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Low Bridge, Everybody Down

Guest Author - Chris Curtis

As the first man made engineered water way built specifically for trade, the Erie Canal started a revolution in Maritime commerce. Eight years in the making, the Erie Canal opened on October 25, 1825 connecting the western shores of Lake Erie at Buffalo to the Hudson River in Albany and allowing for the movement of goods across western NY to New York City. It didn't take long for progress to flourish along the canal and prosperity to explode in the Empire State as New York City became the largest port in the United States.

Low Bridge, Everybody Down (aka The Erie Canal Song) was written by Thomas S. Allen in 1905 to document the contributions of the mules to the success of the canal and its commercial flourish. Born in MA, Allen was a well recognized figure among the Tin Alley composers. While Low Bridge, Everybody Down was not his first tune, it is probably the one for which he is best known.

For nearly 100 years, commerce on the Canal continued with mules and horses moving the barges along the canal's 363 miles until steam and diesel power took hold. Allen's lyrics commemorate the years of mule labor on the canal whereby the barges would be pulled in 15 mile stretches by a mule and its driver. In the true sense of documenting folk lore through song, this tune keeps those historic events alive in our minds.

Keeping the traditions alive, this tune has been recorded many times from such well know artists as Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Glen Yarborough, Kingston Trio and most recently, Bruce Springsteen. It can also be heard played at many a picking party at folk and bluegrass festivals and is legendary in the forming of American Folk Music.


I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal

We've hauled some barges in our day
filled with lumber, coal and hay
And we know every inch of the way from
Albany to Buffalo.

Chorus:
Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor, you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

We better get along on our way ol'gal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal
'Cause you bet your life I'd never part with Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal.
Git up there mule, here comes a lock,
We'll make Rome about 6 o'clock
One more trip and back we'll go, right back home to Buffalo.


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Content copyright © 2014 by Chris Curtis. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Chris Curtis. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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