Stephen Foster

My Old Kentucky Home, for voice & piano

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    Running south from Louisville even today is the Bardstown Road (now US 31E and 150), taken by Stephen Foster on his visit to Bardstown, Kentucky, in March of 1852. Despite the plantation imagery in his songs, this trip and a later steamboat voyage to New Orleans marked Foster's only sojourns in the South. In Bardstown you will find "My Old Kentucky Home State Park," where the stately Rowan plantation said to inspire the Commonwealth of Kentucky's official song still stands. The problem is that the song, according to Foster's biographer Ken Emerson, was not written until nine months later, and Foster's own notebooks show that the inspiration was a famous fictional Kentucky residence, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Another problem is that there is no secure historical proof that Foster actually visited the Rowan plantation, which even the place's guidebook has to acknowledge.

    In the first draft of the song the title to the song is "Poor Uncle Tom, good night." The phrase is also used in a chorus of this version, which continues, "Grieve not for your old Kentucky home / Your [sic] bound for a better land Old Uncle Tom." Foster made the song a classic by dropping the darkface dialect he originally intended to use in favor of standard English - an innovation in "plantation songs," and one that proved definitive for Foster's later career and beyond. No longer would blacks be treated only comically in minstrel songs--here (and with "Old Folks at Home" Foster showed the way to treating them sympathetically. Foster made the song timeless by eliminating direct references to Uncle Tom, and wrote a new chorus keeping the phrase "old Kentucky Home" and introducing the mysterious "my lady" who is bidden to "weep no more." It is among the most beautiful of all Foster songs.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 New Focus FCR 166B
    2018 ABC Classics
    2016 Mark Records 51290 MCD
    2014 Decca
    2014 Mark Records 50965 MCD
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099932785
    2012 Carver's Barn
    2011 EMI Classics 5099908293923
    2010 Archeophone 5451
    2009 Altissimo 55742
    2009 Columbia River Entertainment Group 180139
    2009 Clarion 932
    2008 ABC Classics 4766808
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921558
    2007 Tony Schwartz 0067
    2007 ABC Classics 4766169
    2006 Pergola Recordings 1034
    2006 ABC Classics 4765250
    2004 Decca 2337
    2003 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) / BCI-Eclipse Distribution 40400
    2003 Decca 000478
    2003 Albany Music Distribution 606
    2002 Angel Records 67803
    2001 Preiser Records 89534
    2001 Marston 52032
    2001 ASV / ASV/Living Era CDAJS 244
    2000 Golden Music / Music Products GO 3820
    1998 Amerimusic 1003
    1997 Crystal Records Dist. CD 451
    1997 Prism Leisure Corporation (UK) / Prism Leisure / Prism Platinum PLATCD 119
    1996 Romophone 81020
    1996 Arabesque 6679
    1996 Collector's Edition 17
    1996 Pearl 9210
    1995 Romophone 81009
    1995 Romophone 81006
    1995 Flapper 7073
    1995 Pearl 9069
    1994 Sony Classical 66708
    1994 Bescol / Columbia/Legacy / Legacy 332
    1993 Pearl 9356
    1993 Vox 8515
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 54621
    Claremont Recordings 785058
    Vox Allegretto 8167
    Vox 5016
    Telarc Distribution 80263
    Arabesque 6555
    ASV CDAJA 5201
    Happy Days/Conifer 183
    Sony Music Distribution 48297
    Pro-Arte Records 3447