Tom Dooley

Album: The Kingston Trio (1958)
Charted: 5 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The first hit for the Kingston Trio, this song is about Tom Dula (pronounced Dooley) who was a real person. He was a gifted fiddle player and enjoyed the company of ladies. During the Civil War he served the Confederacy as a musician and was captured near the end of the war and held as a prisoner of war. After he was released he returned to his life and his relationship with Ann Melton and other women including Ann's cousin Laura Foster. On the day that he and Laura were to be married she disappeared and was found weeks later in a shallow grave. She had been stabbed in the heart. Tom knew that it was known he was the last known person to see her alive so he fled the county and went to work for Colonel James Grayson on his farm in a nearby county. Dula stayed long enough to earn money for a pair of boots and then left for Tennessee where the posse with assistance from Colonel Grayson found him. He was taken back to North Carolina and was represented by ex-Governor of North Carolina Zebulon Vance. After a much publicized trial and appeal he was found guilty and hanged in Statesville North Carolina. The graves of Laura and Ann are visited each year by a number of tourists. Tom's grave is on private property and is not open to the public. The "Tom Dooley" museum is located in Ferguson North Carolina. The reason for the murder is not known but it appears he may have killed her because of contracting a venereal disease from her. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Daniel - Salem, OR
  • At the very first Grammy Awards in 1958, this won for Best Country & Western Performance. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 3, 1959, the Kingston Trio appeared on the cover of the August 3rd issue of Life* magazine...
    At the time the trio's "M.T.A." was at #30 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, three weeks earlier it had peaked at #15 {for 1 week} and it spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    Between 1958 and 1963 the trio had seventeen records on the Top 100, two made the Top 10, "Tom Dooley" peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on November 17th, 1958 and "The Reverend Mr. Black" reached #8 {for 1 week} on May 12th, 1963...
    * http://www.oldlifemagazines.com/august-03-1959-life-magazine.html
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyHere's some obscure trivia:
    On February 3rd 1690, the Massachusetts colony issued America's first paper money, used to pay soldiers who were fighting in the war against Quebec...
    And two hundred-seventy three years later on January 20th, 1963 the Kingston Trio's "Greenback Dollar" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #96; seven weeks later on March 10th it would peak at #21 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for11 weeks...
    The trio's next release, "The Reverend Mr. Black" would reach #8* and it also spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    R.I.P. Dave Guard {1934 - 1991}, Nick Reynolds {1933 - 2008}, and Bob Shane, born Robert Castle Schoen, celebrated his 82nd birthday two days ago on February 1st {2016}...
    * Their other Top 10 record was "Tom Dooley"; it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on November 17th, 1958.
  • Brady from Niagara Falls, NyAll this time I thought this was a song about Tom Dooley, the famous Doctor of "Medico,' served in Laos and died of Cancer at 34 years of age.
    A very courageous man; Thank You Songfacts and Daniel of Salem, Or. for the truth
  • Francis from Philly, PaExcellent band, however I have been told several times that he was not actually the person who killed her.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaThe first song I remember hearing my parents play as a child an still one of my favorites. Such a perfect rendition of a mysterious circumstances, and what harmonies! Only equaled by the Beatles & Beach Boys. The Kingston Trio rule!
see more comments

Rick SpringfieldSongwriter Interviews

Rick has a surprising dark side, a strong feminine side and, in a certain TV show, a naked backside. But he still hasn't found Jessie's Girl.

Bill WithersSongwriter Interviews

Soul music legend Bill Withers on how life experience and the company you keep leads to classic songs like "Lean On Me."

Dave MasonSongwriter Interviews

Dave reveals the inspiration for "Feelin' Alright" and explains how the first song he ever wrote became the biggest hit for his band Traffic.

Bill Medley of The Righteous BrothersSongwriter Interviews

Medley looks back on "Unchained Melody" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" - his huge hits from the '60s that were later revived in movies.

The Punk Photography of Chris SteinSong Writing

Chris Stein of Blondie shares photos and stories from his book about the New York City punk scene.

Richie Wise (Kiss producer, Dust)Songwriter Interviews

Richie talks about producing the first two Kiss albums, recording "Brother Louie," and the newfound appreciation of his rock band, Dust.