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Variations on "Barnacle Bill, the Sailor"

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Steven Frank

Steven Frank (arr. Jamie Hafner)

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General Info

Year: 1993
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Kagarice Brass Editions
Cost: Score and Parts - $70.00   |   Score Only - $15.00


Full Score
Solo Bass Trombone
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III-IV

'(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Barnacle Bill the Sailor (Roud 4704) is an American drinking song adapted from Bollocky Bill the Sailor, a traditional folk song originally titled Abraham Brown.

There are several versions of the bawdy song in the Gordon "Inferno" Collection at the Library of Congress folklife archive. The first printed version of the song is in the public domain book Immortalia (1927). Later versions feature the eponymous "Barnacle Bill", a fictional character loosely based on a 19th-century San Francisco sailor and Gold Rush miner named William Bernard. Versions are also known in England and Scotland from the early twentieth century.

The earliest known recording is an expurgated adaptation by Carson Robison and Frank Luther in 1928. This version was also recorded on May 21, 1930 by Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael with Carson Robison on vocals and released as a Victor 78, V-38139-A and 25371. In 1996 it was released on CD on the album "Bix Beiderbecke 1927–1930."

The tune has inspired a Fleischer Studios Betty Boop cartoon and two films, as well as the name of a rock on Mars. Louis Jordan (The Elks Rendezvous Band) recorded it in 1938. In the first Fleischer Popeye cartoon, Popeye the Sailor (1933), Barnacle Bill was used as the recurring theme for the Bluto character.

-Program Note from Wikipedia

Steven Frank created the variation on the theme, with humorous intent, in 1993 for bass trombone or tuba with piano accompaniment. The band accompaniment was arranged by Jamie Hafner.

- Program Note by Dave Strickler based a performance by the Reno (Nev.) Wind Symphony, 4 March 2015.

Finally the bass trombonist has an "Arthur Pryor-style" showpiece. This clever theme and variations weaves several traditional sea songs into a virtuosic and extremely demanding solo.

- Program Note from publisher


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Arizona State University (Tempe) Wind Ensemble (Anna Scott, conductor; Robert Peterson, bass trombone) - 5 October 2022
  • Karl L. King Municipal Band (Fort Dodge, Iowa) (Jerrold P. Jimmerson, conductor; Jared Knapp, bass trombone) - 24 July 2022
  • University of Maine (Orono) Symphonic Band (Christopher White, conductor; Dan Barrett, bass trombone) - 22 April 2021
  • Reno (Nev.) Wind Symphony (A.G. "Mack" McGrannahan III, conductor; Graydon McGrannahan, bass trombone) - 4 March 2015 (80th Annual ABA National Convention)

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Frank, S; Robison, C.; Luther, F. (1993). Variations on Barnacle Bill the Sailor: Bass Trombone or Tuba and Piano [score]. Kagarice Brass Editions: Denton, Tex.
  • Barnacle Bill (Song), Wikipedia