|Song by The Kingston Trio|
"Tom Dooley" is a traditional North Carolina folk song based on the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina by Tom Dula (whose name in the local dialect was pronounced "Dooley"). One of the more famous murder ballads, a popular hit version recorded in 1958 by The Kingston Trio, which reached No. 1 in Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and also was top 10 on the Billboard R&B chart, and appeared in the Cashbox Country Music Top 20.
The song was selected as one of the American Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
"Tom Dooley" fits within the wider genre of Appalachian "sweetheart murder ballads". A local poet named Thomas Land wrote a song about the tragedy, titled "Tom Dooley", shortly after Dula was hanged.In the documentary Appalachian Journey (1991), folklorist Alan Lomax describes Frank Proffitt as the "original source" for the song, which was misleading in that he did not write it. There are several earlier known recordings, notably one that G. B. Grayson and Henry Whitter made in 1929, approximately 10 years before Proffitt cut his own recording.
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.In a 1967 interview, Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio recounts first hearing the song from another performer and then being criticized and sued for taking credit for the song. Supported by the testimony of Anne and Frank Warner, Frank Proffitt was eventually acknowledged by the courts as the preserver of the original version of the song, and the Kingston Trio were ordered to pay royalties to him for their uncredited use of it.
In 1866, Laura Foster was murdered. Confederate veteran Tom Dula, Foster's lover and the father of her unborn child, was convicted of her murder and hanged May 1, 1868. Foster had been stabbed to death with a large knife, and the brutality of the attack partly accounted for the widespread publicity of the murder and subsequent trial received.
Anne Foster Melton, Laura's cousin, had been Dula's lover from the time he was twelve and until he left for the Civil War – even after Anne married an older man named James Melton. When Dula returned, he became a lover again to Anne, then Laura, then their cousin Pauline Foster. Pauline's comments led to the discovery of Laura's body and accusations against both Tom and Anne. Anne was subsequently acquitted in a separate trial, based on Dula's word that she had nothing to do with the killing. [ citation needed ])Dula's enigmatic statement on the gallows that he had not harmed Foster but still deserved his punishment led to press speculation that Melton was the actual killer and that Dula simply covered for her. (Melton, who had once expressed jealousy of Dula's purported plans to marry Foster, died either in a carting accident or by going insane a few years after the homicide, depending on the version.
Thanks to the efforts of newspapers such as The New York Times and to the fact that former North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance represented Dula pro bono, Dula's murder trial and hanging were given widespread national publicity. A local poet, Thomas C. Land, wrote a song titled "Tom Dooley" about Dula's tragedy soon after the hanging. Combined with the widespread publicity the trial received, Land's song further cemented Dula's place in North Carolina legend [ citation needed ]and is still sung today throughout North Carolina.
A man named "Grayson", mentioned in the song as pivotal in Dula's downfall, has sometimes been characterized as a romantic rival of Dula's or a vengeful sheriff who captured him and presided over his hanging. Some variant lyrics of the song portray Grayson in that light, and the spoken introduction to the Kingston Trio version [ citation needed ]did the same. Col. James Grayson was actually a Tennessee politician who had hired Dula on his farm when the young man fled North Carolina under suspicion and was using a false name. Grayson did help North Carolinians capture Dula and was involved in returning him to North Carolina but otherwise played no role in the case.
Dula was tried in Statesville because it was believed he could not get a fair trial in Wilkes County. He was given a new trial on appeal but he was again convicted and hanged on May 1, 1868. On the gallows, Dula reportedly stated, "Gentlemen, do you see this hand? I didn't harm a hair on the girl's head."[ citation needed ]
Dula's last name was pronounced "Dooley," leading to some confusion in spelling over the years. The pronunciation of a final "a" like "y" (or "ee") is an old feature in Appalachian speech, as in the term "Grand Ole Opry".[ citation needed ] The confusion was compounded by the fact that Dr. Tom Dooley, an American physician known for international humanitarian work, was at the height of his fame in 1958 when the Kingston Trio version became a major hit.[ citation needed ]
Many renditions of the song have been recorded, most notably:
Other artists that have recorded versions of the song include Paul Clayton, Line Renaud, Bing Crosby, Jack Narz, Steve Earle, the Grateful Dead, Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, and Doc Watson. Lonnie Donegan also recorded the song in the UK. It spent 14 weeks in the British charts from November 1958, reaching its highest ranking at number 3 for 5 weeks.
"Tom Dooley" prompted a number of parodies, either as part of other songs or as entire songs. For example:
For Capitol Records 45 rpm Release #F4049 By The Kingston Trio
|Australian Singles Chart||1|
|Canadian Singles Chart||1|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||1|
|Italian Singles Chart||1|
|South African Charts||8|
|U.K. Singles Chart||5|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Sides||9|
|US Billboard Hot 100||198|
The third and final verse of Stonewall Jackson's crossover hit song Waterloo of 1958 referenced Tom Dooley with the lyrics "Now he swings where the little birdie sings, and that's where Tom Dooley met his Waterloo."
The Kingston Trio hit inspired the film, The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959), starring Michael Landon, co-starring Richard Rust. A Western set after the Civil War, it was not about traditional Tom Dula legends or the facts of the case, but a fictional treatment tailored to fit the lyrics of the song.
"Tom Dooley" is the name of a season 5 episode of Ally McBeal , in which John Cage sings a version of the song with his Mexican band.
The song was parodied in episode No. 702 of Mystery Science Theater 3000 . Crow T. Robot, motivated by one actor's resemblance to Thomas Dewey, sang a version beginning "Hang down your head, Tom Dewey."
Glada Barn's version of Land's song closes Rectify season 2 episode "Mazel Tov".
In the 1980 film Friday the 13th , the campers in the opening scene start to sing the song. The opening scene is set in 1958, the year the Kingston Trio version of the song debuted.
Episode 10 of Santo, Sam and Ed's Total Football Podcast is titled "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula". This naming was in reference to a sample of the song generated by Santo Cilauro whereby he jokingly claimed Tiziano Crudeli had performed a version of Tom Dooley with "The Kingstown Trio". Crudeli's bombastic commentary style on Diretta Stadio afforded him celebrity status in Italy, and audio of Crudli's pronunciation of various footballers' names was a constant running gag throughout the Total Football Podcast.
Wilkesboro is a town in and the county seat of Wilkes County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 3,687 at the 2020 census. The town is located along the south bank of the Yadkin River, directly opposite the town of North Wilkesboro. Wilkesboro is a Small Town Main Street community and has recently revitalized its historic downtown to include the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons, Wilkes Communications Pavilion, Heritage Square and Splash Pad. Cub Creek Park is adjacent to the downtown and contains many amenities, which include baseball, walking trails, mountain biking trails, trout fishing, dog park, basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts, picnic shelters, etc. Wilkesboro is also the home of the annual MerleFest, Carolina in the Fall, and Brushy Mountain Peach & Heritage festivals.
The Kingston Trio is an American folk and pop music group that helped launch the folk revival of the late 1950s to the late 1960s. The group started as a San Francisco Bay Area nightclub act with an original lineup of Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. It rose to international popularity fueled by unprecedented sales of LP records and helped alter the direction of popular music in the U.S.
Thomas C. Dula was a former Confederate soldier who was convicted of murdering Laura Foster. National publicity from newspapers such as The New York Times turned Dula's story into a folk legend. Although Laura was murdered in Wilkes County, North Carolina, Dula was tried, convicted, and hanged in Statesville. Considerable controversy surrounded the case. In subsequent years, a folk song was written, and many oral traditions were passed down, regarding the sensational occurrences surrounding Laura Foster's murder and Dula's subsequent execution. The Kingston Trio recorded a hit version of the murder ballad in 1958.
"Banks of the Ohio", also known as "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" and "I'll Never Be Yours", is a 19th-century murder ballad, written by unknown authors. The lyrics tell of "Willie" who invites his young lover for a walk during which she rejects his marriage proposal, and once they are alone on the river bank, he murders the young woman.
Trade is an unincorporated community in Johnson County, Tennessee. The easternmost community in the state, Trade is located between the towns of Mountain City, Tennessee, and Boone, North Carolina, along US 421. Generally considered Tennessee's oldest community, Trade was established as a trading outpost in the 18th century, and was visited by English-speakers as early as 1673. At an elevation of 3,133 feet, it is the highest community in Tennessee.
Murder ballads are a subgenre of the traditional ballad form dealing with a crime or a gruesome death. Their lyrics form a narrative describing the events of a murder, often including the lead-up and/or aftermath. The term refers to the content, and may be applied to traditional ballads, part of oral culture.
"John Hardy" is a traditional American folk song based on the life of a railroad worker living in McDowell County, West Virginia in the Spring of 1893. The historical John Hardy is believed to have gotten into a drunken dispute during a craps game held near Keystone, and subsequently killed a man named Thomas Drews. Hardy was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and was hanged on January 19, 1894, with 3,000 people allegedly in attendance. Hardy is believed to have made peace with the Lord the morning before his death by being baptized in a river.
Robert Castle Schoen, known professionally as Bob Shane, was an American singer and guitarist who was a founding member of The Kingston Trio. In that capacity, Shane became a seminal figure in the revival of folk and other acoustic music as a popular art form in the United States in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s.
The American folk music revival began during the 1940s and peaked in popularity in the mid-1960s. Its roots went earlier, and performers like Josh White, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Oscar Brand, Jean Ritchie, John Jacob Niles, Susan Reed, Paul Robeson, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Cisco Houston had enjoyed a limited general popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. The revival brought forward styles of American folk music that had in earlier times contributed to the development of country and western, blues, jazz, and rock and roll music.
William Henry Whitter was an early old-time recording artist in the United States. He first performed as a solo singer, guitarist and harmonica player, and later in partnership with the fiddler G. B. Grayson. He recorded the first version of "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad".
Frank Noah Proffitt was an Appalachian old time banjoist who preserved the song "Tom Dooley" in the form we know it today and was a key figure in inspiring musicians of the 1960s and 1970s to play the traditional five-string banjo.
The Kingston Trio is the Kingston Trio's debut album, released in 1958. It entered the album charts in late October 1958, where it resided for nearly four years, spending one week at #1 in early 1959. It was awarded an RIAA gold album on January 19, 1961.
Once Upon a Time is a live album by the American folk music group the Kingston Trio, recorded in 1966 and released in 1969. It was originally released as a double-LP with a three-page booklet and reached number 163 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. The lead-off single was "One Too Many Mornings" b/w "Scotch and Soda".
Gilliam Banmon Grayson was an American Old-time fiddle player and singer. Mostly blind from infancy, Grayson is chiefly remembered for a series of sides recorded with guitarist Henry Whitter between 1927 and 1930 that would later influence numerous country, bluegrass, and rock musicians. Grayson wrote much of his own material, but was also instrumental in adapting several traditional Appalachian ballads to fiddle and guitar formats. His music has been recorded or performed by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, Mick Jagger, the Kingston Trio, and dozens of bluegrass artists, including the Stanley Brothers and Mac Wiseman.
An Evening with The Kingston Trio is a live album by the American folk music group the Kingston Trio, recorded in 1962 and released in 1994. At the time of the performance, the group consisted of Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and John Stewart.
Aspen Gold is an album by the American folk music group the Kingston Trio, released in 1979. The group consisted of the line up of Bob Shane, George Grove, and Roger Gambill.
Roger Sprung is an American banjo player and teacher best known for introducing authentic bluegrass banjo picking styles to the folk music community in the north and for the eclectic manner in which he has adapted bluegrass banjo techniques to music of other genres. His 1963 album Progressive Bluegrass may have been the first use of that title, later applied to a subgenre of bluegrass music by him and others.
The Legend of Tom Dooley is a 1959 American Western film directed by Ted Post and starring Michael Landon, Jo Morrow, Jack Hogan, Richard Rust, Dee Pollock and Ken Lynch. It was based on the 90-year-old folk song "Tom Dooley", which had been inspired by the real-life case of convicted murderer Tom Dula. The ballad, as sung by the Kingston Trio, was a big hit in 1958 and is the theme song of the film. The movie's plot is consistent with the lyrics of the song, but otherwise bears little resemblance to the actual murder case.
Ferguson is an unincorporated community in Wilkes County, North Carolina, United States. Ferguson is located on North Carolina Highway 268, 12.3 miles (19.8 km) west-southwest of Wilkesboro. Ferguson has a post office with ZIP code 28624.
Francis Moreland Warner was an American folk song collector, singer, musician, and YMCA executive. He and his wife Anne Warner collected and preserved many previously unpublished traditional song versions from the eastern United States, including "Tom Dooley", "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands", "The Days of Forty-Nine", and "Gilgarrah Mountain", a New Hampshire version of the song more widely known as "Whiskey in the Jar".