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Won't You Go My Way?

[ Roud 8289 ; Ballad Index Hugi505 ; trad.]

Peter Bellamy and Louis Killen sang the three shanties Won't You Go My Way?, A Hundred Years Ago, and The Alabama on June 22, 1971 live at the Folk Studio, Norwich, with the audience cheerfully joining in on the chorus. This performance was issued on their LP Won't You Go My Way?.

Jeff Warner sang Won't You Go My Way? on the WildGoose CD of shanties collected by Cecil Sharp from John Short, Short Sharp Shanties Vol. 1: Sea Songs of a Watchet Sailor. Tom Brown commented in the album's notes:

Yet another shanty that comes only from Short. Sharp said: “This is not, I believe, published elsewhere, nor have I collected any variants”, Terry: “charming shanty was sung to me by Mr. Short. I have not met any other sailor that knows it”, and Hugill: “I picked it up in the West Indies. Terry and Sharp both give a version much the same as mine.” Terry is also implicitly critical of Sharp over this shanty: “A version (differing from the present one in the music of bar 9, and the words of verses 5 & 6) is given in C.J.Sharp’s collection, taken down from Mr. Short’s singing, also. Mr. Short may have exercised the shantyman’s privilege of varying melody or words at will. At any rate, I have set both down as he sang them to me.” In view of this comment, one might expect both verses and tune to vary but, checking the notations, it is noticeable that the Sharp and Terry notations are actually identical!

Sharp noted that Short told him: “Sometimes used for screwing cotton in the hold in loading but usually for ordinary pulling.”

In respect of the text, “I asked this girl to marry / she said she’d rather tarry” comes from the minstrel song Lucy Long. I can’t help but feel that Short is reworking the song and making comment on his own view and situation: commending ‘marry, never tarry’ and then the sudden, apparently unrelated, appearance of ‘Julia, Anna, Maria’—he was a happily married and dedicated husband to Ann Marie, who was severely crippled with arthritis in later years. The three verses ‘She spent me money freely’, ‘Now that I am married’ and ‘Round her up so hearty’ are borrowed from Hugill—the remainder are Short’s.

Jon Boden sang Won't You Go My Way? as the February 2, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He also recorded it with Bellowhead for their forthcoming album Broadside.

David Milton sang Won't You Go My Way? on his 2018 CD Songs from the Bell Man. He noted:

This is a song I knew from Yankee Jack, but I’ve given it the Milton Twist, slightly simplifying and bringing it up to date. When I take people for a history walk around Watchet I’ll always start with the phrase “Won’t you go my way?”. This recording goes into the tune of

Oh dear mother what a fool I’ve been,
Six young maids came a courting me,
Five was blind and the other couldn’t see,
Oh dear mother what a fool I’ve been&

I learnt that tune and song as a child from the West Somerset Morris (including Gordon Kidd and Dudley Binding) when they danced at village fetes.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Won't You Go My Way? David Milton sings Won't You Go My Way?

It was on one summer's evening
  Won't You Go My Way?
It was on one summer's evening
  Won't You Go My Way?

I met a pretty fair maid
I met a pretty fair maid

Her cheek was red and rosy
And her figure was neat and cosy

So I asked her for to marry
But she said she'd rather tarry

So I'm on my way to Frisco
So I'm on my way to Frisco

So I left her in the morning
In the morning bright and early

I met her in the morning
  Won't You Go My Way?
I met her in the morning
  Won't You Go My Way?

In the morning bright and early
I love that girl so freely

She spent my money freely
She grabbed the lot… or nearly

I asked that girl to marry
She said she'd rather tarry

Oh marry never tarry
Oh marry never tarry

And now that I am married
I'm glad I didn't tarry

Oh Julia Anna Maria
Oh Julia Anna Maria

Oh I round her up so hearty
I'm Jack-the-bleeding-hearty