> Louis Killen > Songs > Hilo Johnny Brown
> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Hilo John Brown

Hilo Johnny Brown

[ Roud 8229 ; DT HILOJOHN ; trad.]

Ewan MacColl sang Hilo John Brown in 1962 on his and A.L. Lloyd’s album A Sailor’s Garland. On the same album were two other songs referring to the same port, Hilo Somebody and Tom’s Gone to Hilo. A.L. Lloyd commented on the album’s liner notes:

Many shanties sing of Hilo. Some say it means the sailor-town on the eastern side of Hawaii Island; some say it refers to the dusty nitrate port of Ilo, Peru; others say that, as often a not, it just means “Hullo” or even “Haul-o”. R.R. Terry heard this halyard shanty sung by Tyneside seamen, but it surely owes its origin to sunnier, southerly climates.

Louis Killen sang Hilo Johnny Brown in 1964 on the Topic anthology Farewell Nancy: Sea Songs and Shanties. This album was reissued with bonus tracks in 1993 as the CD Blow the Man Down: A Collection of Sea Songs and Shanties. A.L. Lloyd commented on the album’s liner notes:

Sally is an emblematic female, typifying all the generously-built and charitable-natured mulatto girls to be found in the ports of the West India run. The shanty is probably of Negro composition. A better known variant is Sally Brown (“Way-ay, roll and go”), but Hilo (or Hullo) Johnny Brown has the more interesting tune.

Stan Hugill wrote in his book Shanties From the Seven Seas laconically:

… Our first in this series is the halyard shanty of Negro origin, Hilo, Johnny Brown. The usual verses of Sally Brown were sung to it.

After commenting on all the previous versions, A.L. Lloyd finally sang Hilo John Brown himself in 1974 on the Topic album Sea Shanties.

Danny Spooner sang Hilo Johnny Brown on his 1988 album We’ll Either Bend or Break ’Er.


Louis Killen sings Hilo Johnny Brown

Sally is the girl that I love dearly,
   ’Way-hey, Sally-o!
Oh, Sally is the girl that I love dearly,
   Hilo, Johnny Brown, stand to your ground!

Oh, Sally’s a Barbadian beauty,
Oh, Sally’s the girl that knows her duty

Oh, Sally is the girl that I spliced nearly,
Oh, Sally’s the girl, her hair is curly.

Sally she’s a bright mulatter,
Oh, pretty girl but I can’t get at her.

Danny Spooner sings Hilo Johnny Brown

Sally is a gal that I loves dearly
   Way, hey Sally-o!.
Sally is a gal that I loves dearly,
   Hilo Johnny Brown stand to yer ground

Sally is a gal wiv long black hair oh,
Rob yer blind and leave yer bare oh.

Sally she is a bright mullater
A nice little gal but I can’t git at her.

Sally she is a big buck nigger,
Her bow is big but her arse is bigger.

Sally where shall I stow the cargo?
Stow some forrad and stow some after.

Use yer weight and stretch her luff boys
I think by Christ we’ve hauled enough boys.