DEP024 The Lost Lake Sailors

The Lost Lake Sailors (2000)

64:56 playing time

The Crack Schooner Moonlight [4:18, traditional]
Saint Martin Island [7:56, lee murdock]
The Wreck of the Erie Bell [3:37, james gordon]
Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd [2:50, traditional]
When the Willie Went Down [4:30, larry penn]
Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie [5:01, traditional]
Shanty Boy on the Big Eau Claire [4:37, traditional]
Lament for the Lost Lake Sailors [6:09, murdock instrumental]
The Ward Line [4:43, traditional]
The Mermaid of Ontario [2:56, shel silverstein]
Charles Conrad on the SS Badger [5:14, alex sinclair]
Shallo Brown [2:05, traditional]
The Scottish Hero [3:51, lee murdock]
The Returning [3:32, murdock instrumental]
Phantom Ships that Pass in the Night [3:11]

The Lost Lake Sailors (2000)
The Lost Lake Sailors (2000)
Price: $15.00

Liner Notes

There are many ways in which a sailor can be lost, not just in a shipwreck, but also lost at sea, lost in their career, lost in spirit, lost in the pages of history, even missing from the passenger manifest list, as in the case of the black sailors who worked on the Great Lakes during the late nineteenth century.

It’s a little-known fact, but many Great Lakes ship captains were abolitionists, and during the late 1800’s, many slaves escaped across the border to Canada on Great Lakes vessels. In the well-known underground railroad song, Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd, says Lee Murdock, “Even I didn’t realize it until recently, but there’s a line in the song that goes ‘The old man is a-waiting, Gonna carry you to freedom,’ and that is a direct reference to the Captain of a sailing vessel. The Captain was often referred to as ‘The Old Man.’”

Another song which references the plight of the black sailors, taken from the traditional Great Lakes music collection at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor Michigan is The Ward Line. In the 19th century, copper and iron ore were shipped from Michigan’s upper peninsula and other Lake Superior ports, on wooden-hull sailing vessels. Before automated self-unloaders and conveyor belts, the ships were loaded by wheelbarrow, a back-breaking job. In Samuel Ward’s shipping company, freed slaves were used as laborers. They enjoyed a “free ride” while the ship was under way, but in port, they worked nonstop, sometimes for days on end, to unload and re-load the cargo. Appropriately, the song, The Ward Line, is an a capella work song, with call-and-response chorus.

The Lost Lake Sailors is not all hard work, of course. Murdock has also recorded a whimsical rhyming song by the late Shel Silverstein, The Mermaid of Ontario, which is still one of his most-requested songs at his concerts. And the CD opens with a traditional song about a race between two sailing vessels, from the port of Milwaukee, downboard to Buffalo or Cleveland, by The Crack Schooner Moonlight.

Well-known for his ghost stories, Murdock does not disappoint with this collection. Saint Martin Island, the story of a lighthouse keeper on a small island in Green Bay, combines tragedy, mystical heroics and a haunting melody that has already become one of Murdock’s most-requested songs in concert. Another ghostly tale, Whent the Willie Went Down, written by Milwaukee songwriter Larry Penn, tells the story of the haunted shipwreck of the Prins Willem II, a ship that went down without loss of life, but which has claimed a number of recreational divers in Lake Michigan since that time.

The 65 minute recording is rounded out with a romantic song about The Badger, a carferry still operating between Manitowoc WI and Ludington MI; one of the forest fires that ravaged the virgin timber which once covered nearly all of the state of Michigan, and a song about Commodore Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie in the War of 1812 (from the traditional collection).

Released 2002
Total Playing Time: 64:56
CD Art: William J Koelpin

Lyrics and Song Notes

The Crack Schooner Moonlight

The Crack Schooner Moonlight
Traditional

This song comes from the venerable collection of folk song compiled by Professor Ivan Walton during his years at the University of Michigan. Located on the north campus in the Bentley Historical Library, this collection has offered up many gems to me over the years. Thanks to Joe Grimm for highlighting this particular song. As it turns out, the schooner Moonlight was the flagship of the big grain schooners in the Milwaukee fleet. Supposedly the fastest among them, this song chronicles a typical voyage to Buffalo, where there was much competition to see who could arrive first. This was not so much to prove the crew’s mettle as it was driven by the bottom line. Your vessel didn’t make any money when it was waiting to be loaded or offloaded. Most of the words and music to this song were recorded by Professor Walton from Captains H. M. Boyce and W. A. Ashley, mate James M. Leaman, all of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along with S. C. Jacobson of Waukegan, Illinois, who worked aboard schooners in his youth and later became a lighthouse keeper.

Oh, the tug towed out the Moonlight, dropped us in the gale
With the schooner Law before us and the Porter on our tail.
See her canvas going on to a hearty halyard song,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Oh, the wind’s out of the nor’west and a blow-in’ all the night.
You can see them big seas rollin’ with their bonnets all in white.
And off our starboard rail are a half a hundred sail,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
And off our starboard rail are a half a hundred sail,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

To the win’rd of the Law we points our long jib-boom,
And high atop her main truck goes the old cabin broom.
We will never shorten sail ‘til we bury her lee rail,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

The rainbows playing forward and a foaming wake is aft,
And her deck is all a’slanting beneath her groaning masts.
You can see the Old Man grin as she bullies in the wind,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
And off our starboard rail are a half a hundred sail,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

See us walk upon the foremast, at our stern the dimming shore,
As we leave the Law, the Damforth, and all others by the score.
See us gaining to the lead, pay the groaning masts no heed,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Oh, we’ll skirt the western shore, for ahead is Milwaukee,
All day and night we’ll drive her ‘till the Straits are on our lee.
Just let the old ponds roar as they’ve often done before,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!
And off our starboard rail are a half a hundred sail,
Hooray for a race down the Lakes!

Lead Vocal and Six-string Guitar – Lee Mandolin – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Banjo – Mark Dvorak
Harmonica – Peter Seman
Background Vocals – Liz Carson
Chorus – Mark Dvorak, Wally Koch, Russ Hurst, and Rob Williams

Saint Martin Island

Saint Martin Island
© 2000, Lee Murdock, BMI
Many of us have a special love for those stories that tell of unexplained phenomena, ghosts and hauntings and the like. Well-known Great Lakes historian, Frederick Stonehouse has written an excellent book titled, Haunted Lakes, that includes this story from the Green Bay area. I was told of other sightings of strange occurrence on Saint Martin Island as well, by some local folks who sailed over for outings or picnics to this previously deserted island. It seems that the island has just recently been purchased. So I guess that the snake population will be hissing the old adage, “There goesssss the neighborhood!”

Saint Martin Island lays to the entrance of Green Bay,
Just a solitary citadel of stone.
The mariners depended on her beacon burning bright
Across these restless waters, all alone.
The shroud of a sad story surrounds this sullen space
And is heard throughout the region far and near.
There is a history of haunting imprinted everyplace
Of the old lighthouse keeper who lived here.

When the night is a jagged black and the waves are on the rise
From a north wind that screams down from an arctic hell
The glow of the keeper’s lantern can be seen along the shore
Of Saint Martin Island, ever searching.

This island isolation was really quite ideal
For the raising of a family some say.
But the children’s education proved a difficult ordeal
When the nearest school was ten mile ‘cross the bay.
When the weather permitted those kids would sail to school,
Take their lessons for the day and then return.
One day a squall came up and they were lost without a trace
And ever since that tortured keeper’s lantern burned.

When the night is a jagged black and the waves are on the rise
From a north wind that screams down from an arctic hell
The glow of the keeper’s lantern can be seen along the shore
Of Saint Martin Island, ever searching.

It was many years later in a monstrous midnight gale,
That the lamp up in the lantern-room went dark.
And caught in the tempest while a-running for the bay,
The schooner Juno’s helmsman missed his mark.
She went up on the rocks, she was pounded by the seas,
A death struggle in the surging crest and trough.
And confusion held its sway amid wind and rocks and spray
And the last few surviving crewmen went aloft.

While clinging to the cross-trees throughout this blackest night
Those sailors with all hope and bearings
completely lost
Prayed to the Lord, Our Father, to deliver them his grace
And each one bowed his head, their hearts they crossed.

Then off in the distance the helmsman saw a light,
Just a bobbing soft green lantern nothing more.
So each one descended from their refuge on the wreck
And then plunged through the breakers to the shore.
They helped each other crawl through the clutching, crashing surf
And heaved upon the beach to take their rest.
But that little lantern light it went a-drifting up the path,
Towards the lighthouse tower on the crest.
When they reached the keeper’s quarters and walked through the entrance door
That had been blown open in the storm,
They found the keeper in his bed and he had long been dead,
But the lantern at his side was very warm.

When the night is a jagged black and the waves are on the rise
From a north wind that screams down from an arctic hell,
The glow of the keeper’s lantern can be seen along the shore
Of Saint Martin Island, ever searching. (repeat)

Lead Vocal and Six-string Guitar – Lee
Bass – Jim Cox
Cello – Kathy Cathey
Second Violin – Rebecca Cormier
Viola – Mark Foss
First Violin – Mary Stein
Background Vocals – Liz Carson

The Wreck of the Erie Bell

The Wreck of the Erie Bell
© 1997, James Gordon, SOCAN
I first heard James Gordon sing this great story at the “Songs of Sail Festival” in Penetanguishene, Ontario, during the summer of 1995. He was inspired to write this song by a letter written to him detailing the antics of an old timer living near the beach in the Lake Huron port of Kincardine. The Erie Bell was a steam tug that did blow up while trying to salvage the lumber schooner J.N. Carter which had gone aground just south of Kincardine harbor during a November storm in 1883.

I was watchman on the Erie Bell. A good watchman I still am.
And the story that for you I’ll tell is why I live here in the sand.
We pulled out of Kincardine harbor on a chill November day.
Bound to salvage the schooner Carter from shoal water where she lay
Broadside on we found her and our captain sent out the yawl boat.
We passed our hawser ‘round her, it was made fast to her pawl post.

Then the engineer called to reman, “You better stoke that boiler up!”
Captain cried “Pull that cable tighter. Damn, this old tug hasn’t got quite enough!”
I said, “She carries just sixty pounds of steam.” But that made the engineer scoff.
“Hell, this boiler is a tugboat’s dream, she’ll do a hundred before she blows off!”
Well the next curse that old braggart spewed was from the lower decks of hell.
‘Cause that was when her boiler blew. It was the end of the Erie Bell.

She went off like a twenty pound cannon. It was heard all they way to town.
Me and that boiler hit the land when the poor Erie Bell went down.
Four men’s souls were taken. Sometimes I wish there had been five.
Cause I spend my days gazing at that lake wondering why I’m still alive.
Now this stretch of shoal is called Boiler Beach and me they just call mad,
‘Cause I keep watch for my mates who never reach the safety of this sand.
And a good watchman I still am. And a good watchman I still am.

Lead Vocal and Twelve-string Guitar – Lee
Mandola – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Harmonica – Peter Seman
Mandolin – Don Stiernberg
Background Vocal – Liz Carson

Follow the Drinkin' Gourd

Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd
Traditional
Why do I include this song on a Great Lakes folk music album? It was a song sung by slaves in the antebellum south. Buried in the lyrics are code words that described the route by which one could travel to freedom in the free north. Canada was the free north (code word: Canaan Land) in those days. This song was spread on southern plantations by an abolitionist sea captain known as “Peg-Leg” Johnson. There were many Lake Captains who were abolitionists, as well. And the last leg of the Underground Railroad for many, if not most, of the slaves seeking freedom happened to be crossing into Canada from many a Great Lakes port. The reason for this was the regular schedule kept by many of the packet steamers and schooners to those Canadian ports. So the captain (code word: Old Man) could say that a slave was part of the crew and could then carry him (by boat) to freedom.

Follow the drinkin’ gourd, follow the drinkin’ gourd.
The Old Man is a-waitin’ gonna carry you to freedom
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.
The Old Man is a-waitin’, gonna carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

Follow the drinkin’ gourd, follow the drinkin’ gourd.
The Old Man is a-waitin’, gonna carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

The riverbank makes a mighty good road,
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot carryin’ on,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

Follow the drinkin’ gourd, follow the drinkin’ gourd.
The Old Man is a-waitin’, gonna carry you to freedom,
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

The river ends between two hills
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.
There’s another river on the other side.
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

Follow the drinkin’ gourd, follow the drinkin’ gourd.
The Old Man is a-waitin’, gonna carry you to freedom.
Follow the drinkin’ gourd.

Lead Vocal – Lee
Chorus – Mark Dvorak, Russ Hurst, Wally Koch, and Rob Williams

When the Willie Went Down

When the Willie Went Down
© 2000, Larry Penn, Cookie Man Music, Inc. BMI
The Prins Willem V sank four miles out from
Milwaukee Harbor back in October, 1954. The whole crew survived, but the Captains of both the Willie and the Sinclair tug Chicago were found at fault during the inquest. Some of my diver friends have vivid accounts of their dives on various wrecks. They speak of a timelessness that descends upon them as they flutter about bulkheads and spars, darting fish and the ever-present zebra mussels that “adorn” these relics from Davy Jones’ Locker. They also talk, in hushed tones, of the ever- present danger involved, whether it be old fishing nets draped around standing rigging, nitrogen poisoning, or the disorientation known as “rapture of the deep.” So here is a song for all of you divers, and for those of us who enjoy listening to their other-worldly experiences.

It was in October, fourteenth to be exact.
Prins Willem was leavin’ town and never coming back.
There were thirty men aboard her, there was goods down in the hold,
On the night when the Willie went down.

The pilot stood upon the bridge, but how was he to know
The Sinclair tug that crossed her bow, held a barge in tow
And the cable cut the Willie and it opened up a hole
On the night when the Willie went down.

They all tried hard to save her when she headed to her grave.
Every effort made to save her has all been in vain.
Now she lies there on the bottom like some old abandoned bride
On the night when the Willie went down.

They have written off the cargo that was bound for Amsterdam
And left it there for salvage crews to claim it if they can.
So they’re bringing up the treasure that she carried down below
On the night when the Willie went down.

Now they say that she is jealous of a crew that all was saved.
Why they never even got wet feet when she went to her grave.
Well the Captain lost his charter, and the cabin boy did too
On the night when the Willie went down.

They say a ship gets haunted like the old Mary Celeste
And searches for another crew before her soul can rest.
So one by one they’re shanghai’ed as they dive upon her wreck.
On the night when the Willie went down.

It was in October, the Ides to be exact
Prins Willem was outward bound and never coming back
The weather it was cloudy, it was cool before the mast
On the night when the Willie went down. (repeat)

Lead Vocal and Six-string Guitar – Lee
Mandola – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Harmonica – Peter Seman
Background Vocals – Liz Carson

The Shanty Boy on the Big Eau Claire

The Shanty Boy on the Big Eau Claire
Traditional
I first heard Art Thieme, Illinois’ quintessential folksinger, perform this song many years ago at the North Country Folk Festival in Ironwood, Michigan. He recorded it on Songs From the Heartland, a record no longer in print, where he mentions that he learned the song from Paul Clayton in 1959 at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. He also included a version of this song on his cassette, On The River. Just a quick background note: often lumberjacks in the wintertime became sailors in the summertime, because many of the lumber barons owned their own fleet of schooners to haul the lumber from the mill ponds to the lake-town markets. So a fellow could fell the timber in the snow, boom it down river in the spring, and mill and haul it in the summer and fall, all for the same employer. Just like now, folks in those days liked to work the year ‘round if they could.
Every girl she has her troubles, likewise a man has his.
I’ll relate to you the agony of a fellow story viz.
It relates about affections of a damsel young and fair
And an interesting shanty boy from off the Big Eau Claire.

Now this young and dauntless damsel was of noble pedigree
And her mother ran a milliner’s shop in the town of Mosinee.
She had waterfalls and ribbons and imitation lace
For all of the high toned people in that great and festive place.

And the shanty boy was handsome, he had a curly head of hair.
And no better man there could be found from off the Big Eau Claire.
But the milliner said her daughter a shanty boy never could wed,
And Sue was truly saddened by the things her mother said.

Now the milliner took up all her goods and she went and hired a hack
And opened up another shop way down in Fond du Lac.
And Sue grew broken hearted, she was weary of her life
For she dearly loved her shanty boy, was forbidden to be his wife.

When brown autumn came along and ripened all the crops
Well she lit out for Baraboo and she went to picking hops.
But in that occupation she found but little joy
For her mind it kept returning all to her shanty boy.

Then she caught the scarlet fever, she lay ill a week or two
In Assa Baldwin’s Pest House in the town of Baraboo.
The doctors tried but all in vain her helpless life to save.
Now millions of young hop-flies are dancing on her grave.

When the shanty boy heard the news he quickly did perceive.
He hid his saw in a hollow log and so he soon did leave.
He hired out as a hauler on a fleet with sailor Jack
But the milliner’s daughter’s funeral to his mind came frequent back.

He fell off of a rapids place in the town of Mosinee
Which ended all his fitful love and all his misery.

And now the broad Wisconsin rolls its waves over his bones.
His companions are the cafish, his grave a pile of stones.
And the milliner, she is bankrupt and her shop has gone to wrack.

She talks quite strong of moving on away from Fond du Lac
For her pillow it is haunted by her daughter’s auburn hair
And the ghost of that young shanty boy from off the Big Eau Claire.

Lead Vocal and Twelve-string Guitar – Lee
Mandola – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Violin – Peter Seman
Mandolin – Don Stiernberg

Lament for the Lost Lake Sailors

Lament for the Lost Lake Sailors
© 2000, Lee Murdock, BMI
The empty feeling that enshrouds one upon
hearing of or bearing witness to loss can not be described in words. Music can come close
because it is a more emotional form of
communication than language. More universal, too. So here is a musical tribute to all of those lake sailors lost at sea, lost in their careers, lost in spirit, or lost from the pages of history.

Six-string Guitar – Lee
Second Violin – Rebecca Cormier
Cello – Kathy Cathey
Viola – Mark Foss
First Violin – Mary Stein

The Ward Line

The Ward Line
Traditional
This is a trucking shanty from the Walton
Collection at the University of Michigan. I first heard Dick Swain sing some of this song at the Mystic Sea Music Festival in 1996. As it turns out, Samuel Ward had a shipping company based out of Marine City, Michigan. They had the contract with the Cliffs Mining Company to haul copper and iron from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan down to Cleveland and other ports on the lower Lakes. He was not only a ship owner but, also, a staunch abolitionist who hired many black men to load and unload these shipments by hand. As described in this song, they would not have to do anything on the schooner or steamer at all during the voyage, but busted themselves continuously in port loading or unloading, using wheelbarrows, till the ship was ready to depart again. Many times, the duration of this task was not measured in hours, but in days. Also, the ships mentioned toward the end of this shanty were all at one time or another part of the fleet that was started by Samuel Ward, and known as the Ward Line.

The captain’s in the pilot house ringin’ the bell,
Tell me, who’s on the way, boys, who’s on
the way.
And the mate’s down ‘atween decks givin’ us some hell!
Tell me, where you goin’?

The mate he says,” No work on the ship,
Just lay around and enjoy the trip.”

The mate he says, “One trip up the lake,
Just set you up like a plutocrate.”

I’d rather be dead and lyin’ on the sand,
Than take another trip on the Old Black Sam.

Her smokestack’s black and her whistle’s brown,
And I wish, Oh Lord, I’d a-stayed in town.

I don’t mind workin’ by the light of the moon,
If the captain’ll give us a half-hour noon.

“Get along there Moses, your feet ain’t stuck,
Just hump your back and push that truck.”

“Get along there Moses, and push that truck,
By ‘n’ bye you’ll be dead and you’ll have good luck.”

Takes tons of copper to fill that hold,
“Step along there, Moses, or damn your soul. “

It’s work all night and work all day,
And all you’ll get is not half pay.

The mate says, “Sam I’ll raise your pay,
So now you get fifty cents a day.”

Roll them up that long gangplank,
It makes you thin, and lean, and lank.

Those city folks, they have gone to bed,
But we’ll push copper until were dead.

The captain gives us a tub of suds,
It burns your belly and rots your guts.

Just one drink from the captain’s tin,
And it makes you feel like committing sin.

Lucky boy, tickle that old banjo,
It lifts your heels and makes them go.

It makes me think of my Liza Lou,
When she hear the music, man, what she’ll do.

Lake Superior is colder than ice,
Fall off just once and freeze all your lice.

Lake Superior is big and rough,
And for this hauler, one trip’s enough.

The Ward’s bound up, the Moran’s bound down
And the John M. Nichol is hard aground.

The William H. Stevens is a-lyin’ ‘round the bend,
And all she’s doin’ is killin’ good men.

Now I’m a-going back to Detroit,
And no more workin’ both day and night.

Lead Vocal – Lee
Chorus – Mark Dvorak, Russ Hurst, Wally Koch, and Rob Williams.

Charles Conrad on the SS Badger

Charles Conrad on the S.S. Badger
© 1997, Alex Sinclair, SOCAN
There is many a time romance gets involved when young men interact with ships, be they ships that float on the water, the air, or in space. Here, true romance perhaps played a major part in resurrecting a long dormant service on the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan was shining a deep lazy azure,
The ferry slipped away from the quay.
A tiny crescent moon hung just above sunset,
She steamed headlong out on the day

A steady breeze out here blows out of Wisconsin
And smells of the green fields I love.
My feet feel the roll of the Michigan waters
And that tiny crescent moon shines above.

She was resting her back on the rail as I passed
Starring up at the coal smokin’ stacks.
She said, “Why would they name this ship for a badger?”
I stopped, looked her way, then she laughed.

A steady breeze out here blows out of Wisconsin
And smells of the green fields I love.
My feet feel the roll of the Michigan waters
And that tiny crescent moon shines above.

Being just twenty one, I was eager for feeling
A woman’s soft gaze on my face.
So we got to talking about ferry-boat names
And the trains steaming over the lakes.

I could have danced on the deck of the Badger
Every time that I saw her smile.
And her wind-blown hair was a soft spun treasure
That made my heart-beat run wild.

She left me at the dock in a car with her mother
And I caught a train with my dad.
And though I never saw her again, to this day,
It was the best crossing I’ve ever had.

A steady breeze out here blows out of Wisconsin
And smells of the green fields I love.
My feet feel the roll of the Michigan waters
And that tiny crescent moon shines above.

Oh, life spins its circles, I bought the Badger
As a gift to myself now I’m old,
And remind me of that long ago evening of pleasure,
With a wish that I’d been more bold.

I could dance on the deck of the Badger
every time I remember her smile.
And her wind-blown hair was a soft spun treasure
That still has my heart beguiled.

Now tourists and trains still ridge on this ferry
As she dances the rolling waves o’er.
And I pass each trip with my back to rail
With a hope that I’ll see her once more.

A steady breeze out here blows out of Wisconsin
And smells of the green fields I love.
My feet feel the roll of the Michigan waters
And that tiny crescent moon shines above.

Lead Vocal and Six-string Guitar – Lee
Hawaiian Guitar – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Harmonica – Peter Seman
Background Vocals – Liz Carson

Shallo Brown

Shallo Brown
Traditional
Here is a halyard shanty that was sung on deep water as well as the Lakes. I combined versions from William Doerflinger’s Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman and Jeff Warner’s singing of it on Steady As She Goes. There are interesting references about the food served aboard ship and about how Shallo Brown may have been a slave to a Yankee ship owner and contemplating a new career in Canada (across the border).

A Yankee ship come up the river,
Shallo, Shallo Brown!
A Yankee Ship come up the river,
Shallo, Shallo Brown!

And what do you think was master of her?
Yankee mate and a lime juice skipper.

And what do you think they had for dinner?
A parrot’s tail and a monkey’s liver.

And what do you think they had for supper?
Why black-eyed peas and a donkey’s crupper.

Shallo Brown, now what’s the matter?
Shallo Brown, now what’s the matter?

This packet sails off tomorrow.
It’s then I’m leaving you in sorrow.

It’s Shallo, Shallo in the morning,
It’s Shallo as the day is dawning.

I’m bound to cross those chilly mountains,
All for to pump those silver fountains.

I’ll go and get my gear in order,
I’ll be gone across the border.

Lead Vocal – Lee
Chorus – Mark Dvorak, Russ Hurst, Wally Koch, and Rob Williams

The Scottish Hero

The Scottish Hero
© 2000, Lee Murdock, BMI
Thanks go to Elizabeth Sherman for finding this piece of Lake Superior history in a book titled, Michigan on Fire!, by Betty Sodders. Many years ago, I learned at the Muskegon County Museum, that only about 30% of the old growth forest in Michigan had ever been harvested. Seeing as there are only traces of the “tall pine” still standing, one wonders what happened to all of those wonderful trees. The answer is found in fire, forest fires of staggering magnitude. The autumn of 1908 became a burning hell for the eastern part of the upper peninsula of Michigan. It was that wild fire that threatened the lighthouse at Point Iroquois, on Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay, and set the stage for this most unusual story. Keep in mind, the captain’s first obligation is to make sure his crew and his ship is safe. Losing your first mate in icy waters and visibility almost at zero because of the conflagration, might make any sane person want to “keep to the schedule.”

I was keeper of a light on Whitefish Bay.
Point Iroquois her name, it was back in 1908.
The month of October and the autumn was quite dry.
The forest was a tinderbox when lightning split the sky
Soon fire was raging consuming all in sight.
A wall of flame came sweeping up the point towards our light.
We sounded distress signals to a steamer passing by,
Scottish Hero was her name she slowed to stand by.

The surf was rolling wildly and sparks flew in the air,
A choice between the fire and icy water faced us there.
A yawl boat left the Hero and tossed about the waves,
Just four strong sailors pulling hard for shore and us to save.

They tried and tried to reach us but flailed about the spray,
The rocky coast and boiling seas betrayed us on that day.
Faced with their failure to the Hero they returned and
Left us there to meet our end to drown or to be burned.

How I’m here to tell you this story on this day
Is amazing and I’m not really quite sure as I can say.
But as the Scottish Hero went steaming out of sight
The fire course changed direction still burning at great height.
Then it was not much later, about an hour or two,
We were picked up by the lighthouse tender from the Soo.
And both of us were thankful but still we wondered why
The Scottish Hero left us on that burning shore to die.

The headline told the story in the Detroit News Tribune,
“The mate of the Scottish Hero died yesterday afternoon
While attempting a rescue at Point Iroquois light
Two keepers there in residence from burning wild fires bright.”
So here’s to the Scottish Hero, her captain and her crew,
And to the ever changing winds, Malcom MacGregor, too.
Who lost his life while trying in vain to save our own.
You’re the true Scottish Hero, may your name be ever known.
You’re the true Scottish Hero, may your name be ever known!

Lead vocal and twelve-string guitar – Lee
Mandola – Drew Carson
Bass – Jim Cox
Banjo – Mark Dvorak
Violin – Peter Seman
Mandolin – Don Stiernberg
Background Vocal – Liz Carson

The Returning

The Returning
© 2000, Lee Murdock, BMI
Picture coming around a bend in the road that you walked as a youngster going to school. Notice how it has changed, but certain elements remain constant. The same can be said of a ship coming back into its home port. Also, of the singing of a great old song.
Classical Guitar – Lee
First Violin – Mary Stein
Second Violin – Rebecca Cormier
Cello – Kathy Cathey
Viola – Mark Foss

Phantom Ships That Pass in the Night

Phantom Ships that Pass in the Night
words by Lyle Meyers;
music by Lee Murdock © 2000, BMI
Fred Nauert approached me after one of my concerts and offered me this poem that he uses quite often in ending his storytelling programs. He mentioned that it would sound fine to music. What do you think?

Shimmering ripples on the lake below
The full moon’s eerie silver glow
In the stillness of the summer night
Reveal weird shadows in translucent light.

Strange forms take shape, tall masts and spars
Like fairy wands, touch the twinkling stars,
Then through the magic of mind and sight
We see Phantom Ships that pass in the night.

Unfolding the mysteries of long, long ago
Lost vessels and crews lying down below
Return as ghosts and sail on once more
Toward that beacon light on the distant shore.

The master of all ships is now in command
The course is charted to that promised land;
Not a sound breaks the silence in the pale moonlight
On those Phantom Ships that pass in the night.

Vocal and Six-string Guitar – Lee