I learned this from singer/historian/radio host/all-round cool person Judy Cook, whose way of doing it has been delighting me for years. Everyone interested in traditional singing should check out her work.
This song was first written by Thomas Haynes Bayly [aka Bayley] (words) and Sidney Nelson (music), in 1831, though their original doesn’t mention the Captain’s whiskers. That seems to be a revision added around the Civil War, when luxuriant facial hair was considered an element of manly beauty.
The version Judy and I both sing is from the repertoire of New Hampshire traditional singer Lena Bourne Fish. She recorded this for song collectors Anne and Frank Warner in 1941. Facial hair was again unfashionable by that era, and Mrs. Fish introduced the song by saying, “In the good old days, whiskers were deemed to be an emblem of strength and manhood.”
Words and sheet music are here, hosted by the Digital Tradition.
This video was produced with the kind assistance of Dan Thurston.