View Full Version : Bill Monroe's Little Maggie

Nov-16-2018, 7:37pm
On the Bluegrass Ramble album, Bill does a great version of Little Maggie. It's got everything - powerful vocal, turbulent twin fiddles, solid banjo, and a spartan but strong mando break.
But for the life of me I can't figure out the words he sings in the 3rd line of the last verse.
"It's only a something something something,
it's only a broken heart."

Anyone out there know what he's singing?

Ivan Kelsall
Nov-17-2018, 6:03am
I just looked up the song lyrics for Bill Monroe's version of Little maggie,& it seems that whoever put the lyrics on the 'net couldn't decypher the worde either. They cobbled together to first 2 verses of Bill Monroe's version & the last 2 verses of the Stanley Bros. version !!!. In fact i found 3 sites with the lyrics where they've done exactly the same thing ?.

Looking even further,every lyrics website has the same version,not one of them with the lyrics that the OP mentions. I just listened to the song & it almost seems made up on the spot !. To me it sounds as though he's singing - ''It's only a man's last body (or something),it's only a broken heart'' .

For me,it's always been this version - ''Listen to that old banjo ring'' - That's for sure !!,


Nov-17-2018, 8:06am
Thanks for the reply, Ivan. I also have never seen a printed lyric with anything that resembles that verse - odd!
Years ago, someone I knew deciphered it as "it's only a man's life, buddy, just only a broken heart", but listening to it, I don't really hear those exact words.
My player wouldn't let me play your Stanleys "Maggie", but one of their several recorded versions is my favorite as well.

Peter Craig

ralph johansson
Nov-17-2018, 9:45am
"It's only a man's life blotted" is what I hear.

Nov-17-2018, 11:20am
Thanks, Ralph - yes, it does sound like that, though I'd guess "bloodied" instead.
I just can't hear the "f" sound in the word before that, however.

Ivan Kelsall
Nov-18-2018, 4:26am
All the above = we don't darned well know !!!.

'For me' - That specific Stanley Brothers version of 'Little Maggie',is the finest i've heard,maybe because of the way that it was recorded with the slight reverb.,gives it a real 'lonesome' sound. Plus,the playing is as crisp & clean as you'd ever want - one of Ralph's finest vocal / banjo recordings !,

John Soper
Nov-24-2018, 8:43pm
I always thought it was "a man's last bottle"...

Bill Findley
Nov-24-2018, 11:35pm
I’m in the “it’s only a man’s life BLOODIED” camp. Sounds like that to me. And the irony fits with the previous bit about her “only playin her part”. I see it as a good “modern” take on the murder ballads of the past, what with him saying she was MADE to be mine, but in this incarnation he leaves her without trying to throw her in the river (good luck with that, buddy, she’d clock you with the dram glass.)

Plus I like the word “bloodied” a lot.

Also, after a quick google lyrics search, that bloody/bottle/blotted(?) verse didn’t come up at all. Just corny stuff about her banjo on her knee, etc.

Nov-24-2018, 11:57pm
Pretty sure the lyric is Its only a man left bloodied...

Nov-25-2018, 4:41pm
Thanks for all the recent posts on this, folks.
At a picking party on Friday I saw a friend who happens to be a pretty fearsome bluegrass scholar; it turns out that he had wondered about this line in the song as well.
His theory is that Monroe is singing "it's only a man's life blotted". His research told him that this used to be a common expression; that when something bad happened to someone it was a "blot" on his life.
That rang a bell for me - I learned to write in elementary school with a pen you dip in an inkwell (believe it or not!), and when you handed in your work, it better not have had any "blots" on it (ink leakage).
My friend also thought that since Monroe somewhat garbles the phrase, he may have been singing words that he'd heard on a recording and hadn't really understood them, so he just sang them phonetically.
This all seems plausible to me. The one really odd thing is that I haven't been able to find a written-out lyric that has that verse, or anything like it!
Again, thanks for the help with this urgent issue!
- Peter Craig

Roger Adams
Nov-25-2018, 5:21pm
I hear, "It's only a man's life blotted. Just only a broken heart."


Nov-25-2018, 8:06pm
And here we have the “Aural” conundrum! The interpretation of what is heard and, what we “may” hear, can be different things. Language evolves, as does the aural tradition of the music. The music was here LOOOOONG before the internet. Voices carry the understanding and intent, the printed (or digital) word is merely the letter, not always the dynamics.

But, I’m getting older...

Drew Egerton
Nov-26-2018, 8:54am
I hear, "It's only a man's life blotted. Just only a broken heart."


That's what I hear also

John Soper
Nov-30-2018, 5:47am
"'Scuse me while I kiss this guy!" - happens all the time.