Come Along Down Come along down, buddy; come along down, big boy Come along down, buddy; come along down, big boy Come along down, buddy; come along down, big boy Drive 'em down, buddy; drive 'em down, buddy That's the blow, buddy, makes him go, big boy That's the blow, buddy, makes him go, big boy That's the blow, buddy, makes him go, big boy All day long, buddy, all day long, buddy Sally got great long bangs, hangs was down, buddy Sally got great long bangs, hangs was down, buddy Sally got great long bangs, hangs was down, buddy Who gonna curl them bangs, after I'm gone, buddy? One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy Drive 'em down, buddy; drive 'em down, buddy One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy One more time, buddy; one more time, big boy That's all right, buddy; that's all right, buddy Sit down! Sit down one time. Here's a "horsing chant" from the album Fair Winds and a Following Sea by The Boarding Party, Folk-Legacy Records, FSI-109, 1987. From the album liner notes: "Between the devil and the deep blue sea" you'll often find...oakum. For at least 500 years, this mixture of tar and old bits of frayed or unraveled rope has been a common material used in caulking the seams of sailing vessels, with the term "oakum" evolved from a 1,000-plus-year-old Anglo-Saxon word, aecumbe, that once referred to the "off-combings" of flax. "The seam known as 'the devil,' '' says Stan Hugill, "was one between the sheer strake and the upper deck beneath the bulwark. It was in an awkward position, in which the caulker had to crawl between the deadeyes and lanyards of the rigging, hence the expression, 'between the devil and the deep blue sea!" " Hugill also n otes that "the French have many songs about their 'calfats' (caulkers), whereas the Anglo-American nautical scene omits them entirely. Therefore this American 'horsing chant' is a great find for the collectors." It came from the singing of John Mantley, a black man born in 1901, who learned and used the song when he took up the job at Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., at the age of 17. Horsing was a two-man task (and about the best paying work available for blacks in the Norfolk area at the time, paying up to $2.75 a day). One fellow would hold a tool called a "horsing iron" against the seam being work ed on, while another struck it with a heavy, oaken mallet called a "beetle" and set the pace for both of them with songs such as this one. The quest for this song began with a tip from Don Rouse, who plays wonderful cl arinet in Washington's Sunshine Skiffle Band and who knew about our water-song interests because Jonathan play jig (Pusser's rum, not water) in the same group. That led to folk lorist Glenn Hinson, who had come upon the song while gathering material for a record of Vir ginia worksongs being produced for the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College in Ferr um, Va. The album didn't even exist yet, but Institute director Roddy Moore graciously sent us a copy of Glenn's field recording, made right at Colonna's. Working together in rhythm was just as important for horsing as it was to many of the jobs aboard the great ships of the age of sail. "With that singing," says Mantley in Glenn's wonderful liner notes (nominated for a Grammy in 1984 for 'best historical booklet'), "yo u keep the group together, keep your mind together. It's what they say, it's soothing to the ear , very soothing. And you working hard, and you work long, this fella down there singing - if you jus t caulking, he there horsing, but it makes you work. It makes you kind of hit on, you know." Even more telling is a story recounted by Lee Wynn, a long-time worker at Colon na's who also backed up Mantley's song. As Wynn recalls it, the men were singing whil e caulking the seams on a barge, when the barge's captain happened by. "The fellas were singing and horsing," says Wynn, "and he thought, I guess, that they were g oofing off, 'cause he up to the offices there and told Mr. Colonna, said, 'Mr. C olonna, you go down there and stop them fellas from singing. I'm not paying for them singing, I'm paying them for caulking.' " Colonna knew what would happen and protested, but to no avail. "After a while," says Wynn, "the fella came 'round there, and didn't hear the mallets going ... and his boat looked like was getting behind t He went up to the office running and told Mr. Colonna, 'Please, Mr. Colonna, go there and tell the fellas to sing some more ... if they don't sing, they don't work.' " Colonna passed the word, "so the fellas started singing and horsing, and looked like the man was kind of happy, he went back up on deck. Came back down there and the fella was singing our praise; I overlooked and he was patting his feet t o it. So I guess he was satisfied with the way them fellas was working." Horsing chants like this one are rarely, if ever, heard today, alas. When Mantle y moved to New York in 1920, he found that most of the caulking was being done by first-generation European immigrants who did not sing to carry on their work' s rhythm. Two decades later he returned to Norfolk, only to see that the beetle and iron h ad been largely replaced by the welder's torch on steel hulls. The song he sang for Glenn Hinson in 1980 was one he had not thought of in 60 years, yet it flowed fo rth, Glenn says, "as if the intervening time was but weeks." RX
Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!