The Kingston Trio’s, “Tom Dooley” – The Murderous Story Behind This Killer Folk Song

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A local poet named Thomas Land wrote a song about the tragedy, titled “Tom Dooley” (which was how Dula’s name was pronounced), shortly after Dula was hanged.

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“Tom Dooley”

Throughout history there have been many songs
Written about the eternal triangle
This next one tells the story of a Mr. Grayson,
A beautiful woman, and a condemned man named Tom Dooley
When the sun rises tomorrow, Tom Dooley must hang

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you’re bound to die

I met her on the mountain, there I took her life
Met her on the mountain, stabbed her with my knife

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry (ah-uh-eye)
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you’re bound to die

This time tomorrow reckon where I’ll be
Hadn’t-a been for Grayson, I’d-a been in Tennessee (well now, boy)

Hang down (your head) your head (Dooley) and cry
Hang down your head and cry (ah poor boy, ah well-ah)
Hang down (your head) your head (Dooley) and cry
Poor boy, you’re bound to die (ah well now boy)

Hang down (your head) your head (Dooley) and cry
Hang down your head and cry (ah poor boy, ah well-ah)
Hang down (your head) your head (Dooley) and cry
Poor boy, you’re bound to die

This time tomorrow reckon where I’ll be
Down in some lonesome valley hangin’ from a white oak tree

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry (ah-uh-eye)
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you’re bound to die (ah well now boy)

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry (poor boy ah well uh)
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you’re bound to die
Poor boy, you’re bound to die
Poor boy, you’re bound to die
Poor boy, you’re bound to die

(Source For Lyrics: Google Play Lyrics)


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In the documentary Appalachian Journey (1991), folklorist Alan Lomax inaccurately describes Frank Proffitt as the “original source” for the song.

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Although there are several earlier known recordings, notably the one by Grayson and Whitter made in 1929, (Continue Reading Below)

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…approximately 10 years before Frank Proffitt cut his own recording, (Continue Reading Below)

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CLICK HERE TO READ FULL STORY

The Kingston Trio took their version from Frank Warner’s singing. Warner had learned the song from Proffitt, who learned it from his Aunt Nancy Prather, whose parents had known both Laura Foster and Tom Dula.

Watch the story below….

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What a fascinating story. I can’t believe how sweet sounding this song is and how bittersweet the story behind it is. What songs do you think have the most interesting stories behind them? Please share your comments below…


You Might Also Want To Read About These Folk Song Favorites: “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore”“Leaving On A Jet Plane” and my favorite, “Puff The Magic Dragon”

 

(Sources: DailyYonder.com, DoYouRemember.com, Google Play Music & Wikipedia)

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