Johnny Come Down to Hilo

Capstan Shanty


This is not a traditional arrangement, but it is the way Bounding Main performs it.

Male:  Ain’t seen the like since I’ve been born,
Female:  An Arkansas farmer with his sea boots on. (Chorus)

ALL Johnny come down to Hilo, poor old man.
MEN So wake her!
WOMEN Wake her!
MEN shake her!
WOMEN Shake her!
ALL wake that gal with the blue dress on.
WOMEN Johnny come down to Hilo,
ALL poor old man.

Male:  I got a gal across the sea,
Female:  She’s a ‘Badian beauty and she says to me. (Chorus)

Male:  Sally’s in the garden picking’ peas,
Female:  Hair on her head hanging down to her knees. (Chorus)

Male:  My wife died down in Tennessee,
Female:  They sent her jawbone back to me. (Chorus)

Male:  I set that jawbone on the fence,
Female:  And I ain’t heard nothing but the jawbone since. (Chorus)

Male:  So hand me down my riding cane,
Female:  I’m off to see Miss Sarah Jane! (Chorus)


image of album cover for Bounding Main Lost at Sea - click for more info about the album

Song Notes

Hugill suggests that the tune to this song has Irish origins with the text being a pastiche of Negro cotton-screwing shanties and snatches of other shanties and landsmen’s songs.  He also states that it is a capstan shanty which might suggest that the song has more verses that are unrecorded and lost, since winding up the anchor chain took hours.

Badian beauty
Badian Island is a contemporary vacation spot in the Philippine island chain.