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Blow The Man Down by Roger McGuinn

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Album Description

From Roger McGuinn's "The Folk Den Project" page: "In November of 1995 I began a project for the preservation of the music I love, Folk Music. Each month I would record a song, print the lyrics and chords, add a personal note and put it on my web site, I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to learn the songs and to be able to sing them with their families and friends, so downloads were offered free of charge." The lyrics, chords, and notes on each song can be found at the Folk Den Project website.In 2005, Roger McGuinn
released a 4xCD to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the FOLK DEN. The compilation contains 100 favorites re-recorded in 24-bit 44.1 KHz Stereo, and comes with detailed liner notes. The compilation is available at The Folk Den Project.



Track Info

Blow the Man Down originated in the Western Ocean sailing ships. The tune could have originated with German emigrants, but it is more likely derived from an African-American song Knock a Man Down. Blow the Man Down was originally a halyard shanty. A variant of this is The Black Ball Line (with a more positive view of the Blackball Line as well).
Western Ocean Law was Rule with a Fist. “Blow” refers to knocking a man down with fist, belaying pin or capstan bar. Chief Mates in Western Ocean ships were known as “blowers,” second mates as “strikers” and third mates as “greasers.”
There are countless versions of Blow the Man Down. The one here is from the Burl Ives Songbook and tells of the Blackball Line. The Black Ball Line was founded by a group of Quakers in 1818. It was the first line to take passengers on a regular basis, sailing from New York, Boston and Philadelphia on the first and sixteenth of each month. The Blackball flag was a crimson swallow-tail flag with a black ball.
The ships were famous for their fast passage and excellent seamanship. However, they were also famed for their fighting mates and the brutal treatment of seamen. (Western Ocean seamen were called “Packet Rats”). Many ships bore the name “bloodboat.” Most of the seamen hailed from New York or were Liverpool-Irish.
By 1880 the sailing ships were being replaced by steamers and the packets entered other trades or were sold.
Thanks to for this research.
Lyrics and chords available from Folk Den Project.
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