The work songs of the Menhaden Chanteymen grew out of North Carolina's Commercial Fishing Industry

January 25, 2019


The North Caroilna Arts Council is back with a new music themed season of their podcast Arts Across NC called "Director's Cut." Over the next four episodes, Wayne Martin, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council, will unearth a field recording from the archive he built during his 30+ year tenure with the agency. Each song represents a different region of North Carolina.

"These pieces that I've chosen are part of the fabric of who we are as a people," says Wayne. "They are pieces that tell the story of North Carolina."

Up first is the song "Going Back to Weldon," performed by the Menhaden Chanteymen in 1988.

There was a time when a stinky, oily fish ruled eastern North Carolina. From the late 1800s through much of the 20th century, menhaden sat at the economic epicenter of Beaufort, North Carolina. Year in and year out, generations of working class men and women caught, processed, packaged and shipped menhaden, also known in North Carolina's Core Sound region as shad. As the town grew alongside the burgeoning industry, so to did a new style of work song developed by African American men who often handled the back-breaking work of hauling in thousands of pounds of fish. These songs- called chanteys - outlived the industry itself and today we share the story and music of the Menhaden Chanteymen.

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