28 “Sail Away Lady” by Uncle Bunt Stephens


September 15, 2009 by gadaya

We leave the world of the folk ballads, who were typically sung in the privacy of homes, to music that was played in a social context, whenever groups of people reunited to either dance or pray together. The “social” set of the Anthology opens with a beautiful selections of fiddle tunes. The first one, with no back-up instruments, is a solo fiddle piece called “Sail Away Lady”. Played by John L. “Uncle Bunt” Stephens, a veteran old-time fiddler from Tennessee born in 1879, it represented, i quote Harry Smith, “american dance music in the period between the revolutionary and civil wars”. In those days, the “europeans settlers used the violon unaccompanied for dancing”, the banjo being introduced later in the middle 19th-century via contacts with african-americans.FHOFBunt

-For a complete biography of Uncle Bunt Stephens, go to this page of the “Old-time Music” website.

-Uncle Bunt Stephens recorded only four sides for Columbia records in 1926. From this four sides, only “Left in the dark Blues” hasn’t been reedited on cd. If someone has a copy somewhere an can digitalize it, i’d be delighted to hear from him…

Here are the three sides available:

Sail Away Lady MP3

Louisburg Blues MP3

Candy Girl MP3


The Sail Away Ladies Variations

“Sail Away Ladies” is one of the most popular fiddle tune of all time, and belongs to a family of tunes that includes also “Sally Ann”, “Great big taters in Sandy Land” or “Dineo”. Its popularity is also due to the lyrics that goes with the tune, with a refrain that repeat the phrase “Sail away ladies, sail away” or ” Don’t she rock day-dee-o”. Almost every fiddler and string band has the tune in his repertoire and it is very popular among folk singers also. British skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan recorded it also under the name “Don’t you rock me Daddy-O”, making it a skiffle favorite in England in the 1950/1960’s.

-For more detailed informations on the tune, i recommand the “Fiddler’s Companion” website.

-I choosed 30 variations of “Sail Away Ladies”, from fiddlers and string bands, folk and contemporary singers, and a bit of skiffle. Concerning the fiddle tunes renditions, i selected only the ones that goes under the “Sail away ladies” name or “Dineo” “Big taters in Sandy Land” names, which are all played in the same fiddle key of G. The “Sally Ann” tunes can be in D or G and sometimes A.


  1. Uncle Dave Macon from Go Long Mule
  2. Original Orchard Grass String Band (Dineo Ladies) Digital Library of Appalachia
  3. Jody Kruskal from Poor Little Liza Jane
  4. The Iron Mountain String Band from Iron Mountain String Band: An Old Time Southern Mountain String band
  5. Kenny Baker from Baker’s Dozen
  6. New Lost City Ramblers from Volume 5
  7. Everett Kays (Big Sweet Taters in Sandy land) Digital Library of Appalachia
  8. Parker & Dodd from Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be: Early American Rural Music
  9. Henry L. Bandy from Kentucky Mountain Music, Part 4
  10. Leonard Bowles  & Irvin Cook Digital Library of Appalachia
  11. Tom, Brad & Alice from Holly Ding
  12. Camptown Shakers from Camptown Shakers
  13. Bruce Molsky from Lost Boy
  14. Unidentified fiddler Digital Library of Appalachia
  15. Elizabeth LaPrelle from Lizard In the Spring
  16. Rufus Kasey (Dineo) Digital Library of Appalachia
  17. Bonnie Russell and the Russell Family from Mountain Dulcimer Galax Style




  1. Lonnie Donegan (Don’t you rock me daddy-o) from The Original Hits Of Lonnie Donegan
  2. S.J. & The Props from Tragedy
  3. The Wagoners from The Wagoners Sing Folk Songs for Camp
  4. Guy Carawan Guy Carawan Sings Something Old, New, Borrowed and Blue
  5. John Fahey from John Fahey Volume 4 / The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party
  6. Odetta from At The Gate Of Horn
  7. Koerner & Glover from Live At The 400 Bar
  8. Joan Baez from Folksingers ‘Round Harvard Square
  9. Holy Modal Rounders from Holy Modal Rounders
  10. Roger McGuinn with Odetta from  Treasures from the Folk Den
  11. Casey Joe Abair & Hunter Robertson from If You Want to Go to Sleep, Go to Bed
  12. Hank Schwartz from Notes Along The Way
  13. Mike Seeger from True Vine


Mike Seeger, autoharp



To the memory of Odetta and Mike Seeger


4 thoughts on “28 “Sail Away Lady” by Uncle Bunt Stephens

  1. Nila Batte says:

    I commonly don’t commonly post on several Blogs, yet I just has to say thank you… retain up the incredible function. Ok regrettably its time to obtain to school.

  2. Doug Johnson says:

    Just cruising the web and came upon some info about Uncle Bunt Stephens. My grandmother was married to his son, Leonard. I lived with them for a while in Nashville while around 1960. Once we visited Leonard’s mother when she was in the hospital. I’m pretty sure he was from Lewisburg, TN. Leonard’s sister was married to the Davidson County, TN (Nashville) district attourney at the time. Once I asked Leonard if he ever played the fiddle. He responded that he once picked up his father’s fiddle and got a spanking for it! He didn’t try again.

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