Old Sea Songs Live On In Virginia

For a career fisherman, being relegated to opening oysters on dry land, kind of "shucks," or so says 76-year-old James Carter.

Carter says he used to love being out in the open sea, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports in this week's Assignment America.
He fished Chesapeake Bay for menhaden, a kind of fish. Carter says that 50 years ago, they used to catch them by the thousands, using nothing but nets and songs.

"You can raise more fish by singing than any other way I know," Carter explains.

The songs are called shantys. And the singers are the North Neck Shanty Singers. These men — just like their fathers and their fathers' fathers — used to sing the songs as they hoisted their nets.

Carter says it was "a lot of hard work." It sure wasn't fly fishing they were doing. And because it was such hard work, they would use the rhythm of the songs to help them pull together, literally.

Shanty-singing pretty much went away in the 1960s when automation took over the heavy lifting. Today, just a handful of men still remember. They're determined to keep the music and stories alive — at least as long as they are.

If you would like to purchase a CD of the North Neck Shanty Singers, you can contact Lloyd Hill at LNhill06@Rivnet.net