Music Throwback Saturday: Banana Boat

Harry Belafonte will be turning 90 on March 1, 2017

tarriersI knew the song Banana Boat (Day-O) by Harry Belafonte. Everybody knows that song, even fans in Japan, who would sing it TO Harry.

But looking on the charts for February 16, 1957, I found TWO songs with similar titles, the Belafonte Song at #5 and The Banana Boat Song by a group called The Tarriers at #7, a recording that, to my knowledge, I had never heard.

The Tarriers was a folk trio of Eric Darling (d. 2008), Bob Casey and the future movie actor Alan Arkin (guitars). Darling, who played banjo, replaced Pete Seeger in The Weavers from 1958 to 1962, then formed The Rooftop Singers with Willard Svanoe and Lynne Taylor (d. 1982), who sang with Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich.

Harry Belafonte, of course, is a living legend. Five years ago, I wrote about Belafonte on the occasion of his 85th birthday, which means he’ll be turning 90 on March 1, 2017.

The Tarriers’ Banana Boat Song got up to #4, but it was #1 in Detroit, Milwaukee, St Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Toronto. It first hit the Top 10 on December 29, 1956, jumping from #21 to #9, staying in the Top 10 ten more weeks, for a total of 19 weeks in the Top 100.

Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat (Day-O) went from #14 to #9 on January 26, stuck at #5 for four weeks, but was in the Top 100 for a total of 20 weeks. It was #7 on the R&B national charts and got to #1 on the pop charts in Atlanta, New York City, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

Listen to:

Cindy, O Cindy – Vince Martin with the Tarriers (#9 in 1956) here or here

Banana Boat Song – The Tarriers here or here

Banana Boat (Day-O) – Harry Belafonte here or here

Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers (#1 for two weeks in 1963) here or here

Tom Cat – The Rooftop Singers (#20 in 1963) here or here

Mama Don’t Allow – The Rooftop Singers (#55 in 1963) here or here

More Belafonte

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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