First recorded (as “Histe Up the John B.”) by Cleveland Simmons Group (1935).
First popular version recorded (as “The Wreck of the John B.”) by The Weavers (1950).
Also recorded by Blind Blake Higgs (1952), The Kingston Trio (1958), Johnny Cash (1959), Jimmie Rodgers (1960), Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (1962).
Hit version (titled “The Sloop John B.”) by The Beach Boys (US #3/UK #2 1966).
From the wiki: “According to Blind Blake Higgs, the Bahamanian calypso entertainer, the John B had been a sponger boat that one day went under. That’s not so unusual, all thing considered. So, what made this tragedy so special? One possible explanation is the name of the vessel: to illiterate ears, ‘John B’ sounds like ‘Zombie’. So, when said sloop vanished with no one returning, that’s the stuff where legends are made of.
“The popularity of the song triggered interest in the wreck’s whereabouts. The hull was found and rescued from under the sands of Governor’s Harbor in 1926. John T. McCutcheon, philosopher and cartoonist on holiday with his wife in the West Indies at that time, learned the song and brought the song to New York where poet Carl Sandburg collected it for his songbook The American Songbag (1927).
“Alan Lomax made a field recording of ‘The John B. Sails’ in Nassau, 1935, under the title ‘Histe Up the John B. Sail’, sung by the Cleveland Simmons Group. The song was then, a decade-and-a-half later, adapted by The Weavers’ Lee Hays and the group recorded it as ‘The Wreck of the John B’ (credited to poet Sandburg and singer Hays). The Kingston Trio’s 1958 recording of the song, also under the title ‘The Wreck of the John B.’, was the most direct influence later on the Beach Boys’ version. Johnny Cash recorded the song in 1959 as ‘I Want To Go Home’. Jimmie Rodgers (the pop music singer, not the landmark country singer) titled his version of the song in 1960 as ‘The Wreck of John B.’. Dick Dale & His Del-Tones recorded a surf rock version of the song on the album Surfers’ Choice in 1962.
“The Beach Boys 1966 recording of ‘Sloop John B.’ was a Top-5 hit for the group (and a UK #2). It was ranked #271 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
The Weavers, “The Wreck of the John B.” (1950):
Blind Blake Higgs & the Royal Victoria Hotel Calypso Orchestra, “Histe Up the John B. Sail” (1952):
The Kingston Trio, “The Wreck of John B.” (1958):
Johnny Cash, “I Want To Go Home” (1959):
Jimmie Rodgers, “The Wreck of John B.” (1960):
Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, “Sloop John B.” (1962):
The Beach Boys, “Sloop John B.” (1966):