Rio Grande

Traditional | Roud 317, Ballad Index Doe064

Lyrics:

O say was you ever in Rio Grande?
Oh, you Rio
It’s there that the river runs down golden sand
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

And away, love, away
Oh, you Rio
Sing fare ye well my pretty young girls
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Oh, New York town is no place for me
Oh, you Rio
I’ll pack up my bag and we’ll head out to sea
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

And away, love, away
Oh, you Rio
Sing fare ye well my pretty young girls
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

So it’s pack up your mule and we’ll get under way
Oh, you Rio
The girls we are leaving can take half our pay
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

And away, love, away
Oh, you Rio
Sing fare ye well my pretty young girls
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

We’ll sell our salt cod for molasses and rum
Oh, you Rio
And get home again ‘fore Thanksgiving has come
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

And away, love, away
Oh, you Rio
Sing fare ye well my pretty young girls
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Sing goodbye to Nellie and goodbye to Sue
Oh, you Rio
And you who are listening, it’s goodbye to you
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

And away, love, away
Oh, you Rio
Sing fare ye well my pretty young girls
And we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Additional Verses

And good-bye, fare you well, all you ladies of town
Oh, you Rio
We’ve left you enough for to buy a silk gown
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Now you Bowery ladies we’d have you to know
Oh, you Rio
We’re bound to the south’ard, O Lord, let us go!
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Our good ship’s a-going out over the bar
Oh, you Rio
And we’ll point her nose for the southernmost star
For we’re bound to the Rio Grande

Featured On:
Songs of the Lakes, Rivers, and Seas

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About the Song:

“Rio Grande” is an example of a capstan shanty. Like many traditional songs, the author of “Rio Grande” is unknown. Its earliest known documentation was in 1894 by Alfred M. Williams in his book Studies in Folk-Song and Popular Poetry. This shanty refers to the Brazilian province and chief port Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, not the river between Texas and Mexico. This shanty was traditionally popular with American sailors shipping coffee as well as sailors leaving England’s western coast and Wales who would often stop in Newfoundland or Cadiz for salt cod. Rio Grande do Sul was a major hub for trade between the US and Britain. The sand shoals in the Rio Grande estuary connecting the Lagoa dos Patos with the sea would shift, making access to the port nearly impossible unless the tide was favorable.

Other common names include Away for Rio, Bound for the Rio Grande.