Tom Dooley - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

Tom Dooley, as recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958, is often credited as being the song that kick-started the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s.  It reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 and sold over six million copies.  Versions of it have since been recorded by Lonnie Donegan, Doc Watson, Steve Earle, The Grateful Dead and others.  Each of these versions is a bit different - some faster, some slower, some darker in character.  And the lyrics are often also different, though all based around the same story.  There are also  number of recording that pre-date 1958.  And again, these are all quite different, with lyrical variations, different tempos and slightly different tunes.
 
Tom Dooley was a real person, although his last name was spelled 'Doola'.  He had fought on the Confederate side in the civil war, and was hanged in 1868 for the brutal murder of Laura Foster, though whether he actually committed the crime is open to question.  There is an excellent article about the origin of the song and the various recordings of it here.
 
My arrangement of Tom Dooley is in the key of G, whereas the Kingston Trio's arrangement is in the key of E.  To play the song in their key, just substitute E and B7 chords for the G and D7 chords in my version.

Click below to play Tom Dooley.

Chords

Chorus

G                         

Hang down your head Tom Dooley,

                                               D7
Hang down your head and cry,

      
Hang down your head Tom Dooley,

                                            G

Poor boy, your bound to die.



Verse

   G
I met her on the mountain,

                                     D7
And there I took her life,

    
Met her on the mountain,

 
                                   G
Stabbed her with my knife.

Lyrics

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

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

This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be
Hadn't a-been for Grayson
I'd a-been in Tennessee

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

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

This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be
Down in some lonesome valley
Hangin' from a white oak tree

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

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

Poor boy, you're bound to die
Poor boy you're bound to die
Poor boy, you're bound to die...

Other American Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs