History

I Wish I was A Mole in The Ground

Old-Time, Song and Breakdown- Western North Carolina

DATE: Early 1900’s (1924 was Lunsford’s recording). Moody's version 1901.

RECORDING INFO: County Records, Tommy Jarrell - "Tommy Jarrell's Banjo Album." June Appal Records, Plank Road String Band. Rounder 0132, Bob Carlin - "Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo" (1980). Lunsford learned the song in 1901 from Fred Moody, a North Carolina neighbor (notes to Smithsonian Folkways 40082) Versions by Lunsford (vocal and banjo) were recorded for Folkways 2040c and the Library of Congress. Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground" (OKeh 40155, c. 1924); (Brunswick 219B, 1928; on AAFM3, BLLunsford01); (on BLLunsford02, FMUSA); Green Bailey, "I Wish I Were A Mole In The Ground" (Conqueror 7255, 1929); Pete Seeger, "Mole in the Ground" (on PeteSeeger09, PeteSeegerCD02) Anthology of American Folk Music, Oak, Sof (1973), p 84 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); Brown, Fleming. Fleming Brown, Folk Legacy FSI-004, LP (1962), cut# 14 (Teddy Let Your Hair Hang Down); Carlin, Bob. Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo, Rounder 0132, LP (1980), cut# 2 (Tempie/Tempy); Carlton, Gaither. More Clawhammer Banjo, County 717, LP (1969), cut# 13 (Omie Let Your Bangs Hang Down); Chancey Family. Folk Visions & Voices. Traditional Music & Song in North Georgia, University of Georgia, Bk (1983), p167 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); Cooney, Michael. Singer of Old Songs, Front Hall FHR-007C, Cas (1976), cut# 6; Diller, Dwight. Piney Woods, Diller YP-007, Cas (199?), cut#B.03; Elliot, Ramblin' Jack. Jack Elliot, Archive of Folk Music FS-210, LP (19?), cut#A.02 (Roll On Buddy(, Roll On)); English, Logan. American Folk Ballads, Monitor MF 388, LP (196?), cut#B.07; Ginandes, Shep. Dogwood Soup, Pathways of Sound POS 1023, LP (196?), cut#B.02; Hanks, Larry. Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail, Long Sleeve LS 104, LP (1982), cut#B.06a; Harold and Abe. Sweet Sunny South, Heritage (Galax) 043, LP, cut# 6 (Tempie/Tempy); Hellman, Neal. Life Is Like a Mountain Dulcimer, TRO, sof (1974), p29 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); Holcomb, Roscoe. High Lonesome Sound, Folkways FA 2368, LP (1965), cut#B.07 (Baby Let your Hair Roll Down); Holcomb, Roscoe. Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40077, CD (1996), cut#1.30 (Baby Let your Hair Roll Down); Holy Modal Rounders. Holy Modal Rounders, Fantasy 24711, LP (1972), cut#2.01; Iron Mountain String Band (Galax). Music from the Mountain, Heritage (Galax) 101C, Cas (1992), cut# 10; Jarrell, Tommy. Rainbow Sign, County 791, LP (198?), cut# 6 (Tempie/Tempy); Jarrell, Tommy. Come and Go With Me, County 748, LP (1974), cut# 3 (Tempie Roll Down Your Bangs); Leftwich, Brad. Old Time Herald, Old Time Herald OTH, Ser (1987-), 3/8, p31 (Tempie/Tempy); Lunsford, Bascam Lamar. Anthology of American Folk Music, Smithsonian/Folkways SFW 40090, CD( (1997), cut# 63 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); Lunsford, Bascam Lamar. Anglo-American Songs and Ballads, Library of Congress AFS L21, LP (196?), cut# 4 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); Lunsford, Bascam Lamar. Smokey Mountain Ballads, Folkways FP 40, LP (1953), cut# 8; Lunsford, Bascam Lamar. Folk Music USA. Vol. 1, Folkways FE 4530, LP (1959), cut#B.06; Lunsford, Bascam Lamar. American Ballads and Folk Songs, MacMillan, Bk (1934), p.152 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground); McCutcheon, John. How Can I Keep from Singing?, June Appal JA 0003, LP (1975), cut# 8; Molsky, Bruce; and Bob Carlin. Take Me as I Am, Marimac 9023, Cas (1989), cut# 5a (Tempie/Tempy); North Quarry Street Irregulars. North Quarry Street Irregulars, North Quarry Street, LP (196?), cut#A.05; Pine River Boys with Maybelle. Outback, Heritage (Galax) 003 (III), LP (1974), cut#A.05; Plank Road String Band. Plank Road. Vocal and Instrumental Blend, June Appal JA 0015, LP (1978), cut# 4 (Tempie/Tempy); Possum Hunters. In the Pines, Takoma A-1025, LP (196?), cut# 12 (Darling Where You been So Long); Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. Music of Tennessee. Recorded Live at the 1981 Brandywine Musi..., Heritage (Galax) 042, LP (1982), cut#A.01 (Tempie/Tempy); Round Peak Band. Round Peak Band, Marimac 9044, Cas (1992), B.08 (Tempie/Tempy); Sky, Patrick. Two Steps Foreward - One Step Back, Leviathan SLIF 2000, LP (197?), cut#A.06; Doc Watson; Songs for Little Pickers, Sugar Hill;

Traditional American Folk: as Mole in the Ground (The Chesley Brothers (FW 34162c); David Holt (High Windy 1255c); Artus Moser (RVR 12-617a); Doc and Merle Watson (FF 252a);Doc Watson (SGH 3786c)); and later versions by Lunsford were recorded for Folkways 2040c and the Library of Congress.

Folksong revival: as Mole in the Ground (Michael Cooney (Front Hall a); Logan English (MNT 388a); Dave Fredrickson (FW 5259c); Holy Modal Rounders (PRS 7410a); Cisco Houston (VF 9002a); Lisa Kindred (VG 143/44c); John McCutcheon (JA 003a); Mike and Peggy Seeger (RND 8003c); Pete Seeger (SF 45022d); Patrick Sky (Leviathan 2000a); Sweet Corn (Aural 9006d)).

Post revival: as Mole in the Ground (Anne Hills (FF 70608c, Hogeye 001a)).

Country/String Band: as Mole in the Ground (The Iron Mountain String Band (HRT 101a); Fiddlin' Doc Roberts and Asa Martin (GEN 6732b)). Holy Modal Rounders - Mole in the Ground (Fantasy LP) Stampfel & Weber

Bluegrass: as Mole in the Ground (Hylo Brown (RR 183a); The Pine River Boys (HRT 3a)).

OTHER NAMES: "Tempy,” “Mole in the Ground,” “Kimpy,” "My Doney, Where Have You Been So Long;” “Skipping Through the Frost and Snow;” “My Last Dollar;” “Girls, Quit Your Rowdy Ways;” “Alberta, Let Your Hair Hang (Stream) Down;” “Feeling Bad and Low;" "Sammie, Where (Have) You Been So Long;” “Kimble”

RELATED TO: "I Don't Like No Railroad Man" (floating lyrics); "My Last Gold Dollar" (floating lyrics) "New River Train" (tune, floating lyrics); "Black Dog Blues" (lyrics); "Hard Rocking Chair" (Melody)

SOURCES: The title, “Mole in the Ground” appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Botkin-AmFolklr, pp. 900-901, "I Wish I Wuz a Mole in the Ground;" Courlander-NFM, p. 144, "(I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground);" Lomax-ABFS, pp. 152-153, "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground;" Silber-FSWB, p. 394, "Mole In The Ground"

NOTES: G Major. Standard. The first version was collected from Fred Moody of Jonathan's Creek, NC by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1902. It was published in 1921, with a tune provided by Lunsford in No. 173, Frank C. Brown Coll. North Carolina Folklore, vol. 3, "Folk Songs from North Carolina," ed. Henry M. Belden and Arthur Palmer Hudson.

The notes to the musical score state: "The singer was a student at Rutherford College in 1902. It seems quite clear that the stresses extending several measures beyond their normal length are due more to the peculiar temperament of the singer rather than to structural characteristics." P. 124-125, No. 173, The Music of the Folksongs, ed. Jan P. Schinhan, The Frank C. Brown Coll. North Carolina Folklore. A second score, from Miss Pearle Webb, Avery Co., also is provided, p. 126. 

This is the version Bascom Lamar Lunsford learned this version in 1902, from Fred Moody of Haywood County, N.C. Bascom Lamar Lunsford's Ballads, Banjo Tunes and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina has notes written by Lunsford of each of the songs: "The title of this mountain banjo song is 'I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground.' I've known it since 1901 [the other source says 1902] when I heard Fred Moody, then a high school boy, sing it down in Burke County." It was published in the JOAFL.

The line “When I come over the hill with a forty-dollar bill/ It’s "Baby, where you been so long?" is found in “Black Dog Blues,” “My Doney, Where Have You Been So Long;” and Dock Boggs' “Sammie, Where (Have) You Been So Long”

"Tempy" from the recording entitled "Been Riding with Old Mosby," Folkways FTS 31109, comes from Tommy Jarrell. Many versions entitled “Kimpy/Kimble” and such are simply mishearing “Tempy” which is found in two verses. Tempy is a nickname for Temperance, and old name rarely found today. This is the version from Frank C. Brown Coll. North Carolina Folklore, vol. 3, "Folk Songs from North Carolina," ed. Henry M. Belden and Arthur Palmer Hudson.

MOLE IN THE GROUND (first lyrics by Fred Moody, transcribed Lunsford)

I wish I was a mole in the ground;
I wish I was a mole in the ground.
If I's a mole in the ground I'd root that mountain down;
I wish I was a mole in the ground.

I don't like a railroad man;
I don't like a railroad man.
A railroad man will kill you when he can
And drink up your blood like wine.

Oh, Tempy wants a nine-dollar shawl;
Oh, Tempy wants a nine-dollar shawl.
When I come over the hill with a forty-dollar bill
Oh, it's "Baby, where you bee so long?"

And it's "Where have you been so long?"
And it's "Where have you been so long?"
"I've been in the bend with rough and rowdy men."
"'Tis "Where have you been so long.?"

I wish I was a lizard in the spring;
I wish I was a lizard in the spring.
If I's a lizard in the spring I'd hear my darlin' sing;
I wish I was a lizard in the spring.

Oh, Tempy, let your hair roll down;
Oh, Tempy, let your hair roll down.
Let your hair roll down and your bangs curl around;
Oh, Tempy, let your hair roll down.
 


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