63 “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” by Bascom Lamar Lunsford

10

April 22, 2012 by gadaya

Another classic Anthology song, in probably its best interpretation. Bascom Lamar Lunsford recorded the song many times during his career and it was a widespread tune in the south, sharing its simple melody with many other songs (New River Train, More pretty girls than one, Lay down my old guitar…) It was sung by many during the folk revival and is still popular today. Many sing it with the 5-string banjo played in the clawhammer style (Lunsford picked it in a index -lead picking style) and the pace varies from one version to another.

LYRICS:

I wish I was a mole in the ground.
Yes, I wish I was a mole in the ground.
‘F I’se a mole in the ground, I’d root that mountain down,
And I wish I was a mole in the ground.

Oh, Kimpy wants a nine-dollar shawl.
Yes, Kimpy wants a nine-dollar shawl.
When I come o’er the hill with a forty-dollar bill,
‘Tis, “Baby, where you been so long?”

I been in the Bend so long.
Yes, I been in the Bend so long.
I been in the Bend with the rough and rowdy men.
‘Tis, “Baby, where you been so long?”

I don’t like a railroad man.
No, I don’t like a railroad man.
‘Cause a railroad man, they’ll kill you when he can,
And drink up your blood like wine.

Oh, I wish I was a lizard in the spring.
Yes, I wish I was a lizard in the spring.
‘F I’se a lizard in the spring, I’d hear my darlin’ sing,
An’ I wish I was a lizard in the spring.

Come, Kimpy, let your hair roll down.
Kimpy let your hair roll down.
Let your hair roll down and your bangs curl around.
Oh, Kimpy, let your hair roll down.

I wish I was a mole in the ground.
Yes, I wish I was a mole in the ground.
‘F I’se a mole in the ground, I’d root that mountain down,
An’I wish I was a mole in the ground.

Some of the best reading I’ve found on the Anthology is in Robert Cantwell’s book/essay about the Folk Revival  “When Were Good ». In his chapter on Harry Smith’s Anthology, here are some pages devoted to Lunsford’s “Mole in the Ground “:

I’ve compiled 22 versions of Mole In The Ground (or Tempie as many called the song ) reflecting my own personal favorites among the many versions you can find out there.

  1. Mole In The Ground Dirk Powell & Tim O’Brien Songs From The Mountain
  2. Tempie Tommy Jarrell The Legacy of Tommy Jarrell, Vol. 2: Rainbow Sign
  3. Tempie Eddie Bond & Josh Ellis John Brown’s Dream
  4. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground Green Bailey Kentucky Mountain Music
  5. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground Bascom Lamar Lunsford Anthology Of American Folk Music 
  6. I Wish I Were a Mole in the Ground Charlie Parr 1922
  7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground Eden & John’s East River String Band Drunken Barrel House Blues
  8. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground Frank Fairfield I’ve Always Been A Rambler
  9. Mole in the Ground Holy Modal Rounders Holy Modal Rounders
  10. Kimbie Jackson C. Frank Jackson C. Frank 
  11. Tempie Rafe Stefanini Ladies Fancy 
  12. Mole In The Ground Karen Dalton 1966 
  13. Tempie Pine Tree String Band Bluegrass Favorites
  14. Mole In The Ground Doc Watson Songs for Little Pickers
  15. Tempie roll down your bangs Tommy Jarrell Come And Go With Me
  16. Songs Mole in the Ground Dave Fredrickson Songs of the West
  17. I wish I was a mole in the ground The Chancey Brothers Black & White, Recorded in the field by Art Rosenbaum
  18. Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down Roan Mountain Hilltoppers The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers in Concert
  19. Mole in the Ground Dan Zanes and Friends Rocket Ship Beach 
  20. Kimbie Marianne Faithfull Easy Come, Easy Go
  21. Mole In the Ground Elizabeth LaPrelle Lizard In the Spring
  22. Mole In the Ground/Old Dan Tucker Larry Hanks Tying a Knot In the Devil’s Tail
  23. Mole in the Ground Pete Seeger Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes Little and Big

10 thoughts on “63 “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” by Bascom Lamar Lunsford

  1. hartspring says:

    I believe it’s Tempy ( short for Temperance) here as well who wants a nine dollar shawl. That’s certainly the way my ears have always heard him.

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks, as ever, for a great post. Just to add – a mention of the Bob Dylan song “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again”, which has the great steal from its original source:

    Mona tried to tell me to stay away from the train lines;
    She said that all those railway men drink up your blood like wine,
    But I said I didn’t know that, but then again there’s only one I’ve met,
    And he just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.”

    Naturally Bob constantly changes what the Railway Men do to him, in performance!

  3. Chris says:

    Thank you for another wonderful post! Getting the email announcing a new entry in this great series really brightens up my day. Not to mention provides me with listeningmaterial for the next week or more! thank you.

  4. Maggie Muth says:

    “songs from the east village” has a recording of ‘mole in the ground.

  5. Andrew says:

    Do you have a zipfile with mp3s of those songs? That would amazing!

    • gadaya says:

      Sure! Click on the Harry Smith picture below the track listing at the end of the post. Something you can do on all of my posts to get the mp3 files!

  6. Jim says:

    I’ve just discovered your blog, and I am truly, truly staggered by the work and thought you’ve put into this. I’ve always dreamed of a key to the Anthology, but never imagined I’d find one like this. Thank you, greatly.

  7. Stuart Carduner says:

    MP3 zip doesn’t work
    “”Mole In The Ground” by Pete Seeger can be downloaded from one of these fine retailers.”

  8. Dan says:

    Wow, this is the song that Jackson C Frank is playing on Kimbie… cool

  9. AH this is a great entry! I had been waiting on this your coverage of this one for a while, then fell off the face of the internet. Are there any active links to your compilation of mole in the ground? Thanks as always, this is the best blog ever.

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