Monday, August 29, 2022

Episode 635 (8-29-22): A Fishing Focus for Labor Day, Featuring the Northern Neck Chantey Singers

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (5:14).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 8-26-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the weeks of August 29 and September 5, 2022.  This episode is a revised repeat of an episode from September 2012.

MUSIC – ~15 sec – Lyrics: “Won’t you help me to raise ‘em boys; hey, hey, honey.”

In this episode, we honor Labor Day by featuring a musical tradition that helped hard-working African American watermen harvest Menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay.  Have a listen for about 90 seconds.

VOICE AND MUSIC - ~92 sec –


“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  I want to thank you for that wonderful introduction.  We are the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, and we are extremely happy to be back here once again to perform for you.  We call ourselves the Northern Neck Chantey Singers because all of us come from the Northern Neck counties of the Northern Neck, which is that body that’s on the eastern part of Virginia, bordered by the Potomac River in the north, the majestic Chesapeake Bay in the east, and the Rappahannock River in the south.  The first song that we’re gonna perform for you is sort of like our theme song.  It’s called “Help us to raise ‘em, boys,” and it goes by showing how we pull in the nets that’s teeming with fish.”

Song Lyrics:

“Won’t you help me to raise ‘em boys?  Hey, hey, honey. C’mon now, let’s go get ‘em; get ‘em now!
Won’t you help me to raise ‘em boys?  Hey, hey, honey.  C’mon boys let’s go get ‘em, all right!
Won’t you help me to raise ‘em out?  See you when the sun goes down.”

You’ve been listening to the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, performing at the 2011 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Festival in Charlottesville.  In 1991, several former Virginia watermen formed the Northern Neck Chantey Singers to keep alive and spread awareness of the tradition of menhaden chanteys.  Menhaden chanteys are an example of African American work songs, used in this case to coordinate crews of watermen in the grueling labor of hauling up nets full of fish.  Atlantic menhaden are relatively small, oily fish that feed on microscopic plants and animals and in turn are prey for larger fish, such as Striped Bass and Bluefish.  Menhaden have been harvested from Atlantic Coast waters since the 1800s for a variety of industrial uses of their oils, and in southern states.  African Americans typically made up the crews doing the hard work of pulling up nets containing thousands of fish.  The chanteys, sung in a call-and-response style, helped the watermen coordinate the extra efforts needed for hauling in heavily loaded nets.  Today, hydraulic equipment does the net-hauling work formerly performed by watermen; the Northern Neck town of Reedville, in Northumberland County, is home to the Chesapeake Bay’s only remaining industrial Menhaden operation, run by the Omega Protein company; and Bay Menhaden harvest quotas are at times a controversial issue.  Performances by the Northern Neck Chantey Singers remind us that those modern-day menhaden circumstances have a long, challenging, and culturally rich history of Virginians working on the water.

Thanks to Virginia Humanities, formerly the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, for permission to use the excerpt of the Northern Neck Chantey Singers’ performance, and we let those singers have the last word.

MUSIC – ~13 sec – Lyrics: “Won’t you help me to raise ‘em out?  See you when the sun goes down.”


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaced Episode 128, 9-17-12.

Audio of the Northern Neck Chantey Singers was from a video of their September 11, 2011, performance at the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase in Charlottesville, used with permission of Virginia Humanities (formerly the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities), located in Charlottesville and online at  The full performance video is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Crew fishing for menhaden, around 1930.  Photo courtesy of the image collection of The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newport News, Va., archive number P0001.001/01-#P2854, used with permission; accessed online at on 8/29/22.

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus).  Drawing from he Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, “Atlantic Menhaden,” online at

Atlantic menhaden landings for bait and in the reduction industry (using the fish oils for various products) from 1940 to 2020.  Graph from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, “Atlantic Menhaden,” online at

Counties of the Northern Neck peninsula in eastern Virginia.  Map courtesy of the Northern Neck Planning District Commission, located in Warsaw, Va. (Richmond County), online at


Used for Audio

Harold Anderson, “Menhaden Chanteys: An African American Legacy,” and “A History of Menhaden Fishing,” both in Maryland Marine Notes, Jan.-Feb. 2000, from the Maryland Sea Grant Program, available online at

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, “Atlantic Menhaden,” online at

Steve Bittenbender, “Omega Protein completes move of headquarters to Virginia,” Seafood Source, March 2, 2020.

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Menhaden” (undated), online at

The Mariners’ Museum and Park (formerly The Mariners’ Museum; Newport News, Va.), “Watermen Harvesting the Bounty: Menhaden Fishing” (2002), online at

Omega Protein Corporation, “Who We Are,” online at

Virginia Humanities (formerly the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities), “Virginia Folklife Program: Northern Neck Chantey Singers and Lewis R. Blackwell, Jr.,” 2011, online at

For More Information about Menhaden or Menhaden Chanteys

Karl Blankenship and Timothy Wheeler, “Atlantic menhaden not overharvested, fisheries commission concludes,” Bay Journal, August 7, 2022.

Kathleen A. Gaskell, “Menhaden mentionables,” Bay Journal, September 14, 2022 (includes a quiz to test your knowledge of Menhaden).

North Carolina Arts Council, “Menhaden Chanteymen/Beaufort, N.C.,” online at

State Library of North Carolina et al., “NCPedia/Menhaden Chanteymen,” online at

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), “Fish and Wildlife Information Service/Species Information,” online at  The Altantic menhaden entry is online at

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Atlantic Menhaden,” online at

Virginia Marine Resources Commission/Menhaden Management Advisory Committee, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the following subject categories: “Fish”; “History”; “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water.”

Following are links to some other episodes on the Chesapeake Bay.

Bay condition reports – Episode 305, 2-29-16; Episode 632, 7-18-22.
Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan – Episode 115, 6-18-12.
Bay TMDL, Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan – Episode 475, 6-3-19.
Chesapeake Bay Commission – Episode 496, 10-28-19.
Estuaries introduction – Episode 326, 7-25-16.
Oysters and nitrogen (Part 1) – Episode 279, 8-24-15.
Oysters and nitrogen (Part 2) – Episode 280, 9-7-15.
“Smart” buoys – Episode 538, 8-17-20.
Submerged aquatic vegetation (“Bay grasses”) – Episode 325, 7-18-16.
Winter birds of the Chesapeake Bay area – EP565 – 2/22/21.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes

1.5 – Animals, including humans, have basic life needs that allow them to survive.

2.5 – Living things are part of a system.

3.5 – Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems support a diversity of organisms.

4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems

4.7 – The ocean environment.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources

1.8 – Natural resources can be used responsibly, including that most natural resources are limited.

3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.

4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6

6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.

6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.

6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science

LS.6 – Populations in a biological community interact and are interdependent.

LS.8 – Change occurs in ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms over time.

LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science

ES.6 – Resource use is complex. 

ES.10 – Oceans are complex, dynamic systems subject to long- and short-term variations. 


BIO.7 – Populations change through time.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs 

Grades K-3 Economics Theme

2.8 – Natural, human, and capital resources.

3.8 – Understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course

VS.1 – Impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.

VS.10 – Knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course

USII.6 – Social, economic, and technological changes from the 1890s to 1945.

Civics and Economics Course

CE.7 – Government at the state level.

CE.10 – Public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course

WG.3 – How regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.

WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course

GOVT.8 – State and local government organization and powers.

GOVT.9 – Public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

GOVT.15 – Role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.