The Song That Started the Bluegrass Genre- Bill Monroe's Lyrics
Well...you can't have a bluegrass music style until you have two groups playing it. Molly and Tenbrooks is legendary for creating the bluegrass genre when The Stanley Brothers recorded "Molly And Tenbrooks" on Rich-R-Tone 418 in Sept. 1948 after hearing Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys perform it. Monroe's recording was made in October 1947 but not released until September 1949.
This is my painting of the famous horse race was held July 4, 1878 at the Kentucky Derby racetrack, Churchill Downs. The Derby started three years before in 1875. African-American jockey William Walker’s greatest victory was aboard Ten Broeck, owned by Frank Harper in a famed four-mile match race the California-based mare Molly McCarthy.
In the bottom left corner is a painting of the actual poster used to advertise the race. The bottom middle has the lyrics and if you read music you can play the song from this painting! The key Monroe sang the song in was the key of B; I put it in the key of C to make it easier.
Molly and Tenbrooks is a painting depicting the song about the great horse race held on July 4, 1878 at the Kentucky Derby racetrack, Churchill Downs. Actual accounts of the long four-mile race state that Molly led for over one mile then Ten Broeck took the lead pulling away in the last mile; Mollie pulled up never finishing the race.
My painting is based on the song version by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys made in October, 1947. In the song Molly take the lead then has a fever in her head. Monroe gets the horses mixed up one so verse; I changed it to: "Tenbrooks said to Molly you're looking mighty squirrel; Molly said to Tenbrooks I'm leaving this old world; Leaving this old world oh Lord; Leaving this old world."
In Monroe’s song as in the actual race Tenbrooks wins the race but in Monroe’s song Mollie dies: "Go and catch old Ten-Brooks and hitch him in the shade; We're gonna bury old Molly in a coffin ready made." My painting shows Molly’s jockey standing over the fallen horse. Above the tree where Tenbrooks is hitched in the shade, is Molly’s spirit running in the sky. The painting also includes the actual sheet music with notes painted in blue in the right hand corner.
Monroe recorded different versions. Here are the lyrics:
MOLLY AND TENBROOKS: Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys- 1947
Run ol’ Molly run, run ol’ Molly run
Tenbrooks gonna beat you to the bright and shining sun
To the bright and shining sun oh Lord; bright and shining sun.
Tenbrooks was a big bay horse, he wore a shaggy mane
He run all 'round Memphis, and he beat the Memphis train
Beat the Memphis train oh Lord; Beat the Memphis train.
Tenbrooks said to Molly, what makes your head so red
Running in the hot sun with a fever in my head
Fever in my head oh Lord; Fever in my head
Out in California where Molly done as she pleased
She come back to old Kentucky, got beat with all ease
Beat with all ease oh Lord; Beat with all ease
Molly said to Tenbrooks you're looking mighty squirrel
Tenbrooks said to Molly I'm leaving this old world
Leaving this old world oh Lord, leaving this old world.
The women's all a-laughing, the children all a-crying
Men all a-hollering old Tenbrooks a- flying
Ol’ Tenbrooks a- flying oh Lord; Ol’ Tenbrooks a-flying
Kiper, Kiper, you're not riding right
Molly's a beating old Tenbrooks clear out of sight
Clear out of sigh oh Lord; Clear out of sight
Kiper, Kiper, Kiper my son
Give old Tenbrooks the bridle and let old Tenbrooks run
Let old Tenbrooks run oh Lord; Let old Tenbrooks run
Go and catch old Tenbrooks and hitch him in the shade
We're gonna bury old Molly in a coffin ready made
In a coffin ready made oh Lord; In a coffin ready made
Bill Monroe's versions on Knee Deep in Bluegrass, Decca DL-8731, LP, cut# 11; 16 All-Time Greatest Hits, Columbia CS 1065, LP (197?), cut# 1; Essential Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. 1945-49. Vol 2, Columbia CT 52480, Cas (1992), cut# 14. Also included on some versions is this verse:
See old Molly coming, she's coming around the curve.
See old Tenbrooks running, straining every nerve.
Straining every nerve, Lord, straining every nerve.
I like the line, “Molly said to Tenbrooks you're looking mighty squirrel.” It’s also interesting to note that Monroe has his horses mixed up in that line. It should be Tenbrooks telling Mollie “she’s looking mighty squirrel,” after all Molly dies not Tenbrook. Clearly Monroe learned the song that way- so the song is a song that he learned from another source. Monroe may have arranged it, but he wouldn't have written the verse wrong.
Here's the correct verse:
Tenbrooks said to Molly you're looking mighty squirrel,
Molly said to Tenbrooks I'm leaving this old world,
Leaving this old world oh Lord; Leaving this old world.