> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Gal With the Blue Dress On

Gal With the Blue Dress On

[ Roud 7498 ; Mudcat 115952 , 145654 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd sang Gal With the Blue Dress On on his and Ewan MacColl’s album A Sailor’s Garland. He noted:

A halyard shanty, most shellbacks say, though at least one 19th century collection names it as a pumping song. Known to Liverpool seamen, but sounding much like a Negro composition. Perhaps the stanza that says: “She’s a Windward gal with a Windward smile, At a dollar a time it’s well worth while” is a clue pointing to the West Indies for the song’s origin. Some versions of the well-known Whisky Johnny are related, in tune, to the Blue Dress shanty.

Stan Hugill says in Shanties From the Seven Seas (p. 197):

The following hauling song, Gal With the Blue Dress, is the one from which a similar line in Johnny, Come Down to Hilo was probably taken. I had it from Harding, who considered it one of the best in his repertoire for halyards. It is essentially a Negro song, probably one used by cotton hoosiers. I feel that L.A. Smith’s Slapandergosheka is a similar or related song. Davis & Tozer give a version calling it ‘pumps’, which of course it could have been, but this appears to be a rather too poetical effort for hairy shellbacks or Negroes to have sung. There does exist a [Negro] minstrel song called The Gal With the Blue Dress On.

Emma Shelton of Flag Pond, Tennessee, sang this minstrel song, Pretty Little Girl With a Blue Dress On, in a 1950 recording on the Musical Traditions anthology of historic recordings of Appalachian singer and musicians, When Cecil Left the Mountains. The Roud index gives both of these songs the same number 7498.


A.L. Lloyd sings Gal With the Blue Dress On

A gal asleep with a blue dress on,
    Shake ’er Johnny, shake ’er!
She waitin’ there for her Uncle Tom,
    Shake ’er and we’ll wake ’er.

This gal she did look good to me,
For I have been ten months at sea.

She’s a Windward gal with a Windward smile,
At a dollar a time it’s well worth while.

So roust an’ shake her is the cry,
The bloody topmast sheave is dry!

The big wind comes from the Wes’-nor’-west,
This gal ain’t gonner get no rest.

What can you do in Tiger Bay,
But give them flash gals all your pay.

Wake up you bitch and let us in,
Wake up you bitch, we want some gin.

Oh rouse ’er up from down below,
An’ haul away for Uncle Joe.

Oh rouse ’er up be quick I say,
An’ make your port an’ take your pay.