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Down the River of Gambia

Captain Leighton Robinson, California, 1951

Source: Sidney Robertson Cowell Collection at the Archive of Folk Culture at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, AFC 10,506 A18.

Robinson mentioned this song being sung on vessels with ‘checkerboard crews’, that is, one watch white sailors the other black. I modified some verses and added others. Robinson didn’t explain the curious ‘Calibah’.

  1. Solo: Down the River of Gambia,
    Chorus: Oh Calibah
    Solo: Down the river of Gambia boys,
    Chorus: Oh Calibah.
  2. Yellow jack am a-ragin’.
  3. Folks they’re a-dyin’
    There’s weepin’ and a-sighin’.
  4. Our packet sails tomorrow,
    I’ll leave here without sorrow.
  5. Bound away St. Georges.
  6. We’ll heave and cat the anchor
    Shake out the jibs and spanker.
  7. I love my Juliana
  8. Bound away to leave her
    I never will deceive her.
  9. Don’t you hear the old man growlin?
    Don’t you hear the first mate howlin?
  10. Come rock and roll me over.
  11. Down the river of Gambia.
Lyrics from the recording: