Monday, June 29, 2009

Tom Dooley

Well, if you do not know the beginning words of this song, then you must not have grown up in the Wilson household. My mom and dad would sing the words to this sad song when I was growing up. So tonight I started to sing it. Of course, I only could remember the part that starts out "Hang down your head Tom Dooley! Hang down your head and cry! Hang down your head Tom Dooley ..." then I forget the rest, but remembered that he's going to die. Dad didn't remember who was famous for singing this song and when I suggested that it was from the time when Grandpa was young he said no, that it came from the 50s. Well, he's right that the most famous version of the song comes from the 50s. It was a hit for the Kingston Trio in 1958 and is credited with starting the folk music movement. It's also considered one of the Songs of the Century. It's actually fairly short and simple, but did you know this -- it is based on actual man named Tom Dula (in Appalachia Dula is prn. Dooley) who lived in North Carolina in the mid 1800s. He was convicted of murdering Laura Foster with a large knife, but just before he was hanged he said he had never harmed her. Some people think he took the rap for his other lover, Anne Melton, who was the one that made it possible to find Laura (Anne died insane a few years after Tom was hanged). Anyhow, he really did go to Tennessee to get away and there was a man named Grayson that was instrumental in him getting caught and sent back to North Carolina. But there was a 1929 recording of Tom Dooley and folk songs about him started to circulate after his hanging. His trial and execution were famous at the time and people in North Carolina still sing about him. Just thought you might want to know. And for fond memories, here is the Kingston Trio singing Tom Dooley. The gray-haired guy has an awesome quality to his voice, so that makes this version very cool. But I got to tell you, Dad sang this tonight and he sounded every bit as good. So ask him to sing it for you sometime.

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