TOM DOOLEY (trad./Frank Proffitt/Frank Warner/Kingston Trio) (1800s)

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GREIL MARCUS: As a fact, the folk revival was brought to life for the public at large in 1958 by the Kingston Trio's "Tom Dooley" -- a hearty (perfect for singalongs), insistently mysterious performance of a traditional, quite local [Wilkes County, NC] Appalachian murder ballad.... What is this? the radio almost asked every time the tune came on. It was, it turned out, a true-crime fable about the 1866 killing of one Laura Foster by her ex-lover Tom Dula and his new lover Annie Melton....
Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes, New York, NY, 1997, p. 22
OSCAR BRAND: Frank Proffitt, a real person, sang "Tom Dooley," a song about a real person, to Frank Warner, also a real person. Warner recorded the song for Elektra Records without copyrighting it, and Alan Lomax reproduced it in his book Folk Song, U. S. A. with Frank's permission. Many folk singers repeated the song, some even crediting Warner as the collector. One day The Kingston Trio heard it, enjoyed it, learned it, and recorded it -- almost exactly as Frank Warner had recorded it....

The Record company was happy to credit the Trio for "Tom Dooley," but Lomax objected. He had copyrighted the song before the Trio had recorded it. Ah, responded the Trio, but that was after Warner had propelled the song into the public domain by recording it without copyrighting it. Besides, what right had Warner to the song when he admitted he was singing it exactly as he'd learned it from Proffitt?

"The Legal Tangle," The Ballad Mongers: Rise of the Modern Folk Song, no place given, 1962, pp. 207-208

The Kingston Trio's Sold Out was anything but. With fond backward glances at Billboard's bestseller chart, where Sold Out last week led all the rest, Capitol Records was keeping all music shops well supplied with the hottest album cut so far by the hottest group in U.S. popular music.

Hoisted to these heights by the noose that hung Tom Dooley--the ballad was sleeping in an album they cut early in 1958 -- the Kingston Trio have added to the burgeoning U.S. folk music boom a slick combination of near-perfect close harmony and light blue humor. To help their predominantly collegiate and post-collegiate audiences identify with them, the three do their best to festoon themselves in Ivy, wear button-down shirts, even chose the name Kingston because it had a ring of Princeton about it as well as a suggestion of calypso.

TIME magazine, Jul 11, 1960

Lyrics as performed by The Kingston Trio, El Paso, TX, 1958; released on "Stereo Concert Plus!," 1986;
transcribed by Manfred Helfert.
ALTERNATE VERSION PERFORMED BY DOC WATSON

INTRO:
Throughout history, there've 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;
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.

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.

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.

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;
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

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.

Poor boy, you're bound to die;
Poor boy you're bound to die;
Poor boy, you're bound to die...

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