A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 06, 2006
“Rode hard and put away wet”

"I’ve been rode hard and put away wet” (or “rode hard and put up wet") is when a person is being driven hard, like a sweaty horse after a long, hard ride. It was a catchphrase of entertainer Tennessee Ernie Ford in the 1950s.

Although the phrase did not originate in Texas, it naturally became applied to a Texas that’s famous for cowboys and horses.

Texas Talkin’ Page
Somebody who looks like he/she has been rode hard and put up wet. (A very tired individual who looks somewhat the worse for wear.)

Texas Slang
She’s been rode hard and put away wet
refers to an unnattractive, hard-looking woman

Speak Texan
in 30 minutes or less
by Lou Hudson
The Texas Twang Preservation Society
Fort Worth, TX: Great Texas Line
(no date)
Pg. 78:
Rode hard and put up wet:
1. Being really tired, pooped, looking exhausted.
2. A slutty-looking woman.

Bye Bye Texan-ese
by L. E. Guillot
39 pages
Dallas, Texas (published by author)
Pg. 1:
I felt like I was rode hard and put away wet

Wikipedia: Tennessee Ernie Ford
Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991), better known by the stage name Tennessee Ernie Ford, was a pioneering U.S. recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country & western, pop, and gospel musical genres.

Born in Bristol, Tennessee, Ford began his radio career as an announcer at station WOPI in Bristol, leaving in 1939 to study classical music and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. 1st Lieut. Ford served in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan. After the war, Ford worked at radio stations in San Bernardino and Pasadena, Calif. In San Bernardino, hired as a radio announcer, Ernest J. Ford did the news and general announcing. He was assigned the job of hosting an early morning country music disc jockey program titled “Bar Nothin’ Ranch.” To differentiate himself, he created the personality of “Tennessee Ernie,” a wild, madcap exaggerated hillbilly. He became popular in the area and was soon hired away by Pasadena’s KXLA radio. 

6 August 1956, Dallas Morning News, “Ford Logical Sponsor For Pea-Pickin’ Ford,” part 1, pg. 14:
His country-style similes ("He looks like he’d been rode hard and put away wet") are reminiscent of the Bob Burns idiom.

24 July 1958, Lawton (OK) Constitution, pg. 22:
Ford Believes
In “Relaxed”
School Of TV
By Garber Davidson

HOLLYWOOD (AP)—Tennessee Ernie Ford was asked if he planned any changes in his television shows this fall. He didn’t say yes or no or maybe. he said:

“No use digging bait when you got a boatload of fish.”

That’s a Fordism. Ernie’s no simple yes or no man. When the occasion calls for it he comes out with a country-style metaphor to fit. And usually it fits very nicely.

Asked for a few typical Ford phrases he came up with a hefty list, some of Tennessee origin and others coined by Ernie. Here they are, mostly self-explanatory:

“I’m tired as a two-pound hen that’s laid a three-pound egg.”
“Thicker than fleas on a wet dog.”
“Colder than a beaver’s belly.”
“I handed you a bucket, you may as well milk.”
“Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.”
“I feel like I been rode hard and put away wet.”
“She’s built like a sackful of doorknobs.”
“Redder than a gander’s feet in a huckleberry patch.”
“Tossed me from the buggy before I was finished riding.”
“It’s as useful as a milking stool under a bull.”
“It caused as much talk as a new rooster in the hen house.”
“Tall hog at the trough.”
“Hotter than a bucket of red ants.”

2 April 1959, Greeley (CO) Daily Tribune, “Tennessee Still in Ernie Ford,” pg. 20:
“When I finish my 38 weeks of television each year, I feel like a horse that was rode hard and put away wet.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, December 06, 2006 • Permalink