Folk Song and Performance Style: “Haul Away Joe”

I was approached recently by a friend in Texas with a request for the words to an old shanty song, “Haul Away Joe”.  Here’s what I sent him — I hope it will interest a few others as well:


Let me do you one better.  That old shanty, also known as “Haul Away My Rosy”, has been one of my favorites since 1958.  Therein lies a story:

In 1958, I found an Lp of the Norman Luboff Choir doing sea songs.  I was 17 at the time and was beginning to explore American and other folk songs, many of whose melodies I though were wonderful, along with the great stories that the songs told.  Now, the choir did a great job with that song and many others, as a choir.  But that’s only the beginning of the story.

I had a “crazy uncle” who lived North of us in Berkeley and taught bio-chemistry at Cal.   He and his wife came to visit us, and I managed to drag out this LP to play for him.

So my uncle leaned back and remarked, “Yes it’s a nice song.  I wonder how it would sound if a sailor sang it . . . ?”   That annoyed me, no end.  Here I had played a beautiful folk song for him but he wasn’t that impressed with this magnificent choir.  His remark nagged at me for for several weeks . . . I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  Finally, I visited our local library at UCSB and spoke with the librarian (remember, no Internet, no Google!).  The librarian mentioned she had heard the the Library Of Congress might have some recordings of sea shanties.  I wrote them and found that, for the sum of $3.98 + shipping, I could buy an Lp of collected folk songs including sea shanties.  So I became the proud owner of the bright red vinyl Lp AAFS-L2, which included Haul Away My Rosy by J.M. “Sailor Dad” Hunt of Marion, VA, recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941.

"Sailor Dad" Hunt

"Sailor Dad" Hunt

Of course, there was a world of difference!  So here is the song, done as a sailor would sing it, except that it would be sung more slowly while they were hauling the topsails.  Do me a favor and sing it to the credit of “Sailor Dad”.

Click here for song:  HaulAwayMyRosy

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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4 Responses to Folk Song and Performance Style: “Haul Away Joe”

  1. will spires says:

    Hadn’t seen this page before, Peter. Another chunk of my remaining years accounted for. Cheers, Will Spires

  2. So wonderful to see Pete’s rantings and ravings again! HUZZAH, dear Peter Feldmann!

  3. Pingback: Homepage

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