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HOLLENBECK: Arkansas gal stumps Carson band with Driftwood song about Tennessee horse

June 13, 2012

Identifying a musical work has been a fun thing in our family for as long as I have memory.
We'll hear something on the radio or on a TV show and I can't rest until I recall the song title.
My spouse frequently said I should have gotten on the old TV show, "Name That Tune." He thought I could have won the top prize.
It's true that most of the time I can spit out the name immediately, but when I can't, it's painful.
If I get a tune in my head — from any source — and can't recall what it is, it drives me crazy. And I share my suffering with others. But I'll stay with it till I figure it out. It may be in the middle of the night — and it's happened that way many times — but I'll succeed ultimately.
I've been known to wake up out of a sound sleep and announce, "I know what song that is now. It's 'Blue Velvet' — or whatever it happens to be."
I won't let the melody die until I get it.
There was another opportunity I missed to demonstrate this talent — the old Johnny Carson show's Stump the Band segment that was part of the broadcast.
My college friend, Marian Alford Hodges of Little Rock, was among the few who actually was successful in this.
I don't remember the year, but I do recall the song. It was "The Tennessee Stud."
If memory serves me correctly, this was during Doc Severinsen's reign as the show's bandleader.
Severinsen, of course, never had heard of it, but he faked some sort of tune as part of the game before conceding Marian had beaten him at the game.
The song wasn't familiar to Johnny Carson either, but he had a great time with the whole thing, as he did with everything. What a treasure he was.
I thought about Marian and that incident the other day when a radio announcer mentioned "The Tennessee Stud." It was marking some sort of milestone, which I didn't catch.
For those of you who don't know — and that's probably just about anyone reading this — Arkansan Jimmy Driftwood wrote the song and Johnny Cash was one who sang it. Maybe he was the only person who recorded it; that part I don't know.
Most people remember Driftwood better from "The Battle of New Orleans" fame, but he also gave birth to "The Tennessee Stud."
The lyrics, which follow, are interesting, to put it mildly:
Back about eighteen and twenty-five
I left Tennessee very much alive
I never would have made it through the Arkansas mud
If I hadn't been a-riding on the Tennessee Stud

I had some trouble with my sweetheart's pa
One of her brothers was a bad outlaw
I wrote a letter to my Uncle Thud
And I rode away on the Tennessee Stud

The Tennessee Stud was long and lean
The color of the sun and his eyes were green
He had the nerve and he had the blood
And there never was a horse like the Tennessee Stud

I drifted on down into no man's land
I crossed the river called the Rio Grande
I raced my horse with the Spaniards bold
'Til I got me a skinful of silver and gold

Me and a gambler, we couldn't agree
We got in a fight over Tennessee
We pulled our guns, he fell with a thud
And I rode away on the Tennessee Stud

The Tennessee Stud was long and lean
The color of the sun and his eyes were green
He had the nerve and he had the blood
And there never was a horse like the Tennessee Stud

I rode right back across Arkansas
And I whupped her brother and I whupped her pa
I found that girl with the golden hair
And she was a-riding on a Tennessee Mare

Pretty little baby on the cabin floor
And a little horse colt playing 'round the door
I love the girl with the golden hair
And the Tennessee Stud loves the Tennessee Mare

The Tennessee Stud was long and lean
The color of the sun and his eyes were green
He had the nerve and he had the blood
And there never was a horse like the Tennessee Stud

Marian sang part of the song for Carson and the Severinsen band. And don't you think it didn't get the attention of that New York City audience. I'll never forget it.
Don't ever count an Arkansas gal out.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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