Tom Dooley

My brother is replacing doors at his house. This has brought on another attack of unrelenting lyrics. Mr. Peabody and Sherman are ready to travel back to those glorious mid-Sixties, to the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, when acoustic folk artists could be found on prime time network television. Imagine it! They were just singing, not dancing with the stars or bumping each other off an island! Those were the days of the Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Peter, Paul, & Mary...

The Kingston Trio recorded "Tom Dooley" in 1958. The record's enormous popularity fueled the folk music revival:

Frank Warner/John Lomax/Alan Lomax
(Spoken recitation over musical accompaniment)
Throughout history, there have been many songs written about the eternal triangle. This next one tells the story of Mister 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.
This time tomorrow. Reckon where I'll be. Hadn't-a been for Grayson, I'd-a been in Tennessee.
This time tomorrow. Reckon where I'll be. Down in some lonesome valley hangin' from a white oak tree.

My brain is singing a variant version:

Hang up your doors, Clint Dudley
Hang up your drawers to dry
Hang up your doors, Clint Dudley,
Oh Lord, I'm going to cry.

The real Clint Dudley is hazy in the elementary school memory. So, too, the real Tom Dula story is obscured in the many versions of the traditional North Carolina ballad. Clint was the cutest boy in sixth grade. The vote was unanimous. Clint had a drop-dead smile, a good passing arm, and he wore his Levis in a way any female could appreciate, even though we sixth grade girls weren't sure just exactly what we were appreciating. Clint moved away after that school year, and he never returned. But that's another Kingston Trio song about the M.T.A.:

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA

Well did he ever return, no he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned (what a pity)
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned

"Tom Dooley" is on page eighteen of Teacher's Choice for the Young Pianist , arranged by Allan Small, copyright 1965. I didn't like practicing piano for my sixth grade lessons. I've saved this piano book for forty years, though.

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