Mole in the Ground

I was listening recently to the traditional song, Mole in the Ground. I always assumed the song was about some poor devil with low self-esteem. Alas, as has been the case many times, I was very wrong. That’s not what the author meant at all. That’s was not it at all. 

But I did notice that Dylan borrowed a few lines from Mole in the Ground for Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. So that was pretty cool. Here are the borrowed lines.

Don’t marry a railroad man 
Don’t marry a railroad man 
A railroad man gonna kill you if he can 
And drink up your blood like wine 

Not much doubt about it, Bob listened to Mole in the Ground a few times. (BTW I’m not claiming this is some grand discovery. Many have noted this before I’m sure, but it was new to me, and maybe you too.) 

Mole in the Ground was included in Harry Smith’s  Anthology of American Folk Music that many folk musicians listen to in the sixties. Dylan disputes the importance of the collection (see interview in No Direction Home), but many think it helped shape the direction of the music that came out of the Village at that time. It’s probably a little of both.

Bascom Lamar Lundsford recorded the version included in the Anthology. Although Lundsford was from a rural area like many of the performers on the collection, he was an educated man, eventually graduating from law school. Lundsford was an accomplished fiddler, and when he was employed as a traveling fruit tree salesman used the opportunity to collect folk songs from the people he met on his travels. 

See below a segment of a documentary made about Lundsford. 

Lunsford was the author of the well-known tune, Good Old Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew was an Irish term for whiskey, which was borrowed for the name for the soft drink. Pepsi commissioned Lunsford’s song for a series of Mountain Dew commercials in 1964. 

Futher Reading 

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