Reuben Ranzo

I could give you my take on this song but our Howard wrote it best in his book “Favorite Sea Songs of the Ancient Mariners Chanteymen“…

Here we have a classic long-drag or halyard chantey presented in the classical manner.  It has been called “an almost perfect work song… with its swinging solo lines building up to a savage release of power in the refrains.”  The pulls came on the two “Ranzos” in both choruses.  And in a really long hoist, the chanteyman would repeat the solo lines, thus doubling the length of the chantey.  Hugill suggests that aboard whale ships, chanteys like this were also used for hauling the huge strips of blubber to the rendering pots in the middle of the ship… The song tells the story of the advancement of poor Reuben Ranzo, who began his nautical career totally unfit to be a sailor.  However, with a bit of “teaching” from the captain’s daughter, Reuben apparently learned enough about navigation and seamanship to eventually command his own whaler.  There is some speculation in the literature that Reuben’s last name may actually have been “Lorenzo.”  The Yankee whale ships picked up many of their crew in the Azores, or “Western Islands.”  These were men of Portuguese descent, and among them “Lorenzo” was a common name.”


Well it’s poor old Reuben Ranzo,
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo!
Yes it’s poor old Reuben Ranzo.
Ranzo, me boys, Ranzo!

Oh, Ranzo was no sailor
Ranzo, &c.

But he shipped aboard of a whaler
Ranzo, me boys &c.

Oh, Ranzo was no beauty
And he couldn’t do his duty

Because he was so dirty
They give him five and thirty

But the captain’s daughter Susie
She begged her dad for mercy.

Well, she gave him wine and water
And a bit more than she ought-a!

She taught him navigation
To fit him to his station.

Well, Ranzo’s got his papers
He’s a terror to the whalers

Now he’s known wherever them whalefish blow
As the hardest bastard on the go!


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