Sea shanty music is having a mainstream moment. Bristol band, The Longest Johns’, version of an old classic in the sea shanty genre, Wellerman, has raced into the Official UK Chart for most weekly downloads.
The from nowhere popularity of Wellerman, a song that’s origins can be tracked back as far as New Zealand in the 19th century, can be attributed to two unlikely sources.
The first is postman, Nathan Evans, whose TikTok mimicking of the traditional sea song of yesteryear attracted millions of views on the social media platform.
Inspired by Evans’ efforts a video editing whiz managed to create the illusion that four friends were singing the song acapella on a day out on the drink. The image of these four tattooed friends in tight trousers and jeans belting out a traditional sea song has become the distraction a lot of people needed during a third national lockdown.
It’s become a cultural phenomenon on the level of Netflix hit, Tiger King, from the first lockdown last spring.
Whilst social media may have been responsible for introducing sea shanty music to whole new audience, Milton Keynes has had its very own shanty band for years.
The Sloop Groggy Doggs have been performing for years in pubs and at festivals and other public events around the country. You may have seen the band, formed in Milton Keynes and Bedfordfordshire, performing at Milton Keynes Museum or Milton Keynes Park Trust.Milton Keynes own Sloop Groggy Doggs performing sea shanty songs pre-COVID
Lockdown restrictions and the need to halt the spread of the coronavirus has put live gigging on hold for the time being. Meaning the band of septuagenarians are trying to organise virtual jamming sessions and rehearsals which will allow them to capitalise on this sea shanty moment, once the world reopens.
Previous highlights for the band include performing at the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, the largest free nautical event in Europe.
The band recently set up a TikTok account you can follow here and will be hoping to find similar fame to a Scottish postman and oblivious friends posing for a photo.