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Folk Notes 1 - Tom Dooley

"Hang your head Tom Dooley,

Hang your head and cry,

You killed lil' Laura Foster,

Poor boy you're bound to die.

"You met her on the mountain,

There you took her life,

Met her on the hillside,

Stabbed her with a knife.

"This time tomorrow,

Reckon where I'll be,

Down in yonder valley,

A-hanging on a white oak tree.

"This time tomorrow,

Reckon where I'll be,

Hadn't-a been for Grayson,

I'd-a been in Tennessee.

"You met her on the mountain,

It was there I suppose,

There you went and killed her,

And then you hid her clothes.

"I'll take down my banjo,

I'll pick it on my knee,

By this time tomorrow,

It'll be no use to me."

Frank Proffit’s version 1938

"Tom Dooley" is an old North Carolina folk song based on the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina, allegedly by Tom Dula. The song is best known today because of a hit version recorded in 1958 by The Kingston Trio.

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 the murder and subsequent trial received.

A local poet, Thomas C. Land, wrote a popular song about Dula's tragedy soon after Dula was hanged, titled "Tom Dooley". This, combined with the widespread publicity the trial received, further cemented Dula’s place in North Carolina legend. Land's song is still sung today throughout North Carolina.

Story of Tom Dooley:

©Jeff Guess 2017

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