Molly Motts was born in Delta, Louisiana, a tiny hamlet at the Louisiana-Mississippi border, just across the river from Vicksburg. Because of a difficult home life, she often dreamed of getting out of Delta. Vicksburg just across the river looked like a dream garden to her and she thought she’d do anything to get there. She did: marrying Vernon Raney, bootlegger, more than twice her age; but a good husband to her (see song, “When Molly Motts Married Vernon Raney“) .
They had three children, Lonnie, Ronnie and Ginny. Molly was an ambitious girl and decided early on to piggy-back a drug distribution business onto Vernon’s already prospering bootlegging enterprise (see song, “’57 Fleetwood to Memphis“).
Despite the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, many states continued to outlaw alcohol for several more decades. But bootleg whiskey began going out of style in the mid-‘60s, by which time liquor by the drink had become legal in most states, and there was less and less demand for moonshine except out of nostalgia. Transitioning, first, to marijuana and then harder drugs, seemed to make good business sense to Molly.
Molly got her oldest son, Lonnie elected sheriff as a way to offer protection to her and her second son, Ronnie, as they operating the drug business with little interference from law enforcement. This they did and quickly established a lucrative distribution network of dealers from Natchez to Memphis (see song, “Louanne in Vicksburg“).
Molly lived to see both of her sons die violent deaths: Ronnie was murdered by his wife, Louanne Bowden, and Lonnie was killed in a stand-off with U.S. Marshalls and DEA agents. As the drug network wound down, Molly grew into her role as grandmother to Ginny’s children, living a quiet life in Vicksburg.
The second summer after they were married, Vernon built Molly a small cabin in the north Georgia mountains, on a section of the old Raney homestead (see song “Lonsom Raney 1828“). Molly would often go there as a retreat. This song describes her last visit there, when she looks back on her life and contemplates the impact on her family of the choices she has made.
MOLLY ON THE MOUNTAIN (F.D. Leone, Jr.) Molly was at her cabin on the mountain Thinking ‘bout her life, and all she’d done A jelly glass of Vernon’s tobacco whiskey Sparkled in the late October sun She thought back to the day she married Vernon Raney Not yet 21, June of ‘58 Three months pregnant, walking down the aisle To a man more than twice her age Molly on the mountain, don’t wanna come down Molly on the mountain, don’t wanna be found Molly on the mountain, gonna leave it all behind Molly on the mountain, knows it’s time The cabin had a chill, she built a fire With the last of the wood Lonnie’d split Lonnie’s gone, his brother Ronnie too Molly blamed herself for all of it She’d grown harder through the years from that life Harder, than she could describe The pot and drugs, the men she fought, some she killed All she’d ever done was survive Molly on the mountain … Ginny was the one who turned out okay Molly sure loves those three grandkids She made sure to keep Ginny away from it all That’s one good thing that she did Lonnie’s Donald and Vern, went to East Mississippi Took off when things got hot in Vicksburg They’re selling pills and meth to the kids at Starkville That’s what they learned from her Molly on the mountain … Molly’s great grandma, Mamie, was a conjure woman She knew plants for curing or killing dead Mamie passed it down to Molly’s grandpa Motts That’s where Molly got it, was what they said Molly pressed the jelly glass against her cheek It was time to drink that whiskey down She looked into the woods, found that old maple tree Watched a yellow leaf drift to the ground Molly on the mountain … © 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.