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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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

"Been rode hard and put away wet” (or “rode hard and put up wet") is when a person (or a car) is being driven hard, like a sweaty horse after a long, hard ride. It was a catchphrase of entertainer Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) in the 1950s.

The saying is said to have originated in Texas, but authorship is unknown. “As they say in Texas—‘this filly has been rode hard and put up wet’” was printed in a used car advertisement in The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL) on May 2, 1947.

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

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. 

2 May 1947, The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), pg. 19, col. 8 classified ad:
As they say in Texas—“this filly has been rode hard and put up wet.” She’s saddle-worn in spots; sneezes on a damp morning; but there are no flied on Nellie when it comes to running! $350
(Medford Motors.—ed.)

9 September 1950, The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL), pg. 9, col. 7 classified ad:
7-Pass. As they say in Texas, this one has been rode hard and put up wet, she sneezes on cold mornings, and frankly, “the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be”...$245
(C. Keel’s Motors.—ed.)

16 April 1953, Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, pg. 6A, col. 1 ad:
This car reminds me of a Western pony: she’s been rode hard and put up wet. But she’s still kicking around.
(R. S. Evans used cars.—ed.)

1 August 1954, Detroit (MI) Free Press, “Country Style Dialog Baffles Censors” by Hal Humphrey, TV sec., pg. 7, col. 6:
“He looks like he had been rode hard and put away wet,” is one of Ernie’s standard descriptions of someone who comes on his shows looking dishevelled or beat up.

5 July 1955, Evansville (IN) Press, “Ernie Ford ‘Just Can’t Talk’ Another Way; Pea Picker Owns Strange Language” by Faye Emerson, pg. 19, col. 3:
And there are others such as, “You look like you been rode hard and put away wet,” meaning “You appear to have been up all night working (or playing) and really look it.”

6 August 1956, Dallas (TX) 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.”

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

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.

Urban Dictionary
Ridden Hard and Put Away Wet
When a woman usually looks older than her actual age. Usually a result of drinking, smoking and screwing all night, then going to work at the factory the next day.
Oh my God! Wanda sure looks like she’s been Ridden Hard and Put Away Wet. I wouldn’t bang her with my dog’s dick!
by NoFussRuss June 29, 2006

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