There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Copyright matters affecting music and musicians.
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PeterMillettNZ
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There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Post by PeterMillettNZ »

Hi there

"There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" is a cumulative song that achieved some popularity in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lonzo and Oscar recorded their version of the song (RCA Victor) August 18, 1947.

A music hall singer Robert Lunn (Born 1911, died 1966) performed it during the late 1930's.

I'm trying to find earlier dates that document who is credited with writing the song?

Of course, it may be possible that no known writer or composer has been accredited for this tune.

Any thoughts appreciated.

Pete :)

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AndyJ
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Re: There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Pete,

There's an entry in the Library of Congress Catalogue of Copyright Entries Part 5A - Published Music - for Jan-June 1948 crediting Lloyd (Lonzo) George and Rollin (Oscar) Sullivan (the country music duo you mentioned - Wikipedia entry here) with the lyrics, and indicating that the copyright was registered by music publishers Ernest Tubb, Inc, Hollywood on 39 April 1948. (ref No EP27176 - EP stands for music first published in the USA). However the actual lyrics are not recorded in the index, so it's difficult to know if this was just a particular version of the lyrics, which according to your information must have existed before that date. If you follow this link it will take you to a Google books scan of the relevant catalogue. The three marks in the margin to the right of the entries will take you to, respectively, the entry under the name Sullivan, R, the copyright registration detail, and the song title.

Since Lonzo and Oscar were born in 1924 and 1919 respectively, I doubt if they could have been responsible for writing lyrics which were performed in the late 1930s, although Rollin (Oscar) Sullivan was touring with his brother Johnny (born 1917) in the late 1930s so the Sullivan Brothers may have performed the song if it was already a traditional folk song.

I'm not sure that information assists you much. Without a more specific date, it's very time consuming to trawl through the earlier yearly volumes of copyright entries. However if you have time on your hands, you could follow up some of the links here
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

PeterMillettNZ
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Re: There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Post by PeterMillettNZ »

Thanks again Andy. As always, that's super helpful advice. Pete :)

MrGard
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Re: There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Post by MrGard »

Hi, I'm researching this song as well and came upon this thread. It appears that some version of a cumulative song titled "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" existed at least as early as 1913, although in this case sung to a different melody (Sweet By and By). A version of the song that is consistent with modern versions of the song (both lyrics and music) is included in this collection of Ozark Folksongs from 1954. Although this collection was published after the 1948 copyright registration by Ernest Tubb, Inc. and the 1947 recording by Lonzo and Oscar, its inclusion on a collection of Ozark Folksongs leads to some speculation that the song predates that registration.

A version of the lyrics that matches modern versions is listed in this 1932 songbook (p. 9). In the book "The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore; the folklore of North Carolina, collected by Dr. Frank C. Brown during the years 1912 to 1943, in collaboration with the North Carolina Folklore Society", there is a song titled "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" with following description:
'There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." Reported in 1923 by Miss
Lucille Cheek as "sung by boys and girls in Chatham county on hay-
rides."

1 There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole.
There's a hole.
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea.

2 There's a rock in the bottom of the sea,
There's a rock.
There's a rock.
There's a rock in that hole in the bottom of the sea.

3 There's a frog in the bottom of the sea,
There's a frog,
There's a frog,
There's a frog on that rock in that hole in the bt)ttom of
the sea.
It seems as though the lyrics, or at least early versions of the lyrics, existed prior to the 1948 registration. It's less clear whether the music for that 1948 registration was original.

Have you found any more information on this song?

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