IN the Twenties they had jazz. By the Seventies, disco ruled and the following decade rock really dominated the western music world.

Now, we have sea shanties.

The age-old folk songs have recently enjoyed an astounding resurgence thanks to video sharing app TikTok, with a Scottish postman and a Bristolian four-piece among those to go viral for their vocals.

But what does this “shanty-mania” mean for a seasoned crew from Sussex?

The Argus: The Wellington WailersThe Wellington Wailers

“DAVE Drew’s niece is a TikTok addict,” Bill Brown of the Shoreham-based Wellington Wailers says.

“She saw ‘the Wellerman shanty’ and said, “my uncle does that’.”

The message was passed on to fellow crew member Brian Ablett, who saw an opportunity for the Wailers.

“Brian is our computer savvy chap, he keeps his finger on the pulse,” Bill, 73, explained, with the shanty band now findable on Facebook, YouTube and their own website.

“I’m too long in the tooth for this TikTok nonsense, but if it keeps us and shanties in the public eye then I’m all for it. So we’ve jumped on the bandwagon.”

And the Wailers have adapted their set accordingly, adding the Wellerman to their expansive repertoire over lockdown.

The Shoreham group, largely made up of keen sailors, was formed in 2012 at The Sussex Yacht Club where they would gather to sing shanties and enjoy a few beers as well. But they were soon on the move.

“The landlord of the Duke of Wellington pub saw us play.

"He said, ‘If you perform over here I’ll pay you in beer’.

"He was virtually trampled in the stampede.

“That was nearly nine years ago now, and it’s gone from strength to strength.

The Argus: The Wellington WailersThe Wellington Wailers

That is how the band decided upon their name, and they have continued to perform at the pub for almost a decade now.

But their performances have stretched far beyond the Sussex seaside town. The Wailers have recorded two CDs, raising more than £5,000 for their town’s lifeboat through sales, been played on Radio 2 and made several appearances at the esteemed Falmouth International Shanty Festival.

“I think we have ticked off every pub in Falmouth,” Bill said.

“We've sung in many of them as well. But one does need to lubricate the larynx, you know?”

It was during one of the group’s trips to the annual Cornish event that they ended up featuring on Songs of Praise in 2015. However, their boisterous performance inadvertently put the show’s producers in a bit of a pickle.

The Argus: The Wellington WailersThe Wellington Wailers

“They were filming in Falmouth and we were singing a song called, You Can’t Be a Pirate Without All Your Parts,” Bill said.

“For the most part we stick to singing good old crowd-pleasing shanties, with emphasis on close harmony, but we also inject one or two more humorous songs, of a more piratical slant.

“In 'You Can’t Be a Pirate Without All Your Parts', each verse, the pirate loses a part of his anatomy.”

There are no points for guessing which body part is cut from the pirate in the final verse.

“Songs of Praise edited that one out,” Bill admitted.

The group has a ceiling of 16 members, with each one given a naval title.

The Argus: The Wellington WailersThe Wellington Wailers

Among others, Bill is the bosun, tech-whizz Brian Ablett is the signals officer and Ian Bush is the captain.

For the Wailers, the brilliance of shanties is not a new revelation. So why, then, has the world suddenly cottoned on to their widespread appeal?

The songs were traditionally sung by sailors as they carried out laborious tasks such as hoisting the sails, with the rhythm and camaraderie serving as motivation to keep going despite the difficulty of the job at hand.

Some people have theorised that this spirit is vital during the current coronavirus crisis, with shanties providing a sense of community during a time of isolation.

Others have credited the collaborative nature of TikTok, with people able to duet with other singers on the social media site to create a greater sound.

But Bill had another suggestion for the origin of 2021’s shanty hype.

The Argus: The Wellington WailersThe Wellington Wailers

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he said. “But I think it’s the fact that these traditional songs have got this attractive melody, and once you scratch the surface you learn the amazing history behind them.”

The Wailers will often educate their audiences on the different types of shanty, such as short haul shanties and pumping shanties, as well as their origin as they perform.

“I understand it was a Scottish postman who originally picked shanties up, but he must have asked some questions - what’s this all about, where did it come from?”

The Wailers have had several shows, including a performance at the Ropetackle in Shoreham, delayed until autumn.

They have had meetings and rehearsals over Zoom, but the crew are itching to come together and flex their vocal chords in person.

Bill said: “Sadly, we are now in limbo, courtesy of the pandemic. First on the list will be our own sell-out concert, at The Ropetackle Arts Centre. This has had to be postponed on two occasions and is now scheduled for October.”

“Hopefully performances will be able to happen this year. It could be a few months yet, but we are dying to perform together again.”