Recorded in the summer of 1976 in Woodstock, NY Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay: Hudson Valley Songs Old & New was released in October of that year. Designed to be a booster for the replica sloop Clearwater, as well as to tap into the national interest in history thanks to the bicentennial, the album includes a mixture of traditional songs and new songs. This album is a recording to songs relating to the Hudson River, which played a major role in the commercial life and early history of New York State, including the Revolutionary War. Folk singer Ed Renehan (born 1956), who was a member of the board of the Clearwater, sings and plays guitar along with Pete Seeger. William Gekle, who wrote the lyrics for five of the songs, also wrote the liner notes, which detail the context of each song and provide the lyrics. This booklet designed and the commentary written by William Gekle who also wrote the lyrics for: Fifty Sail, Moon in the Pear Tree, The Phoenix and the Rose, Old Ben and Sally B., and The Burning of Kingston.
Whenever two boats, whether they were sailing sloops or side-wheel steamers, were heading in the same direction on the Hudson River they challenged each other to a race. These races were not always sport alone. Since the sloops carried farm products from one town landing to the next along the river, there were commercial advantages in being the first to dock and start selling their cargo. Some of the races were establish a reputation for being a fast sailor – such as the race between the “Sally B.” and the “Ben Franklin” as they sailed upriver one summer day.
The Old "Ben Franklin" and the Sloop "Sally B. LYRICS
The sloop “Sally B”. sailing up the Tappan Zee,
As fast a little sloop as you’d ever want to see.
She was ninety feet tall and had a boom to match
The little “Sally B.” was always pretty hard to catch.
The old “Ben Franklin” was a mighty fast one too,
The mainsail and the jib they were both brand new,
And the captain Mike Payne, he swore a mighty oath
That he’d beat the “Sally B.” or sink them both.
Then the old “Ben Franklin” and the saucy “Sally B.”
Started racing up the river from the Tappan Zee.
“Sally” led the race every bit of the way
From the beginning to the end of the Haverstraw Bay.
Then they turned into the river where it wasn’t very wide,
At much closer quarters they were side by side,
And the skippers both agreed that the race would end
At the very next point around the very next bend.
Now lying dead ahead and looming very large,
Loaded with stone was an up-state barge.
The tide had turned her broadside and there she lay
They couldn’t sail around her there wasn’t any way.
Oh, the old ”Ben Franklin” and the saucy ” Sally B.”
As fast a pair of sloops as you’d ever want to see,
They hit the barge together and they both sank fast
But the old “Ben Franklin” hit the bottom last!
Thanks to HRMM volunteer Mark Heller for sharing his knowledge of Hudson River music history for this series.
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