The Rio Grande
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

The Rio Grande was one of the most popular sea shanties. There are many variations. This one is from Stan Hugill (variant b). Alternate titles include Away for Rio and Bound for the Rio Grande.

The Rio Grande referred to is not the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. The song refers to the Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil. Some versions of the song refer to "golden sand." Both banks of the Rio Grande in Brazil have high sand dunes and gold was found in the district. In the 18th century gold was found in southern Brazil. Although gold was also found in the Mexican Rio Grande area, it was not until later, when the song was already well established.

The tune was a capstan or windlass shanty and an outward-bound song. Hugill states it was commonly sung on ships leaving the West Coast of England and Wales. These ships often stopped in Newfoundland or Cadiz for salt or salt cod.

Oh, say, wuz ye ever down Rio Grande?
'Way for Rio!
It's there that the river flows down golden sands!
An' we're bound for the Rio Grande,
Then away, bullies, away!
Away for Rio!
Sing fare-ye-well, me Liverpool gels,
An' we're bound for the Rio Grande!

(Repeat the above pattern between lines)

So heave up the anchor, let's get it aweigh,
It's got a good grip, so heave, bullies, 'way-ay!

Oh, where are yiz bound to, my bully boys all?
An' where are yiz bound for to make yer landfall?

We're bound to the south'ard, me bully boys all,
Bound out to the Brazils, me bully boys all.

An' what'll ye do there, me bully boys all?
What job will ye do there, me bully boys all?

We'll dig for red gold, oh, me bully boys all,
We'll dig for a fortune, me bully boys all.

Or die o' the fever, me bully boys all,
Or die o' the fever, me bully boys all.

Heave with a will boys, oh, heave long an' strong,
Sing a good chorus, for 'tis a good song.

Related Links
From The Fireside Book of Folk Songs and
Shanties from the Seven Seas
See Bibliography for full information.