Songs from Canal Days
The Songs: The songs on this recording evoke the feeling of life and times during
canal days including two traditional songs that were sung by workers along the
canal, two songs about the
Here are brief mp3 cuts from some of the songs on the CD to give an idea of the sound.
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The Performances: Bill and Linda sing these songs accompanying themselves on mountain dulcimers, guitars, recorders, autoharp, banjo, banjo-guitar, bass guitar, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, jug, and more. Lyrics are included for all of the songs. Written versions of the songs are also available in Linda’s Songs from Canal Days for the Mountain Dulcimer and from Bill’s Dulci-More Public Domain Songbook.
To order: Send check or money order for $17.00 per CD ($15.00 for CD plus $2.00 for shipping/handling) to Bill or Linda. While we encourage folks to buy directly from the artists (in person or by mail order), we do understand that it is good to have the convenience of ordering by credit card, and we do not have our own secure server and/or arrangements with credit card companies. Therefore, for your convenience, our CDs are also available for online credit card orders from CDBaby.com and from Amazon.com Use the provided links or go to the sites on your own and use the search features to find our CDs.
Background of the CD: At various
dulcimer and folk festivals, Bill and Linda had been singing around campfires,
during workshops, and in concerts together for several years before starting
this recording. They drew from similar sources for different arrangements of
many songs and found ways to make them work together, but they didn’t have any
of the material on this recording in their repertoires. Each was approached
separately during Dulcimer Days at
Linda Sigismondi's interest in
folk music began with singing and playing guitar around the campfire at Girl
Scout camp, and she has continued since, adding mountain dulcimer to her
repertoire in the early 1980’s. Linda is the founder and leader of the Banks of
the Ohio Dulcimer Club which performs in southeastern
Songs from Canal Days
1 The Old Canal
2 A Canal Dance
3 The Old Skipper
5 It’s Pleasant to Run in Full Moon 1:23
6 Canal Boat Wedding
7 The Er-i-e Canal
9 In the Good Old Summertime
10 Little Sally Waters
11 The Clever Skipper
14 Get That Boat 2:31
15 The Mules Ran Off
16 Last Trip in the Fall
17 That Old Towpath
Vocal -- All Tracks 12 String Guitar -- 14, 15
6 String Guitar -- 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 16
Autoharp -- 4, 17 Banjo -- 7
Banjo Guitar -- 2, 11, 15 Bass Guitar -- 10, 17
Dulcimette -- 3 Hammered Dulcimer -- 15
High and Low Bowed Psaltery -- 9
Jug -- 2, 15 Kazoo -- 15 Spoons -- 15
Alto Recorder -- 1, 5, 12, 15 Sopranino Recorder -- 1, 4
Soprano Recorder -- 12 Tenor Recorder -- 4, 9, 13, 15, 16
Vocal -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
6 String Guitar -- 2, 9, 12, 13, 16
Dulcimette -- 6 Bass Guitar -- 7, 8
Clogging -- 2 Kazoo -- 15 Shakes -- 15
Kazoo -- 15
This song is to the tune "Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane." Pearl Nye’s lyrics are detailed descriptions and measurements of the canal, canal boats, and the locks. Below are 3 of the 78 verses he wrote for this song.
There's a little
silver ribbon runs across the
'Tis the dearest place of all this earth to me,
For upon its placid surface I was born some years ago,
And its beauty, grandeur, always do I see.
While its side cuts they are many, many, Pal;
And where e'er we went we took along our Home, Sweet Home, you know,
In those balmy days upon the old canal.
There's naught in all creation that to this can compare,
Good times, rounds of pleasure were our lot, dear Pal.
No other people e'er were known to have such times as we,
In those balmy days upon the old canal.
The locks were so majestic, vine-clad, overhanging trees;
Moss and flowers in profusion everywhere.
The song of laughing water rippling, and the tumble roar,
Nature smiling, everything without a care.
Birds would join in chorus, katydids and crickets, too.
Whippoorwills, owls, frogs, their parts would play, dear Pal.
The fish in schools would jump and keep our hooks so bright and nice.
It was great to be upon the old canal.
The locks were fifteen in the clear and ninety foot in length,
Six to twelve foot lift; you'll find this all along.
The boats were the most beautiful, fairy-like you know;
How they'd blend and serenade in sweetest song.
Our boats, fourteen by eighty feet and eighty tons their load.
No people had such times as we, dear Pal.
Our fairy palaces were so charming everywhere we went,
In those matchless days upon the old canal.
A Canal Dance
This song is set to the tune "Little Brown Jug." These lyrics by Pearl Nye describe one of the social events that would occur when the canal boat docked in a town for the night. The canalers would set up a little dance band and townfolk would come to the canal for entertainment.
One night in
On the weightlock platform we did prance,
It was ice cream, cake, oh, what a time!
In a little while the sun did shine.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh, what fun!
We had that night, yes, everyone.
The mules would winnow, kick, and prance.
They tried so hard to join our dance.
Dear Dad thought he was young again,
So his partner grabbed and did he spin!
Till he hit a nail and took a fall,
Yes, and how we laughed, oh, one and all!
Some would clog, others buck and wing,
But the old square dance beat anything;
Yes it made you feel so young and gay,
And after all, it was just play, play.
At the lockhouse, how the cats would yell!
The dogs would bark, mules throw a spell;
How the chickens cackled and would crow,
Was better than Mr. Barnum's show!
Well, I'm up in years, yet young, young, young,
But a better life could never come;
Let others do as they choose, dear pal,
But I will stay on the old canal.
The Old Skipper
This song is to the tune of "Whiskey Waltz." Pearl Nye’s lyrics in this song tell a little about the type of goods that were transported on the canal.
I'm an old canal boat skipper with black snake in hand,
So fare you well, darling, my mules will not stand.
The line's on the
I love the old towpath, best place I have found.
I've been on the lakes and the rivers, oh, boy,
But my dear Silver Ribbon is the place I enjoy.
'Tis a place oh so matchless, each day new things born,
And I love to boat wheat and the big yellow corn.
There's tanbark and hoop poles, wet goods, merchandise,
Clay, coal, brick and lumber, cordwood, stone, and ice.
Yes, all that was needed, we boated, dear Pal,
Best time of our lives we had on the canal.
I will not be a rover, for I love my boat,
I am happy, contented, yet work, dream and float.
My mules are not hungry; they're lively and gay.
The plank is pulled in; we are off on our way.
This Nye song
describes the route of the
We're going south tomorrow, Dear,
But oh, what times and fun,
We'll have en
'Tis a grand and glorious run.
Yes, for a day or two,
She's a romping gay old town,
For there's much that's strange and new.
But we'll run along together, Dear, how happy we will be,
On our little
There's many bright historic spots,
That often give you thrills,
But you'll wonder all along,
Shipyards, warehouses, mills.
Bolivar's historic fame,
Will stir your very soul.
Zoar, Zoar loves the canal,
Women, children did much work;
Baskets, buckets, anything,
Yes, they helped remove the dirt.
Lock Seventeen and Old Blue Hole,
You will ne'er forget these views.
Past Roscoe, interesting, true,
You will often speak of them,
And the world will seem like new.
Sights and things you'll ne'er forget,
And the scenery ever new.
At Baltimore and Basil,
Carroll, Lockville, so gay,
Oh, of them there's much to say.
Lockbourne's big distillery,
Circleville, so gay and cute,
You will love to see again.
Oh, yes, a real canal town;
'Tis no joke we always stop,
Though we're headed up or down.
In Crooked Creek at Waverly,
Also her lazy slip,
At the big distillery,
Most turtles of the trip.
At Sunfish Creek, the largest spring,
In all the
You'll praise and oft relate.
The largest vine that's in the world,
Is found near in these parts.
A sycamore at Lucasville,
So large, it jars the heart.
Katydids and locusts, crickets,
Birds, oh, all serenade,
Then who should be afraid?
So we'll enjoy it all along,
And what things you will behold!
The canal is so entrancing,
'Tis a life that ne'er grows old.
This map shows the
route of the
Most of the songs on this recording have their origins along the 308 miles of this silver ribbon. It was constructed between 1825 and 1832, reached its height by 1850, and declined until its close in 1913. A trip along its entire length in the 1830s took 4 days, much faster than road travel in those days.
Feeder canals connected other areas with the Ohio and Erie Canal including the one into Columbus shown on this map and the Sandy and Beaver Canal to the Ohio River (running near Bill’s home in Columbiana County which included Lusk’s Lock shown on the front cover and the partially restored lock in Beaver Creek State Park shown in some other pictures).
The 363 mile
It’s Pleasant to Run in Full Moon
This Pearl Nye song uses the music from “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon” in a melody that most folks will recognize.
It’s pleasant to run in full moon;
When it happens to be month of June;
All’s balmy and light, lazy waters so bright,
And the boat sets as though she would spoon.
Canal Boat Wedding
This is a song by Pearl Nye that describes another aspect of life on the canal -- love and marriage. As with many activities on the canal, the wedding is accompanied by music and dance.
In a deck boat white and cozy
Down the level a few miles,
There lives a girl that I dearly love,
With beautiful face and smile.
Her cheeks are like the red, red rose,
And her eyes are a lovely brown,
Her hair is long and beautiful,
I'll meet her when the sun goes down.
And, oh, how I love, pretty little Mary my canal boat fairy,
Oh! my turtle dove, I'll meet her when the sun goes down.
Her father is a jolly chap
And is glad to see me come.
He's a skipper of the old line type,
And of course I'm right at home.
We have refreshments, eat a bite,
And then we're off for a spell;
The flowers on the old towpath,
Whose beauty we can never tell.
The canalers smile and greet us,
And of course we do the same,
For they see and know this long time,
There's going to be a change.
When Monday comes we'll take a walk
Until the parson we have found,
Then to our boat we'll ride or float
And be married when the sun goes down.
Then dancing in the "stern midship",
Oh, come all and join the fun.
There will be song and music, feasting, yes,
Enough for everyone.
For a gay time we do expect,
Yes, the canalers all from town,
To see the "stern" and "bowline" "tied",
We'll be married when the sun goes down.
This song and the
next are about events on the
We were forty
Forget it I never shall.
What a terrible storm we had one night
Oh, the E-ri-e was a-rising, and the gin was a getting low,
And I scarcely think we're gonna get a little drink,
Till we get to
We were loaded down with barley,
We were chock full up with rye,
And the captain he looked down on me
With his gol-darn wicked eye.
Well the captain, he came on the deck
With a spyglass in his hand,
And the fog it was so 'tarnal thick
That he could not spy the land.
We were two
days out from
The vessel struck a shoal,
And we like to all been foundered on
A chunk o'
We hollered to the captain
On the towpath treadin' dirt,
He jumped on board and stopped the leak
With his old red flannel shirt.
The cook she was a grand old gal,
She wore a ragged dress,
We hoisted her upon the pole
As a signal of distress.
The wind began to whistle,
And the waves began to roll,
And we had to reef our royals
On that raging old canal.
When we got to
The off-mule he was dead,
And the nigh mule got blind staggers,
And we cracked him on the head.
The captain he got married,
The cook she went to jail,
And I'm the only son of a gun
That's left to tell the tale.
This is another traditional
song about work on the
I've got a mule and her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
Fifteen miles on
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lumber, coal and hay,
And every inch of the way we know,
Low bridge, everybody down!
Low bridge, for we're coming to a town!
And you'll always know your neighbor,
You'll always know your pal,
If you've ever navigated on the
We'd better look around for a job, old gal,
You bet your life I wouldn't part with Sal,
Giddap there gal, we've passed that lock,
One more trip and then we'll go,
Right back home to Buffalo-oh!
I don't want to call when I want my Sal,
Fifteen years on
She trots from her stall like a good old gal,
Fifteen miles on
I eat my meals with Sal each day,
I eat beef and she eats hay,
She ain't so slow if you want to know,
She put the "Buff" in Buffalo-oh!
In the Good Old Summertime
Pearl Nye wrote many short, one verse, songs about the canal using popular melodies such as "In the Good Old Summertime."
On the towpath it is fine, in the good old summertime.
Running wild among the flowers, keeping up the line.
Our work is play, the line-deck high, barefoot in sun tan we shine.
Oh, tell me where's a better place, In the good old summertime.
Little Sally Waters
“Little Sally Walker" is a children's game song about love and marriage. Pearl Nye places the lovers on the canal with a canal boat as their palace.
Little Sally Waters was a fine young gal,
She met, fell in love with the skipper on the canal.
All things went well till one day her father said,
"I'd rather see you buried than to this canaler wed."
She asked for the reason why he turned so cold,
Toward her true lover, so manly, kind and bold.
"That life is too romantic and for you I fear,
That you will soon regret it if you seek his love to share."
Little Sally Waters sitting in the sun,
Weeping, crying, for her skipper to come.
Rise, Sally, rise, wipe your eyes now with your frock,
Your little cappy's billed for here and at this port will dock.
Oh, when he arrived, she quickly told him all,
Her father would ask him on her no more to call.
She said, "If you love me, I will go with you,
And prove to all that we can live a life most noble, too."
He quickly consented and to the parson went,
They married, so happy, a pleasant life well spent.
Like two little birds, they sing and float along,
And Sally often chuckles while they sing this little song.
Yes, they are so happy in the world their own,
A canal boat, the palace, master's home, sweet home.
All things are this to the life of golden dreams,
And next there to that heavenly land of beautiful scenes.
Whatever may come, their hearts are full of joy,
There's flowers about them no matter where they go.
They live for each other, one, and drift along,
And how they smile and chuckle when they sing this little song.
The Clever Skipper
This is a humorous song that Nye learned from his parents.
There was a clever
Who had a lovely woman, and a tailor she loved well.
She was always pert to meet him – so listen what I say.
She was walking up
Who but the tailor did she chance for to meet?
Tum a rally tally dally! Tum a rally tally day!
They wined, dined, and danced. It was late by the clock,
When up stepped the captain and loudly did he knock,
Tum a rally tally dally, Tum a rally tally day.
They were surprised, Tailor said, so quiet, meek,
"Now my lovely woman, oh, where shall I creep?"
Tum a rally tally dally! Tum a rally tally day!
"In yonder cupboard my husband has a chest,
Yes, in that cupboard, a cover, you may hide," Tum...
They hurried, she locked him up, coat, boots, and hat,
She locked him up with the balance of his clothes, Tum...
So she ran downstairs and opened the door,
There stood the skipper with a couple others more, Tum...
She kindly saluted and gave to him a kiss,
Says he, "My lovely woman, what do you mean by this?" Tum...
"I didn't come to rob you or break you of your rest,
I am going on south and came for my chest," Tum...
These two canalers – jolly, brave, and strong,
They picked up the chest and wagged it along, Tum...
They hadn't got more than the middle of the town,
Till the weight of the tailor made the sweat trickle down, Tum...
They set the chest down to take a moment's rest;
Says one to the other, "What the devil's in the chest?" Tum...
But neither of the two, the chest could undo,
Till up stepped the skipper with the balance of the crew, Tum...
He unlocked the chest in the presence of them all,
And there lay the tailor like a hog in a stall, Tum...
"Now I have got you, 'twill be like on the sea,
Not leave you here making trouble for me," Tum...
They took him
on board for
This is the last of the tailor we do hear, Tum...
This Nye song is to the tune "Irish Washerwoman." This song deals with the mule, upon which the canalers depended for transportation.
This world, it is great, you may get what you want,
There is trouble and fun, all depends on your jaunt,
But I love the latter with laughter and song,
And if you don't like it, move peacefully on.
I have an old friend, and we get along fine,
He works on the towpath, helps keep up the line,
Oh, how he would bray if he could hoist his sail,
But that he'll not do for he can't raise his tail.
He was in the army, and there you obey,
But he was like others, got smart by the day,
He sure would act stubborn, would balk, kick, and reel,
And want to kick you at most every meal.
So all became tired at last of his pranks,
For when he felt like it, would run, break the ranks,
He'd bray like a wild ass on mountain, in vale,
'Til a surgeon got wise and cut a nerve in his tail.
Oh, when he's off duty, you bet he can run,
He's proud of his record, Old Son-of-a-Gun,
Has good traits abundant, a friendly old guy,
But he's an old rounder, keep open your eyes.
Can squeal, winnow, prance, kick the bucket, you know,
For grain he is there, naught about him is slow,
What things he would do, you could cry, laugh, or wail,
But he says, "I am helpless, I can't raise my tail."
Whatever his failures, I like the old guy,
He is a fun maker, my heart fills with joy,
He's wise as a serpent, I'm sure he's no dove,
Sometimes when I laugh, he would send me above.
If he hears firecrackers or gunshot – look out,
A gay powder lover and may wheel about,
He often gets mad, and on me would he sail,
For I snicker and smile when he can't raise his tail.
He has a sharp eye and at me will he stare,
I answered, "Lookout" – I will not take a dare,
It is then that he acts as though I were to blame,
For all of his troubles, whatever the name.
Oft is playful and pleasant, so pert, like a calf,
He stares like a monkey and then I will laugh,
Oh, yes we are cronies till I hee-haw hail,
And does he get mad when he can't raise his tail.
The Mules Ran Off
This is an amusing tale about ornery mules, particularly one named Old Fear. Nye used the melody from "Oh! Susanna" by Stephen Foster.
The mules ran off and I fell down,
I really thought I'd croak.
A bullfrog yelled, "Look out there, boy,
I'll jump right down your throat."
That night was a hummer, Old Fear was there in style;
But I looked beyond his capers, for I love my old canal.
I sure felt funny, yes, I did;
'Twas muddy, all was wet.
And everything that had a voice,
I seem to hear them yet.
The mules I found in waiting,
While our craft did gently float;
The rain soon came in torrents,
And we jumped into the boat.
The turtles, fish would splash about,
Muskrats, mink dive and swim.
And every step I took that night,
Old Fear would smile and grin.
Next morning, all was bright and clear,
The birds would smile in song.
Yes, endless serenading,
In turn, the whole day long.
Last Trip in the Fall
This is a song about canalers during the winter season when the boats were no longer running. Nye used the traditional melody titled "Between Me and the Wall."
At Nick Hert's
Where we put on eighty tons,
Seemed everything was right about,
No matter where we'd turn.
But we kept on a moving,
For we must heed duty's call,
And landed safe in
Where we laid up for the fall.
Window-glass ice was everywhere,
We handled lines with gloves.
They soon were wet, our hands so cold,
And that nobody loves.
But soon we were all winter-set,
Oh, yes, we're feeling fine.
And eating nuts while cracking jokes
Of things along the line.
That winter was the limit,
Oh, yes, for us Big Ditch boys.
Had everything at our command
That city folk enjoy.
No matter how the cards would run
My heart would sing and smile.
I learned these things, yes years ago,
Upon the old canal.
The featherbedders were unique,
The sideliners just the same.
They worked and played just as they chose,
'Twas their part in the game.
But on our boat we loved to go;
We moved just for the fun,
While Missus Long Green Silver Dollar
We kept on the run!
But who in God's creation
Can enumerate this life.
'Tis so unique and lovely
Where the heart is free from strife.
I'm died in wool a Canaler, I
Don't care what be the sky.
I'll stay upon the Great Big Ditch
Until the day I die.
That Old Towpath
The melody of this song is "The Old Oaken Bucket" by George Kiallmark. The lyrics by Pearl Nye describe the beauty of nature along the canal. This song, like many of his others, is the voice of a man in love with his work.
Most dear to my heart are the scenes of the towpath,
No mortal its beauty can ever describe.
Such blending of music and song, oh, so glorious,
As long on the boat or the mules I would ride.
It was so majestic and ne'er had an equal;
My soul in its rapture would burst out in song.
While nature would smile everything full of laughter,
A wonderful picture, as we'd glide along.
That beautiful towpath, such splendor, so glorious;
With dear Mother Nature I'd ramble along.
Upon that old towpath, oh, I was so happy;
Most free of all mortals, the world ever knew.
I'd love to go back and remain there forever;
'Twas so unexcelling, most beautiful, true.
The air was so freighted with fragrance from flowers;
The moss, honey locust, clover, new-mown hay.
And, oh, nature's song, in what glee, she would greet us,
No picture so grand as she would there display.
Upon that old towpath, 'twas heaven, such glory,
As barefoot I'd revel in fun, laughter, song.
The snakes would uncoil, make a streak for the water;
The frogs jump and "chug," turtles waddle along.
Those wonderful trees, bowing, waving so graceful,
The elms and willow, the sycamore, pines.
The elders and alders, yes, all of their kindred;
And even our timid friend, Mrs. Grape Vine.
The hills, valleys, creeks, rivers, yes, all were with them,
They'd smile, sing, and dance, 'twas an excellent scene.
I'd give all the world, yes, and whate'er my future,
If I could live over, this wonderful dream.
No place in creation can ever approach it;
The Lord set His seal on it, beautiful, grand.
'Twas God, man, and nature all working together,
A handiwork, marvelous, water and land.
Whenever the lyrics on the recording are not the same as the lyrics in this booklet, the ones in the booklet are more likely to match the original source. Singers sometimes don’t remember every lyric exactly as written or take some poetic license to make the song their own.
All engineering, mixing, mastering, and design was done by Bill and Linda in our home studios.
Our appreciation is extended to Marge Diamond who worked with us to
develop our arrangements as we played these songs in practice and on stage; to
Mary Lautzenheiser for guiding us through and helping us do the final details
of graphic design; to Cynthia Calise, Dr. Ann Waters, Jeannette McCleery, and
Randy Davis for critical listening and critiques for our final mix; to Marcy
Tudor for marketing strategies, and to
Bill would like to dedicate this recording to the memory of his mother, Wilma Schilling. Although she was not a great fan of folk-style music, she was generous in her support of the music and in her hospitality to Linda and Marge during this project.
Bill and Linda are available for bookings together, individually, with the Banks of the Ohio Dulcimer Club, with Dulci-More: Folk & Traditional Musicians, or with others for concerts, festivals, workshops, or other events using the material from this recording or other traditional and contemporary material. Contact:
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