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Molly and Tenbrooks

"Molly and Tenbrooks", also known as "The Racehorse Song is a traditional song of the late 19th century. One of the first recordings of the song was the 1929 version of the Carver Brothers called "Tom Brooks."[1] The song was recorded by Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys on October 28, 1947. In 1947, The Stanley Brothers recorded it in the Blue Grass Boys' style, marking the first recorded adoption of this style by a second band.


Song plot

The song deals with a match race between two champion horses. According to most song versions, Tenbrooks "ran all around Memphis and beat the Memphis train," while "out in California Molly done as she pleased, came back to Kentucky and got beat with all ease."

Tenbrooks appears again later on Peter Rowan's Muleskinnner album, in the song "Blue Mule", in which the horse is pitted against a blue mule who is the child of Babe the Blue Ox.

Historical facts

This song is a fictional account of the July 4, 1878 match race between the Kentucky horse Ten Broeck and the California mare, Mollie McCarty at the Louisville Jockey Club (now Churchill Downs). Ten Broeck won the race before a record crowd of 30,000. The song commonly states that Ten Broeck "was a big bay horse", and although he was a bay, he was "very compactly built".[2] The song refers to a fatal outcome, which did not in fact occur; Mollie McCarty lived nearly five more years, winning multiple races and producing three foals.[3]

See also

  • Skewball is a topically-related song, but it is melodically, lyrically, and historically distinct, although they have sometimes been conflated.[4]


  1. Wolfe 1996, p. 42.
  2. "Sketch of Ten Broeck", The New York Times, 1878-09-28, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times/Sketch_of_Ten_Broeck 
  3. "Mollie McCarty". Thoroghbred Heritage. http://www.tbheritage.com/Portraits/MollieMcCarty.html. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  4. Sullivan, Denise (2009-12-08). "And So This Is Stewball". Crawdaddy! Magazine. http://www.crawdaddy.com/index.php/2009/12/08/and-so-this-is-stewball/. Retrieved 2010-04-29. "For example, “Molly and Tenbrooks” is an American telling of a late 19th century horse race between California’s Mollie McCarty and Kentucky’s Ten Broeck. Versions of “Molly and Tenbrooks” were cut by bluegrass giants, the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe, but theirs are a different melody, though related by subject and genre to “Stewball” by kissin’ cousins the Greenbriar Boys. There lay the origin of the melody Baez recorded. Her version is also somewhat of a conflation of the stories told in “Stewball” (who in some cases is a wine-drinking, winning race horse), and “Molly and Tenbrooks” (in which the mare stumbles and thus explains Stew’s win)." 


  • Wolfe, Charles K. (1996)Kentucky Country: Folk and Country Music of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky

External links

  • Song lyrics, from a well-known version recorded by Bill Monroe.


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