Listed as a traditional American folksong, "The John B. Sails" was included in a collection by Carl Sandburg in the twenties. Alan Lomax included it in his collection "Deep River of Song" as "Histe Up the John B. Sails" by the Cleveland Simmon's Group in 1935. This is the oldest known recording of the song. The actual hull of the John B. was found off the Bahamas in the sand of Governor's Harbour in 1926.

"The Wreck of the John B," was recorded by the Weavers, Jimmie Rodgers, the Kingston Trio and as "Sloop John B." by the Beach Boys achieving a position in the top five. It's from the Pet Sounds album and sung by both Brian Wilson and Mike Love.