"Barnacle Bill the Sailor" (Roud 4704) is an American drinking song adapted from "Bollocky Bill the Sailor", a traditional folk song originally titled "Abraham Brown".
There are several versions of the bawdy song in the Gordon "Inferno" Collection at the Library of Congress folklife archive. The first printed version of the song is in the public domain book Immortalia (1927). Later versions feature the eponymous "Barnacle Bill", a fictional character loosely based on a 19th-century San Francisco sailor and Gold Rush miner named William Bernard. Versions are also known in England and Scotland from the early twentieth century.
The earliest known recording is an expurgated adaptation by Carson Robison and Frank Luther in 1928. This version was also recorded on May 21, 1930 by Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael with Carson Robison on vocals and released as a Victor 78, V-38139-A and 25371. In 1996 it was released on CD on the album "Bix Beiderbecke 1927–1930". According to Philip R. Evans, Bix Beiderbecke's biographer, in the second chorus of this recording, violinist Joe Venuti can be heard singing "Barnacle Bill the Sh-t-head," either to express his attitude toward the record producer, or typical of his wacky sense of humor. Esten Spurrier, a friend of Beiderbecke's, is quoted by Evans as saying that Beiderbecke told him he could not believe the record would be pressed and had felt that it had been done just for laughs. Beiderbecke cut loose on the tune with what is believed to be one of his finest cornet solos. John Valby (aka "Dr. Dirty") also recorded the song.
The tune has inspired a Fleischer Studios Betty Boop cartoon and two films, as well as the name of a rock on Mars. Louis Jordan (The Elks Rendezvous Band) recorded it in 1938. In the first Fleischer Popeye cartoon, Popeye the Sailor (1933), "Barnacle Bill" was used as the recurring theme for the Bluto character. A later Fleischer Popeye cartoon, Beware of Barnacle Bill (1935), is a mock operetta based around a toned-down version of the song.
The theme tune of Blue Peter is similar to this.