Tom Dooley

Lyrics: Traditional
Music: Traditional

This was performed by "Bob Weir and Friends" on 17 Nov 1978 (just Weir, Garcia and Lesh - Mickey Hart joined them on stage after this song)

Hang your head, Tom Dooley
Hang your head and cry
Killed poor Laura Foster (note 1)
And you know you're bound to die

You took her on the hillside (note 2)
And begged to be excused
You took her on the hillside
Then hid her clothes and shoes

You dug her grave four feet wide
Dug it three feet deep
Rolled the cold clay over her
And tromped it with your feet


Took her on the hillside
Stabbed with a knife (note 3)
Took her on the hillside
And then you took her life


This time tomorrow morning
Where do you reckon I'll be
Down in some lonesome valley
Just swinging from a white oak tree

You can take down my old violin
And play it all you please
For at this time tomorrow morning
It'll be of no use to me

(1) in some versions it is "Laurie Foster" not "Laura Foster" - and it's hard to tell which it is that Garcia and Weir sing
(2) other versions have "You left her by the roadside" for the first and third lines of this verse side instead of repeating "You took her on the hillside"
(3) in some versions the line here is "For to be your wife". Garcia mumbles something that definitely sounds as if it ends "... with her knife"

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     17 Nov 1978 Reckoning (note 4)

(4) issued as a bonus track on the version in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)

Tom Dooley is based on a true story. Laura Foster was murdered in 1866 in North Carolina. Local legend tells that both she and Annie Melton were in love with Tom, and further that Sheriff Grayson, the man who took him in custody and also drove the horses from beneath him when he was hanged, was jealous of Tom. Some believe that he either committed the murder or helped Ann Melton who is reputed to have murdered Laura Foster out of jealousy.

See the History In Song site for more details.

Garcia doesn't sing the following verses from the traditional version:
Trouble, oh it's trouble
A-rollin' through my breast
As long as I'm a-livin', boys
They ain't a-gonna let me rest

I know they're gonna hang me
Tomorrow I'll be dead
Though I never even harmed a hair
On poor little Laurie's head

In this world and one more
Then reckon where I'll be
If it wasn't for Sheriff Grayson
I'd be in Tennesee
The Kingston Trio's version is the best-known but includes only a few verses:
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
I met her on the mountain
Stabbed her with a knife


This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be
If it hadn't of been for Grayson
I'd have been in Tennessee


This time tomorrow
Reckon where I'll be
Down in some lonesome canyon
Hanging from a wide oak tree


Further Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography


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