miss
    The reed bed is made for me
    The reed bed is made for me to sleep on.)

Cape Town's "Coon troupes" parade every January 2nd.
Members and captains are not aware of the origin of the word or the baggage it carries in the United States.

In South Africa, Daar Kom die Alibama is included with other "klopse" songs of the Cape region; it is not related to stevedores. Such references in chantey literature probably are in error.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: JeffB
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 09:34 AM

Well Q, you may well be right and the song is indeed about the CSS ship, but I'm not entirely convinced.

I'm told that the song is still sung (all day long!) during Cape Town's carnival celebration.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 12:06 PM

I will be good for a change and NOT bring up the more recent song about the Alabama's sister ship , the Mississippi - Ask Trayton for that one ! LOL


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Les from Hull
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 12:46 PM

Charley - CSS Shenandoah was formally the Sea King. Alabama was launched very quietly and named 'Enrica' at that time.

The Mississippi wasn't a sister ship of Alabama, she was a riverine/coastal ironclad that was never finished and burnt to prevent capture.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 01:45 PM

Error in my post of 9:48pm.
The Ensign from the Alabama at the Tennessee State Museum probably was made by the seamen aboard the raider.

Checking the Roster of the ship when she was sunk off Cherbourg, there were 22 from the British Isles and 3 from Prussia. Data for a number of crew members not given in the roster on the CSS Alabama Association website.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 02:19 PM

Les-

Thanks for the correction with regard to the Sea King. I shouldn't be so lazy to consult books that are so handy.

I'm with Q with regard to the origin of the song "there comes the Alabama" and no doubt the words and verses changed over time. But the arrival of the Alabama is what inspired the song.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 17 Aug 10 - 02:21 PM

The Journal of George Townley Fullam..., first printed as a supplement to the South Africa Advertiser and Mail, Cape Town, contains interesting details of the prizes taken by the Alabama.
When Capt. Semmes took charge, the Confederate ensign was at the peak, the English St. George's at the fore, and the pennant on the main.
"To all prizes we had captured we hoisted English colours, and exchanged them for Confederate as soon as the boarding officer gained the vessel's deck."

The information about the use of English colors is new to me.
A piece of the journal is on line, google books; it does not include the part about stops at Cape Town.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: fox4zero
Date: 08 Nov 10 - 06:56 PM

In the way of remembrances,I first heard mention of Heer Kom Die Alibama from a young South African girl visiting her cousin, who was a friend of mine. I believe it was about 1944 in the Bronx.
It was then brought to my attention some years later in an article
in American Heritage. The Kearsage gunfire struck the Alabama about
250 times, and the Kearsage did not get hit once.As mentioned, the
Alabama was manned by gunners whose targets had previously been unarmed merchant ships whereas the Kearsage had well-trained and disciplined
gunners.There was no contest.
While not of any academic value, I thought I would cast this into the
thread.
Larry Parish


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 09 Nov 10 - 05:45 AM

A large mural depicting her exploits can be seen at the East bound rest area of Alabama's Interstate 10


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Lighter
Date: 09 Nov 10 - 06:20 AM

It's fascinating to see three different texts of this shanty from one singer - Dick Maitland of New York City (1857-1942). He was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941 and by Richard Doerflinger at around the same time. I believe that the version printed by Emrich is the one Maitland sang for Lomax, but my Emrich book is temporarily invisible.

Doerflinger says (p. 36)that Maitland "sang the first version fairly consistently, but would also make up long semiextemporaneous versions, one of which follows. Rhyme, while preferred, wasn't strictly required. Some shantymen fell back on delayed rhymes or assonance."

I don't know what a "delayed rhyme" is unless he means "extra syllables."

Anyway, M's version II in Doerflinger begins with eight numbered stanzas and concludes with four unnumbered ones. I don't why. Perhaps he sang the numbered stanzas every time but the unnumbered ones only now and then.

D says that M learned to sing "The Alabama" "on the schoolship _Mercury_ in 1870 or 1871." That would make it one of the first shanties he learned. That would also be the earliest posited date.

M was almost 85 when he was recorded.

I believe that the usual revival version was written by somebody in the 1950s. Hermes Nye sang it on "Songs of the Civil War" in 1954 without giving a source.

Colcord's version:

When the Alabama's keel was laid
RAR
They laid her keel at Birkenhead,
ORAR

Oh, she was built in Birkenhead,
Built in the yard of Jonathan Laird.

Away down the Mesrey she rolled one day,
And across the "Western" she ploughed her way.

Colcord notes, "I have never been able to collect more than the fragment which my father used to sing."

It seems not to have been very common. Carpenter seems not to have encountered it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Nov 10 - 06:49 AM

One of the Alabama's guns is on display at Cherbourg's Cite de la Mer Museum.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Lighter
Date: 09 Nov 10 - 08:09 AM

No text is given, but "Roll, Alabama, roll" is mentioned as an "old favourite" sea shanty (along with "We'll roll the old chariot along") in the _Athenaeum_ (London) (Feb. 14, 1903), p. 206.

That seems to be the earliest unquestionable attestation of the shanty's existence.

Colcord published her father's three stanzas in 1924.

The ship was constructed at the shipyard of William and John [not "Jonathan"] Laird & Co. in Birkenhead. Before christening she was referred to by her keel number, "290" (not "292").


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 09 Nov 10 - 01:04 PM

The tune that's usually used for "Roll, Alabama, Roll" seems related to another traditional shanty titled "Roll the Cotton Down," as pointed out by Hugill in SHANTIES OF THE SEVEN SEAS, p. 126.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 10 - 12:24 AM

The Alabama was chartered as a British vessel. After she sank, the British government raised objections with the Union. When the war was over, diplomats from both countries met in Geneva, Switzerland to work out their differences. It was the first international law case ever. The decision was in favor of the U.S. and there is a square in Geneva that is called "Alabama" in honor of the trial.

I can never remember whether it was Monet or Manet who did a painting of people watching the battle between the Alabama and the Kearsarge from the shore. But I know one of them did.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Nov 10 - 09:36 AM

"Over the next two years, the Alabama sank a total of 69 Union merchant vessels, formally valued at $6,547,609."


So how many people lost their lives, murdered in cold blood by the crew of the Alabama?

Or is it politically incorrect to wonder about that?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Lighter
Date: 10 Nov 10 - 10:54 AM

That's an interesting question.

If you restrict "murder" to noncombatants, i.e., civilian passengers and crews, the answer may be none.

International naval practice held that merchant vessels could be seized or destroyed only after the passengers, crew, and ship's papers had been placed in a position of safety. That generally meant they were placed in lifeboats with provisions, or even taken on board the aggressor until she could reach a civilized port.

The use of the submarine in World War I changed that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Nov 10 - 06:29 PM

I think the case was that, far from the British raising objections, the US government sued the UK for reparations because HM government had knowingly allowed a warship to be built for a combatant nation in defiance of international law (Britain supposedly being a neutral country). The British government supported the Confederates because of the valuable cotton trade which made the mill owners of Lancashire very rich.

The case dragged on for years (until about 1893 I think) but the US was eventually awarded $15.5m.

As Lighter says, passengers and crews of merchant ships were removed before the ship was fired. Kell mentions people being brought aboard the Alabama in his book.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Greg F.
Date: 10 Nov 10 - 06:33 PM

Nothin' to do with nothin', but I went to graduate school with a lineal descendant of Raphael Semmes.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 05:28 AM

Recently was looking over this song again.

Lighter wrote,

I believe that the usual revival version was written by somebody in the 1950s. Hermes Nye sang it on "Songs of the Civil War" in 1954 without giving a source.

It seems possible that Nye's version was the one. My guess is that Nye adapted one of Maitland's versions in Doerflinger's book. Most of the verses read as "improved" versions of what Maitland sang off-the-cuff. Nye's album also included "Santa Anna," in a version that is identical to Maitland's and the orthography in Doerflinger's text.

The same lyrics have become standard since then.

If anyone has an on-line link to a sample, I'd like to hear Peter Bellamy and Louis Killen's rendition (recorded in 1971). I am wondering if they were the people to introduce the rubato or slowed down choruses.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 08:57 AM

The Bill Bonyun Heirloom recording titled "The Civil War" was produced in 1961. Folk song collector and singer Frank Warner led the song and credits his source as The Harris Collection, Brown University. According to the track notes"

"Roll Alabama Roll" is a Civil War variant of the Negro roustabout shanty "Roll the Cotton Down. It is a beautifully concise life story of the great Confederate raider.

Here are the lyrics as included with the recording:

When the Alabama's keel was laid --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
It was laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

'Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
'Twas laid in the town of Birkenhead --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

Down the Mersey ways she rolled then --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
Liverpool fitted her with guns and men --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

From the Western Isles she sailed forth --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
To destroy the commerce of the North --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

To Cherbourg port she sailed one day --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
To take her count of prize money --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

Many a sailor lad saw his doom --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
When the Kearsarge hoved into view --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

A ball from the forward pivot that day --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
Shot the Alabama's stern away --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

Off the three-mile limit in sixty-four --
Roll, Alabama, roll!
The Alabama went to her grave --
Roll, Alabama, roll!

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 04:09 PM

Thanks, Charley, that's very interesting. Warner's lyrics you posted are an exact match to Nye's from the 1954 album. Perhaps Nye learned it from Warner? Incidentally, what exactly is in the Harris Collection (he wonders aloud...)? Some chanteys?

On the other hand -- any takers on my idea that Nye (or another) spruced up Maitland's verses? Sure, the story would be fairly consistent, but also there seems IMO a good correlation between the verses in the Maitland and Nye/Warner versions, whereas the latter takes the form of what would be ideally intended (!) by the former if it were thought out.

***

On another note, I was kindly directed to a way to hear Bellamy/Killen's recording of 1971. It has the odd (from a working chanty perspective) patter and s l o w down style. That style was not present on the Critic's Group recording from just a year earlier. Swan Arcade's recording from 1972 has a slight bit of this feature, but not really -- it is in a chanty style. This does not prove that Bellamy/Killen started it, but I'd think their version was influential.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Dave Earl
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 04:36 PM

Yes Charley,

That's the version I've been singing for I don't know how many years,

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 04:56 PM

I'll have to transcribe the version I heard Sarah Gray, Owen McBride and Friends of Fiddlers Green sing around 1968 when they did a concert at our folk club in East Lansing, Michigan; it's on an old cassette tape.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 05:10 PM

Charley,
I would be interested to know whether the folks you last mentioned had presented the song "as a chantey." The Nye (1954) and Warner (1961) renditions seem to be presented as "a song of the Civil War" -- which is of course not mutually exclusive, but does make some difference in who might sing / consume their music. When, I wonder, did people first start re-singing it in the framework as a chantey? Critic's Group chantey form came in 1970.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 05:11 PM

Hold on to your gorges, gentlemen.

The Harris Collection is described on BU's website as follows:

"The Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays is composed of approximately 250,000 volumes of American and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music dating from 1609 to the present day. It is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in any research library. The works of most well-known (and many thousands of little-known) American and Canadian poets and playwrights, from the 18th century to the present day, are held comprehensively. There are significant holdings of early American literature, hymnals, songsters, little magazines, contemporary fine printing, extensive collections on Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe, women's writings, gay and lesbian literature, modern first editions, Yiddish-American literature, and French-Canadian literature. The Collection is fully cataloged, with records available in Josiah, the Library's online catalog.. Includes periodicals, broadsides, recordings, films, electronic resources, manuscripts, prints and photographs."

No mention of shanty manuscripts or recordings. Except:

"Songs of the Civil War [electronic resource]...N[ew] Y[ork]
C[ity] : Folkways Records, [1960]."

Sung by Hermes Nye.

Unfortunately typical. Or am I being "too cynical"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 05:54 PM

So Lighter,

May I interest you in my "Nye spruced up Maitland" theory? :)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 06:01 PM

Works for me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 09:15 PM

Interesting. I'll have to listen to the record again but my impression was that it was done in shanty format.

Frank Warner, of course, was a collector of ballads and other traditional songs, and was well known for presenting the songs as closely as he could in the way his informants presented them. I've never run across Hermes Nye before. What do we actually know about him?

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 02 Mar 12 - 11:37 PM

Liner notes for Nye's album can be downloaded here:

http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=930

He wasn't a scholar or anything like that. He probably just worked up versions from wherever he could find them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Mar 12 - 11:50 AM

Gibb-

There's more to this story about who Hermes Nye was, I'm convinced. In my Google searches there seems to be some association with Richard Dyer-Bennet, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn he also was associated with Frank Warner, in addition to Maitland. When it comes to creative work, no one really functions in a vacuum.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 03 Mar 12 - 08:23 PM

But no matter how you slice it, the familiar "lyrics look like a 1950s pastiche.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 04 Mar 12 - 03:30 PM

Lyrics rom the Smithsonian Folkways liner notes (mentioned above)

Roll Alabama Roll

When the Alabama's keel was laid,
Roll, Alabama, roll.
'Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird,
Roll, Alabama, roll.
"Twas laid in the yard of Jonathan Laird,
Roll, Alabama, roll.
'Twas laid in the town of Birkenhead,
Roll, Alabama, roll.
-------------------
Down the Mersey ways she rolled then,
Liverpool filled her with guns and men.

From the Western Isles she sailed forth,
To destroy the commerce of the North.

To Cherbourg port she sailed one day,
To take her count of prize money.

Many a sailor lad he saw his doom,
When the Ke-arsarge it hove in view.

Till a ball from the forward pivot that day
Shot the Alabama's stern away.

Off the three mile limit in '65
The Alabama went to her grave.

The notes include clippings from the papers of the times, contemporary illustrations, and elucidation. Very interesting, an album worth having.

Ballads of the Civil War, sung by Hermes Nye with Guitar." FP5004, Folkways. 1954, 21 songs, all lyrics in liner.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 04 Mar 12 - 03:46 PM

Brief note on Hermes Nye, from
http://neglectedbooks.com/?p=193

From a review of "Fortune Is a Woman," a novel of Nye's.

"Hermes Nye was born in Chicago, but became a legendary East Texas character as a lawyer, folksinger, folklorist, novelist, humorist and local liberal activist. Nye clearly never took anything, including himself, too seriously. When, in the midst of the 1960s folk boom, he published a guide to folk songs, he gave it a triply-redundant title that included his own punchline: How to be a folksinger; How to sing and present folksongs; or, The folksinger's guide; or, Eggs I have laid."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Peter C
Date: 04 Mar 12 - 04:14 PM

I have a great EP 45 rpm of the Tom Topping Band doing this song, I think on 'Folk on Two' for an event perhaps at Liverpool/Birkenhead long before I was born! I will make a MP3 of it when I have a moment


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Mar 12 - 04:48 PM

The main reason I accepted this as a chantey/shanty when I first heard it is the repeated single burden, "Roll, Alabama, Roll," which seems to match the pattern of other chanteys and similar work songs, whether the burden is "Go down, ye blood-red roses, go down," or "Roll the woodpile down" or whatever.

And yes, I know you get repeated single burdens in non-worksongs as well, since they work well with any call-and-response song. And of course you get burdens of two alternating lines in chanteys as well, as with "Away, you rolling river/.../Across the wide Missouri."

But it's my impression that I've heard a far higher proportion of single-line burdens in chanteys and other work songs than in other ballads, lyrics, and other traditional songs.

--Nonie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 04 Mar 12 - 07:45 PM

Just to add to the historiography of this song -- though not adding much info: Here's another source that mentions it, which I didn't have in my notes earlier and I don't think has been noted around here:

Dawson, Alec John. 1907. _The Genteel A.B._ London: E. Grant Richards.

Dawson's novel mentions "Roll, Alabama, Roll" by title only, along with the titles of several other chanties and the lyrics of some. The funny thing is that all of the lyrics he gives match Masefield's collection of 1906, verbatim. The way he works in the chanties is slightly off, as if he wasn't terribly familiar with them.

The interesting thing is that every chanty he mentions was present in Masefield's book (he even uses idiosyncratic titles of Masefield) EXCEPT for "RAR".

If Dawson's knowledge was only text based, and the only source we've seen to mention RAR up to that point is the 1903 review in the Atheneum (of Bullen's book), was there another pre-1907 publication out there?

On the other hand, Dawson evidently made a couple voyages as a merchant sailor. Based on his Wikipedia article, I'd guess those occurred in the late 1880s, and included voyages to Australia. So it seems he probably would have had some familiarity with practical chanties, and for whatever reason elected to use Masefield's info when he wrote. RAR may have been one song in particular that he remembered from personal experience.

The Wikipedia article mentions that Dawson also once wrote reviews from The Atheneum. There seems to me a good chance that he was the anonymous reviewer of Bullen's book, who lamented it did not mention RAR -- perhaps a pet favourite?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 05 Mar 12 - 02:19 PM

From the Athenaeum, 1903, p. 206, a brief cut reproduced of the page, so incomplete reference:

".....open book for all to read and understand, it contains many chanties, but seagoing readers will miss such old favourites as "Roll, Alabama, Roll," and "We'll Roll the Old Chariot Along." The work may be cordially recommended."

Google Books, see Gibb Sahib link of this fragment of a review of Lubbock's book, 13 Aug 10.

Others mention that this was a Civil War time song, but I have found no citations.
Colcord suggested that the song was based on "Roll the Cotton Down."

R. B. Nicol published a broadside in 1864, "The Fate of the Pirate Alabama," with the tune "The Heights of Alma" (Copy at American Memory, Gibson Bros. Printers, Washington, D. C.). No similarity in text.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Mar 12 - 07:53 PM

Gibb-

"Dawson's novel mentions "Roll, Alabama, Roll" by title only, along with the titles of several other chanties and the lyrics of some. The funny thing is that all of the lyrics he gives match Masefield's collection of 1906, verbatim. The way he works in the chanties is slightly off, as if he wasn't terribly familiar with them. "

Are you suggesting that "Roll Alabama Roll" can be found in Masefield's Sailor's Garland, 1906? If so I can't find it there among the traditional shanties.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 05 Mar 12 - 08:40 PM

Charley,

Read the next line in my post! :)

In short, no.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 02:31 PM

The old hymn "Roll, Jordan, Roll" pops into my mind but I can see no connection other than similarity of title form.

From Ballanta-(Taylor), St. Helena Island spirituals-
Chorus:
Roll, Jerdon, roll
Roll, Jerdon, roll
My Soul arise in heben Lawd
To hear sweet Jerdon roll.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 02:34 PM

Well, Alabama and the Jordan River are both geographical locations.

And why would you want the ship Alabama to "roll"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Roll, Alabama Roll
From: Q
Date: 06 Mar 12 - 02:40 PM

"I guess I'll just be rollin' along..."


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