Baby let your hair roll down


Spring is back! And they tell me that Sunday is the Earth’s birthday, too. So here’s a song for that.


7 Replies to “Baby let your hair roll down”

  1. I wish I was an ant in your pants
    I wish I was an ant in your pants
    If I was an ant in you pants
    I would teach you how to dance
    I wish I was an ant in your pants

  2. Actually, it is a traditional old timey mountain tune, which Roscoe performed during the folk revival, but did not “write” per ser. In the mountains, all of these great tunes had many, many variations, sometimes the verses varied from holler to holler, or town to town. In the early eighties, I was an old timey mountain banjo picker (clawhammer style) and a national park ranger at Cumberland Gap Historical park. In the break room for the rangers was a file cabinet, in which was a file folder of song lyrics collected during the WPA. In that folder was stuffed some even older hand written collections of songs, lyrics and varieties of verses of old time mountain tunes collected by a young man interested in such things. On long faded paper, he had written very neatly in pencil on the top of each sheet the holler or community that those verse variations originated from. I thought when I discovered this folder that it was a gold mine and worthy of bringing out of the dust and archiving in safer fashion. The chief of interpretation did not. I imagine it has been long sense tossed away during cleaning. I was very young at the time and didn’t think to go to someone else about it…. but during my lunch hours, I would copy some of the more risque or humorous verses. There were some outrageous and bawdy versions to Liza Jane and Shady Grove in particular, which as a young person I got a big kick out of playing. Wish I still had my notes and I miss those days and maybe I ought to dust off my banjo and see if anything comes back to me.
    ps, my recollection of those notes was that the young man said that the oldest version of mole in the ground, uses the name “Campy” let your hair hang down, being the generic name for the “lady” camp follower, I have seen “kempy” “tempy” and “baby”….sorry, I do go on…

  3. Hey, that’s great! I knew Roscoe didn’t write it; his version is simply one of the most traditional ones that made it onto record. Though in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I learned the song from Pete Seeger’s minor-key “Mole in the Ground,” which was so sanitized I think it appeared on an album of songs for children! I for one would love to hear more bawdy verses. Your boss’s lack of interest in those notes strikes me as worse than insensitive – it was downright criminal.

    A similar thing happened with country blues music, too, as Bill Ferris’ Blues From the Delta and other accounts make clear: performers cleaned up their songs for the recordings. The versions they played for each other were often much racier. Of course, Holcomb was pretty religious, so presumably he didn’t sing the bawdier verses in any case (which is I guess what I was getting at with that comment).

    Happy to hear you play clawhammer banjo! It would be great if you could post some audio on your site. That’s a sound I know well: my brother Steve started playing when I was ten. I keep meaning to do a blog post on the history of the banjo – maybe one of these days. A sadly neglected and stereotyped instrument with a lot of soul – especially when played in the older styles, IMO.

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