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Playlist of Forebitter

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  • Forebitter sings Ranzo Ray at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    2:01

    Craig Edwards, David Littlefield, Rick Spencer and Geoff Kaufman, from left to right.

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  • Forebitter performs Sail Away Ladies at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    3:18

    Forebitter performs Sail Away Ladies at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012, dave littlefield, rick spencer, geoff kauffman, craig edwards

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  • Forebitter: Wanderer

    3:15

    Composed by Rick Spencer, 1998. A song about the last working American square-rigged whaling ship. She was wrecked on Cuttyhunk in August 1924. Performed by Forebitter, live at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012.

  • De Zoute Zee - The Forebitter Men Feat. Stowaway Steve

    2:35

    The Stingray - Harwich International Shanty Festival 12/10/19

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  • High Barbaree

    56

    Here is a sample of just the start, as given in Hugill (well, he gives just 1 verse, but I had one more) of the sea ballad High Barbaree. Stan Hugill printed this excerpt by way of introducing chantey/shanty (work song) adaptations of the ballad, which follow in the text. Of this forebitter (non-work) form, he notes that it had the older and minor tune. While the latter adjective is obvious, it is unclear on what basis he can assert the former! He notes also that his dad used to sing this form to the accompaniment of concertina.

    See the whole Shanties from the Seven Seas project, here:

  • Forebitter: The Ship That Never Returned

    3:14

    Composed by Henry Clay Work in 1865. Recorded live in concert at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012.

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  • Forebitter: Sail Away Ladies

    4:12

    Traditional American song and string band favorite which seems to have appeared circa 1920. For booking information visit

  • Forebitter: Wanderer by Rick Spencer ©1998

    3:15

    Composed by Rick Spencer. A song about the last working American square-rigged whaling ship. She was wrecked on Cuttyhunk in August 1924. Performed by Forebitter, live at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012. For booking information visit

  • SEA SHANTY - The Gallant Frigate Amphitrite - Traditional Forebitter

    3:18

    LEARN a SHANTY How to Sing Sea Shanties 1 - SHANTY BLOG 1 - Brian of Holcombe
    --~--
    Sing a Sea shanty - Season one - The Gallant Frigate Amphitrite
    Venedition of the Age of Sail voyage to Valpariso Bay in Chile from Plymouth, Devon.
    Long journey, heavy laden, heavy weather, pretty girls and short farewells.
    Sea Shanty of the Forebitter nature from the age of sail and trade, import and export, hardship and adventure.
    Recorded live at Holcombe Studio, Devon, England.
    In association with the Shanty Men of Devon

    How to sing a Shanty series - part of the Digital Shanty Archive Project.
    Give us a thumb if you like it. And or a comment would be great.
    SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE FREE MARITIME VIDEOS

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  • Forebitter sings The Jamestown Homeward Bound at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    3:02

    Craig Edwards, David Littlefield, Rick Spencer and Geoff Kaufman. What harmonies! They are the CSNY of sea chanties!!! sorry for the partial video.

  • The Five Gallon Jar

    38

    This is not a full song--I am giving only what Hugill gives as a comparison. Let me explain: This is not a chantey, but rather a forebitter--the postulated lyrical origin of the chantey Larry Marr:

    Like the chantey, Hugill collected it from one Paddy Delaney, and Hugill's wording suggests that he did not use it in practice. Delaney, furthermore, seems to have given only the first verse of the forebitter and said that the other verses preceded like the chantey. The problem with that is that the forebitter example (i.e. what I'm demonstrating here) talks about Jack Ratcliffe from Liverpool, not Larry Marr from Frisco (and whose name is used to continually rhyme with jar). To continue with those verses would not really work.

    To complicated things, the chantey, Larr Marr appears to go unrecorded (at least as far as I can tell) by Hugill and others. Instead, he has recorded this forebitter tune with not these lyrics (Jack Ratcliffe) he prints but with only lyrics from the chantey.

    This piece doesnt appear in any of the other chantey collections I am familiar with, and we should be grateful to Hugill for printing many of these lesser known work songs. We can also critically note, however, that this one-- the forebitter tune fleshed out with lyrics of Larry Marr-- only seems to have gotten around from Hugill's well-heard recordings. My pet theory is that Hugill partially contrived this song (after sailing days were over), and it became one of his signature songs. John Kanaka, I believe, is another example of that phenomenon.
    (Hugill's performance style version can be heard, sung very nicely by Salty Walt, on TouTube here:
    )

    The other weird (but not surprising for chanteys) thing about this song is the chorus about The old Virginia lowlands, which Hugill himself points out (on early 1990s Mystic Seaport recording) is a out of place. I will also note that the musical transcription in Hugill's text differs from how he recorded it. The very high notes differ for one; I would almost say that they are notes for harmonizing. Several times in Hugill's transcriptions I have noticed that the written melody in a certain phrase is off by some harmonic interval.

    See the whole Shanties from the Seven Seas project, here:

  • Forebitter sings Whale Bone Cutter at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    2:45

    Forebitter sings Whale Bone Cutter at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

  • Forebitter: The Ship That Never Returned

    3:14

    Composed by Henry Clay Work in 1865. Recorded live in concert by Forebitter at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012. For booking information visit

  • Forebitter: Whalebone Cutter by David Littlefield

    3:22

    A contemporary interpretation of a historical trade. For booking information visit

  • The GALLANT FRIGATE AMPHITRITE - Sea Shanty - Forebitter

    3:47

    Artist: Ian Giles
    Artist: John Spiers
    Artist: Jon Bowden
    Artist: Graham Metcalfe
    An excellent venedition of the Age of Sail voyage to Valpariso Bay in Chile.
    Long journey, heavy laden, heavy weather, pretty girls and short farewells.
    Sea Shanty of the Forebitter nature from the age of sail and trade, import and export, hardsip and adventure.

    Images put put together by Brian of Holcombe in association with The Shantymen of Devon.


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    Cut and paste into your browser or click the subscribe button at the end of the video.

  • 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival - Forebitter - Medley

    3:42

    Forebitter (Craig Edwards, Rick Spencer, Geoff Kaufman) performing a Medley (John, Come Tell Us As We Haul Away / Gwine to Get a Home Bime By / Alabama John Cherokee) at the 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival held February 23, 2013 at the Chicago History Museum

  • Forebitter: Clear Away the Track/The Musical Priest

    4:01

    Forebitter's arrangement of a traditional sea chantey paired with a traditional fiddle tune. Recorded live at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012. For booking information visit

  • Ballad of Shillelagh OToole - OFFICIAL

    5:57

    Here's a salty ballad about a fair-haired pirate, who's proud of his big shillelagh, who abuses women, sow fear and confusion among travelers from many nations, and sinks perfectly sound ships for fun and profit, abetted by a corrupt and soulless congr... uh... CREW. It contains a life lesson that many Great Ones in High Places would do well to heed:

    SOMEDAY, SOMEWHERE, YOU'LL MEET THE MAN WHOSE SHILLELAGH IS BIGGER THAN YOURS!

    Learn about the life and escapades of Séamlus Shillelagh O'Toole here:

    Studio recording available at:

    Join me Scurvy Crew & sail along with me!


    Like this? Please SUBSCRIBE! (It really helps us Indies when you do!)

  • Cabin Boy - A New Old Sea Song - Original Sea Shanty / Forebitter

    4:25

    Here's another new old sea song - crafted after the manner of the old tradition. More of a forebitter than an shanty, this one tells the sad (really sad!) plight of a young lad who ran away to sea dreaming of a life of romance and adventure only to discover that his youthful dreams and stark shipboard reality are two different things entirely.

    I thought it might be fun to write a song retelling the story of the boy who ran away to sea from the point of view of the boy himself - in a letter back home to Mother, in which he realizes his folly and the misery it has caused him.

    Sounds pretty terrible, doesn't it? Well, I don't think you'll find yourself too depressed by the end result. Besides... you know how boys will exaggerate to get sympathy!

    Studio recording available at:


    Join me Scurvy Crew & sail along with me!


    Like this? Please SUBSCRIBE! (It really helps us Indies when you do!)

  • The Forebitter Men - Blood Red Roses

    2:25

    The Forebitter Men is a small shantygroup from the City of Leeuwarden. Singing shanty's and Forebitters. The most of their songs are a-capella !!

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  • Forebitter: Brightly Beams Our Fathers Mercy

    2:41

    Forebitter sings the hymn by Phillip Paul Bliss. From Rick Spencer's recording Sea Songs and Shanties. For more information about Rick Spencer and Forebitter, visit

  • Rolling Home 188

    1:26

    *From the unabridged edition of Hugill's SHANTIES FROM THE SEVEN SEAS (1961).

    For those just joining us, a forebitter is a non-chantey (i.e. non-work-song) that is associated with maritime music. Stan Hugill's book was to be (as in its title) full of chanteys, though in several cases he gives forebitters for reference/comparison, and in many more cases, he give forebitters that had been sometimes *used as chanteys*. Rolling Home might fall into that last category, and Hugill gave two English-language versions of it as such. The present version, however, appears to have more more of the category of exclusive forebitters, just given (with one verse, as here) by way of comparison. The melody here sounds almost like it is a harmony line to the more familiar Rolling Home melody! In any case, this is a far less common melody nowadays, and this one did not make the cut when the present abridged edition of Hugill's shanties came out.
    Other versions of Rolling Home appear here:



    See the whole Shanties from the Seven Seas project, here:

  • Forebitter: Clear Away the Track/The Musical Priest

    4:01

    Forebitter's arrangement of a traditional sea chantey paired with a traditional fiddle tune. Recorded live at the Branford Folk Music Society in May 2012.

  • The Princess Royal 421

    3:05

    *From the unabridged edition of Hugill's SHANTIES FROM THE SEVEN SEAS (1961).

    [Damn fan on the computer....]

    Here's a short forebitter (sea ballad) about an encounter with a pirate ship. Stan Hugill included this in his original text with the excuse of comparing it to High Barbaree. Now, remember that Hugill's text is supposed to be a compendium of chanties, not non-work songs like this. And High Barbaree is basically a forebitter, too... it's just that High Barbaree was allegedly sometimes *used as* a chanty, which merited its inclusion! And then, some similarities to it in The Princess Royal also seemed to merit *its* inclusion! Anyways, it was cut from the current edition.

    While in High Barbaree the threatened ship engages in a firefight with the pirate and eventually sinks him, in The Princess Royal the threatened ship's captain says, Screw you, I'll not heave to and his ship manages to evade the pirate. It is a victory of tactical maneuvering, not fire-power.

    Hugill learned this version from a Bill Fuller of Cornwall, who in turn got it from a Navy sailor.

    Doerflinger also collected a variation of this ballad, and two tunes to go with it. IMHO the poetry of that version is better, however the one in Hugill does also have a certain ring of simplicity and authenticity. Indeed, this version seems to mess up the story a bit.

    Please check out the whole chanteys project playlist, at

  • 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival - Forebitter - Old Zeb

    3:56

    Forebitter (Craig Edwards, Rick Spencer, Geoff Kaufman) performing at the 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival held February 23, 2013 at the Chicago History Museum

  • Jack Tar

    1:57

    A song about a drunken sailor on shore leave, and his troubles.

    Jack Tar, or Jack Tarr on a fretless gut string banjo, circa 1845 repro.

    A Shanty, Chanty, Chantey, Chauntey. Actually, it's a forebitter. Shanties were work songs, sung to lighten the work on board, to distract the mind from the drudgery, like pulling the winch to weigh the anchor, hauling the sheets, manning the pumps to pump out the water in the hold. (Try singing a shanty when doing some repetitive physical work, say, chopping wood or what not.) Shanties were not to be sung on shore after work; it reminded them of work. This is obviously not a work song, but is about shore leave. Work song (i.e., shanty) lyrics tended to be call-and-response types. This song is a landlubber song, a forebitter, sung after work. Shanties were kind of private, in a sense, not meant for the outside world. A forebitter, on the other hand, is a song sung on the forecastle or on shore after work was done, or by complete landlubbers; it is sung for fun and pleasure.

    The name, Jack Tar, was a generic name for a British sailor. The Tar part probably came from the fact that the early British sailors (c 1800) would put tar in their hats and outer wear for waterproofing.

    /lessonover


    The intro, bridges, and ending (the parts with the slides, etc) are my creations as well as one descending riff, my arrangement, for better or worse. I left out the last two verses because I couldn't remember them. I didn't intend to put this online when I made it. Basically, in the last verse the sailor flees from the bar and the watchman; the fleeing sailor finds an outbound ship, hops onto it, and sails to another port somewhere else in the world.

    First verse:
    Come all you ladies gay who delight in sailor's joy
    Come and listen while I sing to you a song.
    When Jack Tar he comes ashore
    With his gold and silvery store,
    There is none who can spend it quite so quick.

    tuned dADf#a (or an open D or E chord; can't remember what key it was in at the moment.) Banjo made by George Wunderlich, 1998, unnumbered.

    arrangement c 2009 William Douglas Moore

    PS. I kept rubbing my nose because my allergy to dust was acting up that day.

  • The Forebitter Men - Rolling down the Bay to Juliana

    1:54

    The Forebitter Men is a small shantygroup from the City of Leeuwarden. Singing shanty's and Forebitters. The most of their songs are a-capella !!

  • Forebitter performs Song for Gale at the

    3:27

    Forebitter performs Song for Gale at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2013

  • Forebitter: Hilo, Johnny, Hilo

    3:20

    We learned this song from our friend, Bob Walser, who found it while researching maritime music scholar James Madison Carpenter. For booking information visit

  • Lowlands Away - black flags sea shanty - forebitter

    3:01

    Lowlands Away - black flags sea shanty - forebitter

  • The Forebitter Men - Greenland Whale Fisheries

    4:02

    The Forebitter Men is a small Shantygroup from the City of Leeuwarden. Singing shanty's and Forebitters. The most of their songs are a-capella !!

  • The Forebitter Men uit Leeuwarden When The Colorado rises

    2:59

    Tag der Shanty- Chöre te Cuxhaven ( Dld) 2016.

  • Concert des Forebitter - Chasse-Marée

    2:28

    Pour fêter ses 30 ans, le Chasse-Marée a fait venir ce mythique groupe de shanteymen de Mystic Seaport, lors de la semaine du Golfe.
    Enregistrement en public, le 3 juin, sur le port de Vannes.

  • Sea Shanty - FIRE SHIP AHOY Pirates Beware Forebitter or for worse?

    3:17

    LEARN a SHANTY How to Sing Sea Shanties 1 - SHANTY BLOG 1 - Brian of Holcombe
    --~--
    A kind of sea shanty but a forebitter really warning of the dangers of a fire ship.
    The Exocet of its day, a guided (aimed) missile (ship) of the sea for it's times.
    Always rigged up in disguise, and usually with a dark and roving eye and her hair hung up in ringlets.

    Wonderfully sung by The Spinners a group that frequently visited Brixham, Devon - home of many a piratical type today, in the 1970's to sing their folky songs. Always keen on a shanty or two.

    This is dedicated to our brethren of wonderful pirate ladies and sea shore women what we luv so much.
    Cover - Caribbean Pearl the Pirate

    We are keen to tell the ladies how much you likes the video, feel free .... to click away.

  • 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival - Forebitter - The Shanghaied Dredger

    3:31

    Forebitter (Craig Edwards, Rick Spencer, Geoff Kaufman) performing at the 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival held February 23, 2013 at the Chicago History Museum

  • 231 LauraBassett WhaleboneCutter

    3:11

  • The Nightingale

    2:21

    Sea song or forebitter, sung by Cyril Tawney, 1964. From Topic LP 12T110 Farewell Nancy

  • 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival - Forebitter - Blow, Liza, Blow

    3:33

    Forebitter (Craig Edwards, Rick Spencer, Geoff Kaufman) performing at the 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival held February 23, 2013 at the Chicago History Museum

  • Blow, Ye Winds

    6:07

    Although Hugill tried to emphasize the possibility of using this as a chantey, this was really more of a forebitter. The lyrics in this version are the ones that describe a whaleman's life, as transcribed by Joanna Colcord from a logbook in the New Bedford Public Library.

    Scenes are of course from the oldest extant whaling vessel, the Charles W. Morgan, on display in Mystic.

    Please check out the whole chanteys project playlist, at

  • 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival - Forebitter - Unmooring

    2:14

    Forebitter (Craig Edwards, Rick Spencer, Geoff Kaufman) performing at the 2013 Chicago Maritime Festival held February 23, 2013 at the Chicago History Museum

  • The Forebitter Men uit Leeuwarden Roll the Woodpile down

    2:44

    Tag der Shanty- Chöre te Cuxhaven ( Dld) 2016.

  • Santiana The Forebitter Men

    2:17

    Optreden in de Dorpskerk Huizum

  • Forebitter sings Well Rant and Well Roar at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    3:15

    Forebitter sings We'll Rant and We'll Roar at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

  • Forebitter sings The Ship That Never Returned at the Mystic Sea Music Festival 2012

    2:33

  • Captain Kidd 449

    39

    Just an example, this is NOT a chantey. Hugill printed just this first verse of the Captain Kidd ballad, so as to show its melody. It was by way of introducing his very next chantey, Samuel Hall, which goes to the same tune of this one. If yiz want words to this one, take a peak in Joanna Colcord's ROLL AND GO. SHe gives about 80 billion verses. I'm not in the epic ballad business now, however so what Stan Hugill gave is all ye gets from me for now!

    However, it may of least be of interest to hear this old-school, solemn style of tune for the ballad -- which, as I said, truly is a long ballad, not just a handful of pop-song length verses thrown together. Nowadays, one usually hears a fast, Strummy McStrum-strum folk-rock'n'roll (syncopated off the instruments) version, which is not so befitting to the heavy lyrical emphasis of the original. (When are the kids gonna learn: Dances are for dancin' to the rhythm, ballads are for listenin' to the verse!)

    See the whole Shanties from the Seven Seas project, here:

  • The Banks of New Foundland - The Forebitter Men

    3:33

    Optreden in de Dorpskerk Huizum

  • John Kanaka - The Forebitter Men

    2:28

    Optreden in de Dorpskerk Huizum

  • What is That, My Dearie-O?

    1:17

    Mark Page sang this for J.M. Carpenter in the 1920s, and it went down in the Carpenter Collection as I put my hair upon her toe. It's listed as a forebitter.
    On the CD release of the track, however, the song is listed as Victorio and attributed to William Fender. This makes things confusing, on the surface, because it seems to connect it with several chanties that use the word Victorio/Victoria. Because the recording quality is so poor, I had thought initially that this song did say victorio. The task was to distinguish it from other victorio chanties. There was also the similarity of the anatomical progression (i.e. I put my hand on xyz) theme between this and some victorio chanties. Yet on closer listening, I realized this was not a victorio chanty at all. But I still sang it as a *chanty*!

    The song appears related to an item called My Old Bandoliero, which Randolph offers an excerpt from in _Roll Me in Your Arms_ (pg 548). He gets it from a ca.1939-40 Brirish Cavalry chapbook. While it has the familiar lines like First I touched her on the toe, instead of rhyming it with a line like She said, young man, you're rather low, it gives non-rhyming responses with phrases like:
    Toe Tinkler
    Ankle Ankler
    Shin Shanker, etc.

    This helped me hear the Mark Page recording and realize some of the un-scannable words were probably these very phrases. I filled in gaps and extrapolated a bit with this information about the probable style of the song's verses.

    The last line/refrain of each verse on the Mark Page recording is hard to make out - perhaps something like, Fill the bottle now for Johnny O. However, I took the cue from the Bandoliero song and used that as a plausible chorus.

  • Farewell Shanty The Forebitter Men

    2:25

    Optreden in de Dorpskerk Huizum 17 oktober 2014

  • Steal Away - The Forebitter Men

    5:26

    Optreden in de Dorpskerk Huizum

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