The Songs of Ivar Haglund

If you’ve ever been to Seattle, you know the iconic Ivar’s Acres of Clams restaurant on Pier 54, and have probably had their fish and chips or legendary clam chowder. But the legacy of Ivar Haglund is so much more than an amazing seafood restaurant.

This is a blog about music, so I’ll leave this link right here about Haglund and his historical sense of humor, marketing genius, community work, and business sense. If you check out his Wikipedia page you’ll see he is first remembered as a folk singer.

The most famous of Haglund’s work is “Acres of Clams”, and in the folk tradition it has it’s own winding history. The melody goes back to “Old Rosin the Beau“, or “Rosin the Bow” depending on where you read it. This melody has been used for political campaigns, slave songs, and jingles.

circa 1840, this song is called “Old Tippecanoe” – a campaign song for William Henry Harrison sung to the tune of “Rosin the Bow”, as printed in “Songs America Voted By”, Silber, 1971

It was also used as the melody for the “Old Settlers Song“, written by Francis D. Henry. The rumor is that when Pete Seeger stayed in Ivar Haglund’s West Seattle home, one of them taught the other the song (Haglund remembers teaching Seeger, and Seeger remembers teaching Haglund). Either way, Haglund used the folk process to edit his own verses and meld the song to his own devices, as did many folk musicians (for example, here is a video of Arlo Guthrie and Shenandoah singing a very politically charged version of the song).

“The Old Settler” as it appears in “An IVAR BOOK of Ballads From Puget Sound”, c 1953

Here is a clip of Ivar Haglund singing “Acres of Clams”:

Haglund also used radio and TV spots to showcase his many talents and market his restaurant. Here are a couple of his radio spots, collected by Seattle’s MOHAI museum, and here is a place you can purchase a video copy of Haglund as “First Mate Salty” on KOMO TV’s “Captain Puget”.

Haglund’s music has not been forgotten. Haglund collected his sea music in songbooks, sold them at the restaurant, and regularly had sing-along sessions.

Local-to-Seattle folk musicians Jon Pfaff, Stan James, and Allan Hirsch formed a band called the Halibutts to sing the songs of Ivar Haglund. If you’d like to hear some of these songs, reach out to Allan Hirsch through his website – he will tell you how you can purchase the album (you can see the cover below), which was recorded live at Ivar’s Salmon House. You can hear a few of the songs from the album on the memorial page for Stan James.

There are many fantastic songs in these books, and the Halibutts do a great service to Haglund’s legacy with their versions.

One more quick vid you should check out if this all is of interest to you: The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) put together a great little historical video of The Old Settler:

There is one song included at the end of the 1984 version that does not have the melody laid out, it’s written as a poem. I’ve opted to do a quick phone recording of the song for fun. Below are the lyrics and my video.

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