The John B. Sails
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"The John B. Sails" is a Bahamian folk song from Nassau. A transcription by Richard Le Gallienne was published in 1916, and a version was included in Carl Sandburg's The American Songbag in 1927. Since the early 1950s there have been many recordings; variant titles include "Wreck of the John B." (although the song makes no mention of a wreck), and "The Sloop John B.".
The song was transcribed by Richard Le Gallienne, with five verses and the chorus published in his article “Coral Islands and Mangrove-Trees” in the December 1916 issue of Harper’s Monthly Magazine (pp. 81–90). The first two verses and chorus were also published in Chapter IV of Gallienne’s 1917 novel Pieces of Eight.
Carl Sandburg included the first three verses and chorus of "The John B. Sails" in his 1927 collection of folksongs, The American Songbag. He states that he collected it from John McCutchen (a political cartoonist from Chicago) and Evelyn McCutchen, who told him:
Time and usage have given this song almost the dignity of a national anthem around Nassau. The weathered ribs of the historic craft lie imbedded in the sand at Governor's Harbor, whence an expedition, especially sent up for the purpose in 1926, extracted a knee of horseflesh and a ring-bolt. These relics are now preserved and built into the Watch Tower, designed by Mr. Howard Shaw and built on our southern coast a couple of points east by north of the star Canopus.
Sandburg's version of "The John B. Sails" is the one most often recorded. It is perhaps from the remarks by the McCutcheons, which Sandburg attached to the song, that a frequent title—"Wreck of the John B"—is derived, since no lyrics report a wreck.
In 1930, Blind Blake recorded the song using the title "John B. Sail".
Alan Lomax included the song in his 1935 collection, Deep River of Song, as "Histe Up The John B Sail"; sung by the Cleveland Simmons Group, Old Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas, July 1935.
In 1950, The Weavers released "Wreck of the John B", bringing the song wider notice and beginning a string of recordings by other artists, culminating in the song's best known version by The Beach Boys.
At least eight artists / bands released a version of the song between 1951 and 1965:
- Blake Alphonso Higgs – "John B. Sails" (1952)
- The Kingston Trio – "Sloop John B" (1958)
- Johnny Cash – "I Want To Go Home" (1959)
- Lonnie Donegan – "I Wanna Go Home (Wreck of the John B)" (1960)
- Jimmie Rodgers - "Wreck of the John B" (1960)
- Dick Dale - "Sloop John B" (1962)
- The Brothers Four - "The John B. Sails" (1963)
- Jon & Alun - "John B" (Relax Your Mind (1963))
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys' version of the song, titled "Sloop John B", influenced by the Kingston Trio's 1958 version, but with modified minor chord changes by Al Jardine and slightly altered lyrics by Brian Wilson, entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on April 2,1966 and peaked at #3 on May 7, remaining on the chart, in total, for 11 weeks. It also charted highly throughout the world, becoming one of the group's most popular recordings. According to music archivist Joseph Murrells (1978) it was the fastest Beach Boys seller to date, moving more than half a million copies in less than two weeks after release. The song was covered on at least two popular TV shows shortly thereafter, The Wild Wild West in 1966 (Episode 2.3) and Lost in Space in 1967 (Episode 3.14)
- David Thomas & the Pedestrians - "Sloop John B" (1981)
- Jerry Jeff Walker - "Sloop John B" (1998)
- Catch 22 - "Wreck of the Sloop John B" (2000)
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - "Sloop John B" (2001)
- Ulfuls - "Sleep John B" (Japanese) (2003)
- Dan Zanes & Festival Five Folk - "Sloop John B" on "Sea Music" (2004)
- Relient K - "Sloop John B" (2007)
- Okkervil River - "John Allyn Smith Sails" (2007)
- Simple Minds - "Sloop John B" on deluxe edition of 2-CD Graffiti Soul album (2009)
- Bounding Main - "Sloop John B" on Kraken Up (2011)
- Tom Mcrae - "Sloop John B" on From The Lowlands (2012)
- Al Jardine - "Sloop John B" as a bonus track on the reissued A Postcard From California (2012) 
- Le Gallienne, Pieces of Eight, p. 30: " 'And you, boys, there; haven't you got a song you can put up? How about 'The John B. sails?' ' And I led them off, the hiss and swirl of the sea, and the wind making a brisk undertone as we sang one of the quaint Nassau ditties."
- The Pet Sounds Sessions: "The Making Of Pet Sounds" booklet, pp. 25 & 26
- Al Jardine: Discography
- Le Gallienne, Ricard. Pieces of Eight: Being the Authentic Narrative of a Treasure Discovered in the Bahama Islands, in the Year 1903—Now First Given to the Public. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company (1922) (Copyright 1917, The Butterick Publishing Co.).
- McCutcheon, John and Evelyn. The Island Song Book, illustrated with photographs and cartoons by the author. Self-published, 1927. Contains the song "The John B. Sails".
- Waltz, Robert B; David G. Engle. "The John B. Sails". The Traditional Ballad Index: An Annotated Bibliography of the Folk Songs of the English-Speaking World. Hosted by California State University, Fresno, Folklore, 2007.