Here’s success to old Kentucky,
Ever true and ever lucky;
Still his grateful country’s stay!
Freemen ’round your patriot rally!
Raise the cry from hill and valley!
“Gratitude to Henry Clay!”
A “Catch” is what we’d call a “round” these days; part singing. Like Frère Jacques (AKA Are you sleeping), also Three Blind Mice or Row Row Row Your Boat.
Just for y’all, to the tune of Frère Jacques:
Obiwan Kenobi, Obiwan Kenobi
Han Solo, Han Solo
or, more politically:
Rockefeller makes it, Mayor Lindsay takes it
Why can’t we? Why can’t we?
(“Rockefeller” was Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York state, 1959-1973, while John Lindsay was Mayor of New York City, 1966-1973)
Catches were very popular in Georgian and Restoration times, sometimes with filthy lyrics. For example, Hodge Told Sue:
Hodge told Sue
The whole of his tale
Which tickled her fancy.
As the catch goes around, with the various parts starting and stopping, what the listeners eventually hear is “tickled her tale,” and finally “tickled her whole.”
It was amazing what lengths drunken London tenors would go, simply to be nasty.
Back to the current song:
“Old Kentucky” is Henry Clay.
A “stay” is a support, e.g. the mainstay, the line that supports the main mast on a full-rigged ship.
Henry Clay was running for president on the Whig ticket in 1844.
Tomorrow: THE FIRST POLK SONG (yet another song to the tune of Old Dan Tucker).