> Folk Music > Songs > Johnny Todd
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Ewan MacColl: The Singing Island Norman Buchan: 101 Scottish Songs Frank Kidson: Traditional Tunes
Ewan MacColl sang Johnny Todd in about 1954/55 on his, A.L. Lloyd's and Harry H. Corbett's Topic album The Singing Sailor. This track has been reissued lots of times, e.g. on their albums Row Bullies Row Singing Sailors (Wattle Records), Off to Sea Once More (Stinson Records) and A Hundred Years Ago. Lloyd noted on the last album:
A curiosity: a 19th century sailor ballad, that passed into the keeping of Liverpool children who used it as a ball-bouncing song, and finally emerged as a wildly successful theme-tune for the television cops-and-robbers serial, “Z Cars”. Main credit is due to the folk song collector Frank Kidson, who published it in his Traditional Tunes in 1891.
Ewan MacColl also included Johnny Todd in his 1960 book The Singing Island where he noted:
This song first appeared in print in Frank Kidson's Traditional Tunes. Kidson had heard it as a child in Liverpool, where it was sung as a children's game song, and during the last fifty years many other versions have come to light. The fourth stanza is the one most subject to variation and it crops up in many songs, particularly urban ones. A Scots version, Johnny Johnson, is known to Edinburgh children.
Isla Cameron sang Johnny Todd on her 1956 Tradition album Through Bushes and Briars.
Bob Roberts sang Johnny Todd in a Peter Kennedy recording on his 1960 Talking Book EP Windy Old Weather. This track was also included in 1994 on the Saydisc CD of sea songs collected by Peter Kennedy, Sea Songs and Shanties. Kennedy noted on the latter album:
Collected by Frank Kidson, the tune of this song became well-known in the late sixties when it was used for the TV series “Z Cars” which featured the Liverpool police. It seems to be a sailor's version of Madam Will You Walk? (known in a Somerset version as The Keys of Canterbury). The only other version I have recorded was Johnny Sailor, sung by children in the streets of Belfast.
The Galliard sang Johnny Todd in 1963 on their album England's Great Folk Group.
Paddie Bell sang Johnny Todd in 1965 on her EMI album Paddie—Herself.
Louis Killen sang Johnny Todd in 1973 on the National Geographic Society's anthology Songs & Sounds of the Sea.
Ossian sang Johnny Todd on their 1986 album Light on a Distant Shore; this was included in 1994 on their anthology The Best of Ossian. They commented:
The first verse and chorus are traditional. Additional verses and tune by Tony Cuffe. The song is followed by a Shetland tune Far from Home.
Hughie Jones sang Johnny Todd on his 1999 Fellside CD Seascape. He noted:
Collector Frank Kidson described Johnny Todd as a Liverpool children's skipping song but early TV watchers and Everton football fans will surely recognise the theme from “Z Cars”.
The Andover Museum Loft Singers conducted by Paul Sartin sang Johnny Todd in 2012 on their WildGoose CD The Bedmaking. The album's liner notes commented:
A Liverpool song for Loft Singer, conducting assistant and Scouser David Hughes, the melody of this found fame as the theme to “Z Cars”. It was first published by collector Frank Kidson in 1891.
A Scottish variant is printed in Norman Buchan's 101 Scottish Songs with the title My True Love's a Sailor.
|Ewan MacColl sings Johnny Todd||Bob Roberts sings Johnny Todd|
Johnny Todd he took a notion
Johnny Todd he had a notion
For a week she wept full sorely,
For a week she wept in sorrow,
“Why, fair maid, are you a-weeping,
“O fair maid, why are you weeping?
“I will buy you sheets and blankets,
“I will buy you sheets and blankets,
Johnny Todd came back from sailing,
Johnny Todd came home from sailing,
All you men who go a-sailing
So all you who go a-sailing,
Ossian sing Johnny Todd
Johnny Todd he’s ta’en a notion
For to sail across the sea
And he’s left his ain dear Jeannie
Weeping on the Greenock quay.
Chorus (after each verse):
Weep nae mair my ain dear Jeannie
Tak’ your bairn upon your knee
I’ll return and we’ll be married
Doon upon the Greenock quay.
Johnny’s gone in search of riches
For Australia he is bound
Handsome in his canvas britches
All to sail the world around.
Many’s the Winter’s night she’s waited
For a ship oot on the bay
Friends may tell her she’s forsaken
But she still could hear him say.
Then one morning bright and early
In the Springtime of the year
She spied a sail oot on the water
Bringing Johnny tae his dear.
My True Love's a Sailor in 101 Scottish Songs
Johnnie Johnston's ta'en a notion
For tae go an' sail the sea,
There he left his ain dear Jessie
Weepin' on the Greenock Quay.
“Weep nae mair my own dear Jessie,
Tak' your baby on your knee,
Drink his health, my jolly sailors,
I'll come back and marry thee.”
“I will give you beads and earrings,
I will give you diamond stones,
I will give you a horse to ride on,
When your true love's dead and gone.”
“What care I for beads and earrings?
What care I for diamond stones?
What care I for a horse to ride on,
When my true love's dead and gone?”