Betting is the Derby Way. So, we bet you don’t know where the Derby tradition of singing My Old Kentucky Home comes from. That’s because we’re not sure where the tradition comes from either. Just so you can have the last word about it at your Derby party, here's what we know.
Based on newspaper accounts, the first singing happened in 1921 when joyous Derby goers broke into the song after a Kentucky owned and bred horse won the race. We think it’s too bad that nobody breaks into song any more. Most sporting events just play Queen when something exciting happens. Then in 1929 there were reports that the song was played throughout the day – probably by a band because the track didn’t have a sound system in 1929.
The first mention of the crowd singing My Old Kentucky Home when the horses step onto the track for the Post Parade, like they do today, was in 1930. The next five years are a little fuzzy but the song has been played almost every year since 1936 by the University of Louisville Marching Band.
My Old Kentucky Home was written by Kentuckian Stephen Foster in 1853 and was incredibly popular through the Civil War. It was declared the official state song of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the late 20s.
It’s one of the best and most moving moments at the Derby. So break out your julep and learn and the words for Derby 142!
MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME LYRICS
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky Home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the boom,
While the birds make music all the day;
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy and bright,
By’n by hard times come a knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night!
Weep no more, my lady, Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky Home,
For the old Kentucky home, far away.