The Flying Fish Sailors, made up of Jim Bedinghaus, Greg Henkel, Jim Henkel, Mitch Lawyer, Jay Lee, and Joseph Linbeck, came together in Texas in 1988. They play a wide variety of traditional Irish/Celtic and American folk songs, sea shanties, and original folk rock. Their songs cover a range of topics from cannibalism to UFOs, epidemic to nautical lore, and everything in between. No topic is too silly or too serious for them to address.

The band members are not all full-time performers, however. While Jim Henkel lists his occupation as musician, Joseph Linbeck as misguided performer, and Jim Bedinghaus as djembe-er (presumably one who plays the djembe), Mitch Lawyer is a graduate student, and both Greg Henkel and Jay Lee are occupied by the Internet. Their musical influences are as varied as the songs they sing, ranging from Devo, Frank Zappa, and The Beatles to The Chiefains, The Highlanders, and each other. Rather than sticking with a single hard and fast musical style, they prefer to experiment and above all make people laugh.

I have personally seen them play at small bars and coffeehouses in Houston, Texas, and at the Texas Renaissance Festival, but they have also played larger shows opening for the likes of The Dead Milkmen, the British folk rock band Steeleye Span and the traditional Irish musicians Altan. They continue to be favorites on the Renaissance Festival circuit, and Houston's Public News Music Poll named them the "Best Folk Band" in 1996.


Flying fish sailor is also the term used to describe a sailor who preferred the warmer trade winds and lands of the East to the bitter cold of the western ocean.

With the 1989 release of their self-titled debut album, the Flying Fish Sailors gave their fans everything they had come to expect from the popular folk band. The 47-minute cassette encapsulates their easy blend of traditional instrumentals like the "Sailor's Hornpipe" or "Donald Cameron's Polka" and humorous folk songs like "Three Jolly Coachmen" and "The Cat Came Back".

I've found that the collecting is surprisingly good driving music as well. The sound does not suffer much from being turned way up, and the traditional "forebitter" song (sung by sailors at rest rather than at work) "Rolling Down to Old Maui" is just the thing for keeping relaxed in traffic on a long commute home. Added bonuses are the odd looks you receive at traffic lights when you pull up blasting sea shanties rather than the expected hard rock or hip-hop.

Flying Fish Sailors website -
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