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Blow Boys Blow - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

This is one of at least three major versions of this sea shanty. This version focuses on the China tea trade - hence the line, "How do you know she's a yankee clipper?" (Clippers were the extremely fast sailing ships that raced each other to bring tea back from China). In fact, the song is sometimes called, 'the Yankee Clipper'. There is a good recording of it with that title by Show of Hands on an obscure album called, 'A Feast of Folk - 16 Evergreen Favourites'. Other versions of the song are about the slave trade and the North American Packet (mail) trade respectively.

What I find fascinating about all of the versions of this song is the small (or big) changes. So, for example, even within the 'tea clipper' variants of the song you'll find that sometimes the mate is "Santander James" and sometimes he's "a bowery tough that's never sober." Incidentally, I don't know what the real Santander James was like, but he must have upset somebody pretty badly!

I imagine that the lyrics of the song grew and were adapted naturally as they were passed around from sailor to sailor. My version is really a compendium of my own favourite verses from the tea clipper version of the song.

If you're interested, here are one set of lyrics to the slave trade version of the song. And Here is another set. And here's a mixed up version in which she's become a Bristol clipper, though goodness knows what she was doing on the Congo river in that case...

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Chords

Capo at 4th Fret

   C                              F

A Yankee ship came down the river.

C                 G7

Blow boys, blow.

   C                                          F

A Yankee ship came with a Yankee skipper.

C        G7               C
Blow, bully boys, blow.

Lyrics

A yankee ship came down the river.

Blow, boys, blow!

A yankee ship with a yankee skipper.

Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

And how do you know that she's a yankee clipper? 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Her masts and yards they shine like silver. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

And who do you think is the captain of her? 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Oh, it's Bully Haines, th' hoodlum scoffer. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

And who do you think is the mate aboard her? 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Santander James is the mate aboard her. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

Santander James, he loves us sailors. 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Yes he does, like hell and blazes. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

Santander James, he's a rocket from hell boys. 
Blow, boys, blow! 
He'll ride you down as you ride the spanker. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

Blow, boys, blow - the sun's drawing water. 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Three cheers for the cook and one for his daugher. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

Oh, blow ye winds. I long to hear you. 
Blow, boys, blow! 
Oh, blow ye winds. I long to hear you. 
Blow, bully boys, blow!

 

Traditional, arranged by Peter Webster.

Other English Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs


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