The 7 music stations located throughout the exhibit area pay homage to three historic steamboats: Glendy Burke, Shawneetown and John Gilbert and 4 captains of that era as well: Nye, Miller, Ryman and Richardson.
"Glendy Burke" was written by Stephen Foster in 1860. Foster wrote the lyrics after working at his brother's steamboat warehouse in Cincinnati. Ironically enough, though it was written about a real life steamboat, by the time Foster wrote the song, the boat had already struck a snag near Bird's Point, MO and had broken apart, completely destroyed. Having survived only 4 years, it was not an atypical ending to a steamboat. The wreckage continued to damage other boats in the Mississippi River for another 45 years. From the CD "Aural Traditions", the lyrics of this song tell of the captain and crew of the Str. Glendy Burke. Foster was interested in folklore and also composed: "Oh Susanna", "Camptown Races"," My Old KY Home", and "Swannee River".
"John Gilbert" is a typical "rouster" or "roustabout" song sung by the deckhands of the steamboat era. The men who crewed the John Gilbert referred to it as the "Peanut John". These roustabouts loaded and unloaded all the cargo and the passenger luggage on the steamboats. Life was hard and they often sang about their lives: details of the boat and its "run", the homesickness they felt and even the pain of their weary muscles. The John Gilbert was a packet boat, the "workhorse" of the rivers. Packets hauled passengers, cargo and even livestock. The song lyrics were preserved in Steamboatin' Days, a collection of roustabout songs compiled by Paducah native, Mary Wheeler.
"Shawneetown" was part of a collection of river songs heard and compiled by musician and folklorist Dillon Bustin after he returned from the Ohio River Valley. Shawneetown, IL, claiming to be the oldest town in IL, was a major port on the lower Ohio River in the 1800's. Located between St. Louis, MO and Louisville, KY, the town was known to have hosted Native Americans and pioneers in its early days. The word "bushwacking", used in the lyrics, was a term for the method people used to propel their boats upstream by pulling on overhead branches.