The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54707   Message #848239
Posted By: Richie
16-Dec-02 - 12:44 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Molly and Tenbrooks
Subject: Origin and Lyr: Molly and Tenbrooks
I've always been fascinated by Molly and Tenbrooks and it's claim to have started the bluegrass genre (with Stanley's recording after Monroe's) in the late 1940's.

It is orginally a folk song, called "an old Kentucky folk song," about the horse race of Kentucky thoroughbred Ten Broeck and mare Miss Mollie McCarthy but I was wodering if we could find the origin of the folk song and early versions of the song. Here's a bit of info from the Ballad Index:

Molly and Tenbrooks [Laws H27]

DESCRIPTION: In the race between (Molly) and (Ten Broeck), Molly at first takes the lead. Ten Broeck tells his jockey to let him run free, and proceeds to overtake the mare.
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: racing horse
July 4, 1878 - race between Ten Broeck and Miss Mollie McCarthy (won by Ten Broeck)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Laws H27, "Ten Broeck and Mollie"
Thomas-Makin', pp. 126-127, (no title) (1 short text, probably of this song although it does little except describe Ten Broeck)
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 253-254, "Ten Broek and Mollie" (1 text)

Roud #2190
Warde Ford, "The Hole in the Wall / Timbrooks and Molly" (AFS 4210 A1, 1939; in AMMEM/Cowell)
Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, "Molly and Tenbrooks" (Columbia 20612, 1949)
Sonny Osborne, "Molly and Tenbrooks" (Kentucky 605, n.d.)
The Stanley Brothers, "Molly And Tenbrooks" (Rich-R-Tone 418, 1948)

cf. "Timbrook" (subject)
cf. "Old Timbrook Blues" (subject)
cf. "Liza Jane" (lyrics)
cf. "Run Mollie Run" (lyrics)
cf. "Skewball" [Laws Q22] (theme)
Run, Molly, Run
NOTES: The "short description" above mirrors the plot as given by Laws. In my experience, however, almost all versions of this song credit Molly, not Ten Broek, as the winner. Of course, many of these texts may have been influenced by the popularized Bill Monroe version, "Molly and Tenbrooks."
Every version of this piece that Laws was aware of came from two articles by Wilgus (both in Kentucky Folklore Record, Vol II, #3 and Vol. II, #4). Wilgus reports that "A match race in Kentucky was arranged at $5,000 a side for a three-heat race, all heats to be four miles each. If either horse was distanced in a heat, the other horse was to be declared automatically the winner."
"The July 4, 1878 match race in which the Kentucky thoroughbred Ten Broeck defeated the mare Miss Mollie McCarthy went into the record books as the last four-mile heat race in American turf history."
As it turned out, Mollie led for much of the first race, then staggered and was distanced, ending the contest. Both sides started trading charges: That Ten Broeck had been poisoned, that the state of the track affected the outcome, etc.
Wilgus sees a relationship with "Skewball" [Laws Q22], and the possibility of a relationship cannot be denied. Laws, however, does not note the connection. As Laws makes the observation that the ballad shows "extreme verbal variation," he may have thought that similarities to "Skewball" either coincidence or later grafts. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.7
File: LH27

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There is one version in the DT. If anyone has other versions that would be helpful, especially before Monroe.