Molly Put the Kettle On

Tonight’s tune at the string band class was “Molly Put The Kettle On”, from John Sharp by way of Paul Brown. Here are the Canotes and Candy Goldman playing it for the class, with Greg’s fiddle in cross-A (AEAE):


It’s playable just fine in standard tuning, too, although I prefer it in cross-A.

I’m having some difficulty finding any other examples of this particular variation on the tune to include here. There are no fewer than six entries for “Molly Put the Kettle On” in the Fiddler’s Companion, plus another six “Polly Put the Kettle On” and four “Jenny Put the Kettle On”, some of which may be the same tune with a different name, and some of which may be different tunes with the same name. And as far as I can tell, none of them have a phrase which sounds like the beginning of Fisher’s Hornpipe, like this one does. I’ve got a recording that’s labelled John Sharp playing Molly Put the Kettle On, but it doesn’t sound much like the tune from class, and I’ve found a video on YouTube which a commenter says is Paul Brown playing it, but it also doesn’t sound particularly like tonight’s tune. I mean, they’re recognizably the same tune, or at least in the same family of tunes, but not the same variation. But that’s the provenance the Canotes gave this one — John Sharp via Paul Brown — so I’ll take their word for it. If anyone asks me where I got it, though, I’m saying it came from Greg Canote.

I also like this version a lot, which is Brad Leftwich on fiddle (ADAE) and Dan Gellert on banjo (f#DADE) from their 1993 cassette-only release on Marimac, “A Moment In Time“:


And here’s a neat version with a key/mode shift in the middle, because why not (pity the banjo player):


2 Comments on “Molly Put the Kettle On

  1. As you say, this Molly Put the Kettle on is not the one that John Sharp recorded in 1949; its a different tune, and its different from any other “Molly/Polly Kettle” tunes I’ve run across. Do you have anything more on where this tune came from and if it had another name?

  2. Alas, I don’t have any more information on this particular version, but it looks like in the time since the Canotes taught it in their stringband class, there’s been at least one other recording of Paul Brown playing it like this:

    So if I had to guess, I’d say that this is Paul Brown’s take on John Sharp’s “Molly Put the Kettle On”, which diverges pretty far from the source. Kind of like his version of (one of) Ed Haley’s Cuckoo’s Nest.

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