Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

Why Do They All Take The Night Boat To Albany?

hudson night boat(photo link courtesy Kevin A. McGrath)

The night boat to Albany wasn’t merely a mode of transport; it was a floating love nest, an unsupervised getaway for youthful romance and clandestine assignations alike.

hudson night line

Al Jolson introduced this song in the Shubert musical extravaganza “Sinbad” at the Winter Garden on February 14, 1918, singing it 404 times before the play closed in 1919. This recording is from Jolson’s 1930 film, “Mammy.”

WHY DO THEY ALL TAKE THE NIGHT BOAT TO ALBANY?
Words by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis; music by Jean Schwartz.
As introduced by Al Jolson in Lee & J. J. Shubert’s musical production “Sinbad”
New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co., 1918.

1. Old Henry Hudson found a river,
A river that touches New York.
The rest of the river is a flivver,
Because it creates a lot of talk.
Summer time, that’s the time spooners
Used to go ramb’ling about.
Now they take trips on rickety ships,
And here’s what I want to find out:

CHORUS 1:

Why do they all take the night boat to Albany?
That’s been puzzling me.
They all claim it’s just for the sights.
Just the same, they travel at nights.
I asked a fellow and his sweet little pet,
“How is the Hudson?” and they answered, “It’s wet.”
So why do they all take the night boat to Albany,
And grab the next train for New York?

2. Seems that each Tom and Dick and Harry
Is rid of his worries and cares.
They found out the Hudson steamers carry
A cargo of peaches and pears.
Huddled and cuddled together,
With no one to shout, “Cut it out!”
No wonder they state the river is great.
To me it’s a river of doubt.

CHORUS 2:

Why do they all take the night boat to Albany?
That’s been puzzling me.
They all claim it’s just for the sights.
Just the same, they travel at nights.
They play the searchlight on the shore while they float.
They ought to play the searchlight right on the boat.
So why do they all take the night boat to Albany,
And grab the next train for New York?

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