Dance Around Molly

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DANCE AROUND MOLLY. Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; Missouri, North Carolina. A Major. Standard or AEae (Art Stamper) tunings (fiddle). AABB (Phillips, Silberberg): AA'BB' (Beisswenger & McCann). A traditional dance tune collected in Missouri and North Carolina. "Well-known tune among Missouri fiddlers" (Frank Maloy), and indeed, it has been recorded by (and is associated with) several fiddlers from that state. It is on Charlie Walden's list of '100 essential Missouri fiddle tunes'. Howard Marshall says the reel is associated with fiddlers from the north and central part of Missouri, such as Jake Hockemeyer, Johnny Bruce, Cleo Persinger, Taylor McBaine, Pete McMahan, and Charlie Walden. Howard says: "All the fiddlers I've known credit Jake Hockemeyer with the best version anywhere and it was one of Jake's fiddle contest "money tunes." I played backup guitar for Hockemeyer in several contests in the 80s when he played the tune to good effect even though by that time his arthritis problems were getting him down. The tune is what I'd call a hornpipe." The melody has lost some currency in modern times among contest players in the state.

Tommy Magness (1916-1972) with Bill Monroe (mand.) Bill Wesbrooks (bass) and Clyde Moody (gtr.), early 1940's. Photo courtesy of James Monroe.

"Dance around Molly" was played by Tommy Magness over WSM in the 1940's and the composition is often credited to him--certainly he popularizing it, as his 1951 recording was highly influential. According to one story in circulation, Magness composed the tune one night after a gig when eating in a restaurant with his band. A waitress named Molly started bantering with the band and got them to play a tune so she could dance to it. Either the tune was composedly them on the spot, or it was one Magness composed in commemoration of the event, but the title became "Dance around Molly." The story may be apocryphal, however, and "Dance around Molly" may have been a traditional tune. It was in the repertoire of Magness's contemporary, J.E. Mainer. The 'B' part is very similar to the 'B' part of "Frisky Jim."

Source for notated version: Jake Hockmeyer [Phillips]; Fred Stoneking (b. 1933, Missouri), who learned it from Pete McMahan [Beisswenger & McCann, Silberberg].

Printed sources: Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Tunes), 2008; p. 137. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 65. Silberberg (93 Fiddle Tunes I Didn't Learn at the Tractor Tavern), 2004; p. 11.

Recorded sources: Columbia Records HL 9010, Roy Acuff (with Tommy Magness) - "Old Time Barn Dance" (1951). County CO-CD-2729, Art Stamper - "Goodbye Girls I'm Going to Boston" (2000). June Appal 007, Tommy Hunter - "Deep in Tradition" (1976. Learned from his grandfather, James W. Hunter of Madison County, N.C.). Marimac AHS #3, Glen Smith - "Say Old Man" (1990. Learned from Tommy Magness). MFFA 1001, Jake Hockemeyer - "I'm Old But I'm Awfully Tough." MSOTFA cassette 105, Cyril Stinnett - "Mahoney's Reel." Rounder 0381, Fred Stoneking (et al) - "Saddle Old Spike: Fiddle Music from Missouri" (1996). Silver Circle Productions SC003, Gordon Freeman - "Sandy River and Other Fiddle Tunes." Michael Cleveland - "Flamekeeper." Voyager Records VRCD 377, Pete McMahan - "Play Me Something Quick and Devilish" (2013).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1].
Hear Tommy Magness's 1951 recording at Slippery Hill [2]
Hear Pete McMahan's recording at Slippery Hill [3]




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