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Song IconKingston Trio "Tom Dooley"

About "Tom Dooley"

"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.

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