Going Across the Sea
X:1 T:Going across the Sea N:From the playing of W.L. "Jake" Phelps (1885-1977, Pea Ridge, Todd N:County, southwest Ky.), recorded in 1973 in the field by Bruce Greene. M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Moderate" D:https://soundarchives.berea.edu/items/show/1019 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:D fg|a2^g2=g2e2|dfe2 d2fg|a2^g2=g2e2|dfed B2fg| a2^g2=g2e2|df e2d2AB|defa edBd|A3B A2:|| |:((3ABc|d2)d2B2A2|d-e2e e2AB|defa edBd|A3B A2A-B| d2d2 B2A2|e3e e2e-f-|f2a2 f-ed-B|A3B A2:|
GOING ACROSS THE SEA. AKA and see "Across the Sea," "Going to the Army," "Gwine Across the Sea." Old-Time, Breakdown and Song Tune. USA; Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri. A Major/Mixolydian: D Major (Beisswenger & McCann). AEad or ADae (Monday/Titon) tunings (fiddle). AA'BB'.
This piece has been popular as a banjo/vocal number and has a reputation as a driving banjo tune among musicians in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, although both Guthrie Meade (1980) and Jeff Titon (2001) say the tune is identified with the Cumberland Plateau region of south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee.
Others have called it a fairly common tune in the upper/central South. Titon relays that Mark Wilson told him that it was frequently encountered in the Ozarks Mountains region of the Mid-West, where Tennessee populations had migrated. Various sets of lyrics are often sung to it, most being of the "floating" variety.
The piece was earliest recorded in 1924 by Tennessee's banjo-playing Uncle Dave Macon, and indeed, the tune has lyrics and has often been rendered subsequently with banjo accompaniment. Monticello, Kentucky, musician Dick Burnett performed a noticeably different version on the banjo from Macon's.
In fact, Burnett copyrighted his version, had it printed and sold "ballets" of the song in the second decade of the 20th century. He later recorded the song for the Gennett company, although the side was unissued (Gennett 14651), the only copy pressed being presented to him. It was also recorded in the 20's by other south-central or eastern Kentucky musicians (such as Henry L. Bandy, who waxed it for Gennett in 1928, though un-issued), African-American fiddler John Lusk, and (in an instrumental version) by Nashville's Crook Brothers (Wolfe, 1982).
It was the Crook Brother's most popular record. Bascom Lamar Lunsford was recorded for the Library of Congress playing "Goin' across the Sea" in 1935 (1801B2). Charles Wolfe says a "sea chanty" variant was published in 1939 by Jean Thomas in the book Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky, collected in northeastern Kentucky. The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore links "Going across the Sea" to "Wish I Had a Needle and Thread."
A play-party tune called "I'm Going across the Sea" may be related in some way, either melodically or through the title. According to Meade, Spottswood and Meade (Country Music Sources, 2002, p. 529), the tune is closely related to Stephen Foster's "Angelina Baker."