I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground

TITLE: I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Traditional
KEYWORDS: animal, money, hardtimes, dancetune
EARLIEST DATE: 1921 (Brown)

BL-LunsfordBascom Lamar Lunsford on “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground”:

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. Fred lives in Haywood County, North Carolina, and the footnote to the song is that the “bend” referred to is the bend of the Pigeon River in Haywood County, North Carolinia. I played it as a request of my mother back in 1902. It was the last request she ever made of me. I was teaching that time at Doggett’s Gap at public school in Madison County, and returned to my school on Sunday evening. She was interested in my picking the banjo, and she asked me to get the five-string banjo down and play “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground.” I went away, and she grew sick and passed away and that was the last request she ever made of me. (from the website Where Dead Voices Gather Life at 78 RPM

Greil Marcus, in his Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989) says this about I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground:

Now what the singer wants is obvious, and almost impossible to comprehend. He wants to be delivered from his life and to be changed into a creature insignificant and despised. He wants to see nothing and to be seen by no-one. He wants to destroy the world and to survive it. That’s all he wants. The performance is quiet, steady, and the quite lets you in … You can imagine what it would be like to want what the singer wants. It is an almost impossible negation, at the edge of pure nihilism, a demand to prove that the world is nothing, a demand to be next to nothing and yet it is comforting.

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • I Wish I Wuz a Mole in the Ground
  • Mole in the Ground
  • Kimpy
  • Teddy, Let You Hair Hang Down

RECORDINGS

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Matt Costa

I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground

I wish I was a mole in the ground.
Yes, I wish I was a mole in the ground
If I’se a mole in the ground,
l’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 pen so long.
Yes, I been in the pen so long;
l been in the pen with the rough and rowdy men.
‘Tis “Baby, where you been so long?”

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

I wish I was a lizard in the spring.
Yes, l 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 l 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.

l wish I was a mole in the ground.
Yes, I wish I was a mole in the ground:
If I’se a mole in the ground,
l’d root that mountain down,
And I wish I was a mole in the ground.

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (1952), Volume 3: Folk Songs from North Carolina. Edited by Henry M Beldin and Arthur Palmer Hudson. Duke University Press.

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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