The Wreck of the Titanic Sound Recording

Titanic Historic Recordings

The Titanic was a common subject for folk and blues singers in the 1920s and '30s. Artistes such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Ernest V. Stoneham and Vernon Dalhart all recorded Titanic numbers. Most had a common theme and derivation as these two examples demonstrate.

• Listen to "Jeff Calhoun" singing The Wreck of the Titanic, recorded in c.1927. (Real Audio®) 2:58

"Jeff Calhoun" was a pseudonym for "Vernon Dalhart" real name Marion T. Slaughter (born 6 April 1883 in Jefferson, Texas, died 15 September 1948 in Bridgeport, Connecticut). His recording career lasted from around 1917 to the mid 1930s and he seems to have specialized in tragic subjects. In his career he recorded under almost 40 different pseudonyms.

• Listen to an instrumental version of The Titanic (midi).

  The Titanic

1. O they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue
and they thought they had a ship
that the water would never go through.
But the Lord's almighty hand
knew that ship would never land.

3. As the humble closed their eyes
In the darkness of the hold,
The rich upstairs were playing cards for gold
And they laughed when a sailor said,
'There's an iceberg close ahead.'

It was sad when that great ship went down.
It was sad (it was sad) It was sad (mighty sad).
It was sad when that great ship went down.
Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives.
It was sad when that great ship went down.

4. When the Captain heard the news
From a sailor up the mast,
He said, 'Steady boys, we'd better not go too fast.'
But the company in their greed
Said, 'We must increase the speed.'

2. Oh she was far from England
And approaching to the shore,
When the rich refused to associate with the poor.
So they put them down below
Where they were first to go.

5. Oh they put the lifeboats out,
O'er the raging stormy sea,
And the band on board played 'Nearer My God to Thee'.
Little children wept and cried
As the waves swept o'er the side.

Samples, Source Material and Transfers
The Titanic (Instrumental midi)
© Encyclopedia Titanica (2000)
The Wreck of the Titanic: "Jeff Calhoun" (Grey Gull / Supreme #4131, 1927) (RealAudio®)
Courtesy of the Edison Museum, Menlo Park, New Jersey (© 2001)

About Historic Recordings
Our samples reflect the recording methods of the day. The cylinders and records have all been played on authentic turn of the century equipment. No digital enhancement has been applied. The sentiments expressed in the songs reflect a period in history not the views of Encyclopedia Titanica, the editor or contributors.

Kinkle (1974) The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz 1900-1950, Arlington House.
The Bodleian Music Library, Oxford
Central Library Music Collection, Oxford


Jack Stanley, USA

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