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Written by on October 7, 2020


Country Gentlemen

The Country Gentlemen

In the early 1970s, “Fox on the Run” was among the most requested bluegrass songs. Along with “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass band could scarcely play a show without fans yelling for “Rocky Top” or “Fox on the Run.” The song was written in 1968 by an Englishman named Tony Hazzard and first recorded as a rock song by Manfred Mann in February 1969. Cliff Waldren and the New Shades of Grass were the first bluegrass band to record it. Listening to this bluegrass recording, many people were puzzled by one line of the lyrics that sounded like Cliff was singing, “I Fillustrate a girl.” Of course, nobody had a clue what Cliff was singing about. Relief came in 1970 when “Fox on the Run” was recorded by The Country Gentlemen. The lead singer, Charlie Waller, clearly sang “I see a string of girls,” which made a lot more sense than “I Fillustrate” a girl, so that’s how most bluegrass bands sang it.

About twenty years ago, I received an email from Cliff Waldren, who contacted me about playing his new CD on my “Country Roots” bluegrass radio show. Armed with Cliff’s email address, I seized the opportunity to get to the bottom of the “fillustrate a girl” question that had been bugging me for years.

Here’s what I wrote to Cliff.

“Hi Cliff, While I’ve got you on the line, I have a question that’s been burning a hole in my mind for almost 30 years. On the second line of the 2nd verse of your early recording of Fox on the Run, you seem to be singing, “I fillustrate a girl.” What, pray tell, are you singing?”

Here is Cliff’s response.

“Hi Wayne,


Regarding your question about THE FOX! My partner in music at that time, Bill Emerson, gave me the words to “Fox On The Run.” You heard right. That is what I’m saying. I wanted to change that part of the song because it didn’t make sense. So later, after Bill went with the Country Gent’s, I started saying I see a string of girls, and that’s what Charlie Waller is saying in their version.

Understanding what Mannford Mann was saying in the original recording was tough. However, several years later, a good friend told me the correct words were “I illustrate a girl.” That has haunted me for the past thirty years. I wish there were some way I could fix it, but I can’t, so I’ll have to live with it.

I’ll have to say I learned a good lesson. Since then, I’ve tried to make sure the words are correct and to say them so folks can understand what I’m saying.

Take care, Cliff.”

With some digging, I found Tony Hazzard’s original lyrics. Note: Tony wrote the verse with the asterisk much later than the original lyrics recorded by Manford Mann.



Now everybody knows the reason for The Fall,
When woman tempted man in Paradise’s hall.
This woman, she tempted me and she took me for a ride,
And, like the weary fox, I need a place to hide.

She walked through the corn leading down to the river,
Her hair shone like gold in the hot morning sun.
She took all the love that a poor man could give her
And left him to die like a fox on the run.

*It was many years ago, but it feels like yesterday,
When she led me through the corn on that fateful summer day.
I saw the sunlight in her hair; I saw the promise in her eyes;
And I didn’t even care that her words of love were lies.

Come raise your glass of wine and fortify your soul;
We’ll talk about the world and the friends we used to know.
I’ll illustrate a girl who wandered through my past.
She didn’t care to stay; the picture cannot last.



Wayne Erbsen has been chasing songs and their background histories for nearly fifty years. He has written over thirty song and instruction books for bluegrass, clawhammer banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and ukulele. He claims he can teach even a frog to play. See for yourself by visiting[/sayit]





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