Following their recent wave of popularity on the social media platform TikTok, authentic folk group The Longest Johns have smashed into the UK’s Official Chart Top 40 and signed global deals with Decca Records and live touring agency United Talent (UTA).
The group’s version of ‘Wellerman’ – a New Zealand whaler’s song written in the early 19th century – has been played more than 14 million times on Spotify after sitting comfortably at the top of the UK and Global Viral Charts this month. The chart news makes it the first entirely a capella sea shanty to make the UK Official Chart Top 40 in its history!
The surprising resurgence of the shanty this month sparked a transatlantic bidding war for the band with major labels and live agents around the world, resulting in a deal with London-based Decca Records, UMG label Verve supporting in the US – where the band have amassed over 1 million fans – and live agents UTA who also represent the likes of The Jonas Brothers, Christine & The Queens, Post Malone and some of the biggest bands in the world, picking The Longest Johns up for global touring.
Over the last decade, the Bristol-based group have re-invigorated the traditional genre of the sea shanty, a genre first popularised commercially during the 1960’s folk revival on both sides of the Atlantic. The Longest Johns are Jonathan “JD” Darley, Andy Yates, Robbie Sattin and Dave Robinson, formed in 2012, born out of a mutual love of traditional folk songs and shanties.
Thousands of people across the world regularly tune into the band’s live Twitch sessions, where they rock maritime songs alongside the more unusual and less traditional folk tunes. This month’s success of Nathan Evans, the postman from Scotland comes off the back of his Tik Tok performance of The Longest Johns record ‘Wellerman’ now topping 6.7million views. Spotify has subsequently reported a 7000% increase in streams of the track.
In a few short years The Longest Johns have gone from singing sea shanties in a kitchen to international folk festivals, tours, TV appearances and gained a huge online following, with over 200,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel. With their signing to UTA last week, the band are due to announce UK and Ireland tour dates this week and we can expect to see the band topping festival bills and touring extensively in 2021/2022, once pandemic restrictions are lifted.
The song which has seen phenomenal engagement on TikTok has its roots in the 1830s, and tells the tale of young whalers living in New Zealand at a time when trading links provided a lifeline to those stationed in the most remote parts of the world.