Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground info


You can check out my painting in my last blog. This blog will give you some information about "Mole in the Ground" with the first lyrics and some recordings.

The song "I Wish I was a Mole" is similar to many other songs from the mountains. It probably is closest to My Last Gold Dollar [Is Gone]. Gus Meade lists "Mole in the Ground" under "My Last Old Dollar" which is another old song that can be traced back to the 1800s. Other names of similar songs include "My Doney, Where Have You Been So Long," "Skipping Through the Frost and Snow," "Girls, Quit Your Rowdy Ways," "Alberta, Let Your Hair Hang Low," "Feeling Bad and Low," "Sammie, Where (Have) You Been So Long. "

Other songs like "New River Train" have the same form. It's also called "Darlin' You Can't Love But One."

Mole in the Ground is usually credited to Bascom Lamar Lunsford but he learned it from Fred Moody from Jonathan's Creek, NC. Moody's version was transcribed and published in 1921 with a tune provided in Frank C. Brown Coll. North Carolina Folklore, vol. 3, "Folk Songs from North Carolina," ed. Henry M. Belden and Arthur Palmer Hudson.

"The singer (Moody) 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.


1. I wish I was a mole in the ground (2x)
If I's a mole in the ground I'd root that mountain down;
I wish I was a mole in the ground.

2. I don't like a railroad man; (2x)
A railroad man will kill you when he can
And drink up your blood like wine.

3. Oh, Tempy wants a nine-dollar shawl; (2x)
When I come over the hill with a forty-dollar bill
Oh, it's "Baby, where you bee so long?"

4. And it's "Where have you been so long?" (2x)
"I've been in the bend with rough and rowdy men."
"'Tis "Where have you been so long.?"

5. I wish I was a lizard in the spring; (2x)
If I's a lizard in the spring I'd hear my darlin' sing;
I wish I was a lizard in the spring.

6. Oh, Tempy, let your hair roll down; (2x)
Let your hair roll down and your bangs curl around;
Oh, Tempy, let your hair roll down.

Lunsford recorded the song in 1924 for Okeh which was the first recording. About the song Lunsford said, "The title of this mountain banjo song is 'I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground.' I've known it since 1901 when I heard Fred Moody, then a high school boy, sing it down in Burke County."

You can listen to Lunsfords recording here: http://www.archive.org/details/Mole

The song which a verse about mole and a verse about a lizard has been made into a children's song with all verses about animals and reptiles.

The "lizard in the spring" probably refers to the term "spring lizard," which is old vernacular for a salamander. Now the lizard is found in a tree. Other verses include:

I wish I was a trout in the creek....clear water I would seek.
I Wish I was a hawk in the sky.....I'd never wonder why.
I wish I was a frog in the pond...I'd sing the whole night long.

The girl in the song is Tempy (Tempie/Tempey), Kippy, Kimbi, Kempy and Bessy. I think it should be Tempy which is a nickname for the unusual name, Temperance.

Here's a recording of the song from 1928 by Amos Baker using Bessy: http://honkingduck.com/78s/listen.php?s=20207B

Here are some recordings and sources from the folk index:

1. Duncan, Josh; & Ethel Raim (eds) / Anthology of American Folk Music, Oak, Sof (1973), p 84 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
2. Blood, Peter; and Annie Patterson (eds.) / Rise Up Singing, Sing Out, Sof (1992/1989), p147
3. Brown, Fleming. Fleming Brown, Folk Legacy FSI-004, LP (1962), trk# 14 (Teddy Let Your Hair Hang Down)
4. Carlin, Bob. Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo, Rounder 0132, LP (1980), trk# 2 (Tempie/Tempy)
5. Carlton, Gaither. Clawhammer Banjo. Vol 2 [More Clawhammer Banjo], County CD 2717/717, LP (2003/1969), trk# 15 [1964/10] (Omie Let Your Bangs Hang Down)
6. Chancey Family. Rosenbaum, Art (ed.) / Folk Visions & Voices. Traditional Music & So...., University of Georgia, Bk (1983), p167 [1978/10/22] (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Gro
7. Cooney, Michael. Singer of Old Songs, Front Hall FHR-007C, Cas (1976), trk# 6
8. Diller, Dwight. Piney Woods, Diller YP-007, Cas (199?), trk# B.03
9. Elliott, Ramblin' Jack. Jack Elliott, Archive of Folk Music FS-210, LP (1967), trk# A.02 (Roll On Buddy(, Roll On))
10. English, Logan. American Folk Ballads, Monitor MF 388, LP (1962), trk# B.07
11. Fredrickson, Dave. Asch, Moses (ed.) / 124 Folk Songs as Sung and Recorded on Folkways Reco, Robbins Music, Fol (1965), p 92
12. Ginandes, Shep. Dogwood Soup, Pathways of Sound POS 1023, LP (196?), trk# B.02
13. Gingerthistle. Grandad's Porch, Kudzu KPP 007, CD (1998), trk# 17
14. Hanks, Larry. Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail, Long Sleeve LS 104, LP (1982), trk# B.06a
15. Harold and Abe. Sweet Sunny South, Heritage (Galax) 043, LP (1984), trk# 6 (Tempie/Tempy)
16. Hellman, Neal. Hellman, Neal; and Sally Holden / Life Is Like a Mountain Dulcimer, TRO, sof (1974), p29 (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
17. Holcomb, Roscoe. High Lonesome Sound, Folkways FA 2368, LP (1965), trk# B.07 (Baby Let your Hair Roll Down)
18. Holcomb, Roscoe. Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40077, CD (1996), trk# 1.30 [1959] (Baby Let your Hair Roll Down)
19. Holy Modal Rounders. Holy Modal Rounders, Fantasy 24711, CD/ (1972/1964), trk# 2.01 20. Iron Mountain String Band (Galax). Music from the Mountain, Heritage (Galax) 101C, Cas (1992), trk# 10
21. Jarrell, Tommy. Rainbow Sign, County 791, LP (1984), trk# 6 (Tempie/Tempy)
22. Jarrell, Tommy. Come and Go With Me, County 748, LP (1974), trk# 3 (Tempie Roll Down Your Bangs)
23. Kindred, Lisa. New Folks Vol. 2, Vanguard VRS 9140, LP (1964), trk# A.08
24. Leftwich, Brad. Old Time Herald, Old Time Herald, Ser, 3/8, p31(1993) (Tempie/Tempy) 25. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Anthology of American Folk Music, Smithsonian/Folkways SFW 40090, CD( (1997), trk# 63 [1928/02] (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
26. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Anglo-American Songs and Ballads, Library of Congress AFS L21, LP (196?), trk# A.04 [1946] (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
27. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Smokey Mountain Ballads, Folkways FP 40/2040, LP (1953), trk# 8
28. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Folk Music USA. Vol. 1, Folkways FE 4530, LP (1959), trk# B.06 [1951-52]
29. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Lomax, J. A. & A. Lomax / American Ballads and Folk Songs, MacMillan, Bk (1934), p.152 [1928] (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
30. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Rosenbaum, Art (ed.) / Old-Time Mountain Banjo, Oak, sof (1968), p36
31. Lunsford, Bascom Lamar. Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Smithsonian SF 40082, CD (1996), trk# 8 [1928/02] (I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground)
32. McCutcheon, John. How Can I Keep from Singing?, June Appal JA 0003, LP (1975), trk# 8 33. Molsky, Bruce; and Bob Carlin. Take Me as I Am, Marimac 9023, Cas (1989), trk# 5a (Tempie/Tempy)
34. North Quarry Street Irregulars. North Quarry Street Irregulars, North Quarry Street, LP (197?), trk# A.05
35. Pine River Boys with Maybelle. Outback, Heritage (Galax) 003 (III), LP (1974), trk# A.05 36. Plank Road String Band. Plank Road. Vocal and Instrumental Blend, June Appal JA 0015, LP (1978), trk# 4 (Tempie/Tempy)
37. Possum Hunters. In the Pines, Takoma A-1025, LP (196?), trk# 12 (Darling Where You Been So Long)
38. Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. Music of Tennessee. Recorded Live at the 1981 Brandywine Musi..., Heritage (Galax) 042, LP (1982), trk# A.01 (Tempie/Tempy)
39. Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. Down Home, Roan Mountain, CD (2000), trk# 24 [1982/02] (Tempie/Tempy)
40. Round Peak Band. Round Peak Band, Marimac 9044, Cas (1992), trk# B.08 (Tempie/Tempy) 41. Sky, Patrick. Two Steps Foreward - One Step Back, Leviathan SLIF 2000, LP (197?), trk# A.06

Hope this has helped,


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