Thursday, July 31, 2008

"A Lovely Shade Of Red, But A Naughty Boy": Hoyt Axton And "Greenback Dollar"

Hoyt made a mere $800.00 from the song. "After I got ripped off as a writer on 'Greenback Dollar', I didn't go into a blue funk and walk around crying that everyone's crooked," Hoyt says of the experience. "I've always been an optimist, and I'm going to stay that way until I die. I think I get that from my mother, who could go up to the devil himself, and she'd say 'Hello, young man, you're a lovely shade of red, but you're a naughty boy'. With 'Greenback Dollar', I had a crooked publisher, and that was when I'd only been in the business a year, so I didn't know anything - I was just a kid with a guitar living in a car... How could I sue when the whole point of the song was how I didn't give a damn about a greenback dollar?"

- Mark Weierman
Hoyt Axton was a character and a half. Voice, personality, physique, creative success - he was a sort of a larger than life latter-day Burl Ives on drugs. If Axton was never either quite the singer or actor that Ives was - and he wasn't, as Ives could range from "The Blue Tail Fly" to "Long Black Veil" as a singer and from melodrama to Faulkner and Miller as an actor -
Burl never wrote a succession of iconic songs as Hoyt did - "Joy To The World" (Three Dog Night), "Sweet Misery" (John Denver), "The Pusher" (Steppenwolf and the opening song in Easy Rider ), "Never Been To Spain" (Waylon Jennings and Three Dog Night) - and of course, "Greenback Dollar."

As most fans probably know, Axton was the son of "Heartbreak Hotel" co-writer Mae Boren Axton and came to the LA/San Francisco folk scene somewhat late in the game - around 1962, making GD a relatively quick if not quite golden financial success for a 24 year old singer/writer who was just about a year older than John Stewart.

Axton, however, was seduced by the music business drug culture that took off roughly simultaneously with Axton's career, and Hoyt's ongoing battles with addiction to alcohol and cocaine likely contributed to his premature death in 1999 at 61.

I saw him solo several times at the Troubadour and the Roxy in LA, and he gave no outward evidence of those problems. He was a large bear of a man with an engaging personality, ready wit, and utterly no pretension about him. He just didn't fit comfortably into any niche - too throaty and rough edged for the smoother 70s singer/songwriters like Simon, Taylor, Denver, and so on - but neither rocked out enough to appeal to the metalheads nor pseudo-country enough to appeal to the Flying Burrito-Poco-Eagles crowd. But he kept plugging away, a workman-like actor, performer, and songwriter who stayed on the job til the end.

Axton related somewhere I can't find that he met cowriter of GD Ken Ramsey in a laudromat, and that Ramsey had some of the words and part of a chorus for the song that became his first writing hit. Ramsey and Axton finished the song in an afternoon, did a demo, and sent it to the abovementioned publisher, who promptly bought their rights to the song for $800 each.

I'll bet it looked like a lot of money at the time........

You might think that the Kingston's version was all that there was to the song.............but not at all so. The enduring appeal of the KT version, though, is reflected on its continually self-renewing popularity, most recently as we know at the end of the film Thank You For Smoking - and in the fact that a weak video montage of the Trio that includes photos of many KT troupes (but not the one that sang the song!) would garner more than 370,000 views:



A YT video of Hoyt doing his own song was yanked for CopyVio - but another YouTube phenom - Fretkiller performs a version close to Axton's own. He did not permit his videos to be embedded - a stricture I evaded for nearly two years by using an international site that permitted embedding. The web cops caught up with that site though...and with Fretkillr, whom they banned for unspecified reasons (probably copyvio complaints from rights holders of some of the songs he covered). Some intrepdid YouTubers, however, managed to rescue some of FK's work from the dump - here is his excellent "Greenback Dollar":



Speaking of Mama Mia - here are Sweden's famous Hootenanny Singers with future ABBA star Bernie Ulvaeus - a real KT tribute:



For the just plain strange, how about surf guitar/singer/legend Dick Dale giving it a try - with the DelTones, sax, drums - but no Dick on guitar:



Finally - of all the straight-on rock versions on YouTube, the benchmark performance is probably 80s neo-folk group the Washington Squares:



Nostalgia moment: I still have stored somewhere a beautiful vinyl album with my favorite KT album cover - New Frontier. A red sticker is affixed to the upper right of the record - an ink drawing of a genie with a crystal ball and the legend "Preview Album! Hear 1963's Music Today!"

Of time and the river.............

2011 Addition

Johnny Rivers, who never gets enough credit for his pop-rock-folk-blues contributions, - live from 1965:




...and Barry McGuire of "Eve Of Destruction" fame - a good friend of both Axton and Ramsey and an uncredited co-writer of this song,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Generic Uptempo Folk Song: "This Little Light Of Mine"

One of the delights of the Hassilev-Daugherty-Zorn incarnation of the Limeliters (as on 2002's This Land Is Your Land PBS special) is their "Generic Uptempo Folksong," which manages simultaneously to satirize the genre, deliver an excellent example of it, and credit its most successful exponents ("the one we stole from the Kingston Trio"). [In the unlikely event that someone hasn't seen/heard this, I'm including it in an appendix below.]

As effectively as the Trio could deliver a ballad or quieter number (see the "Shenandoah/Across The Wide Missouri" discussion below - and "Flowers" of course, and many more), they set themselves apart from their host of imitators with their nearly inimitable delivery of strong, usually banjo-based fast songs with an energy approached IMHO only by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (in their distinctive style) and maybe CMT and PP&M on some numbers. But the Kingston's 50,000 watt performances just embodied the old saw of "often imitated, never duplicated."

Oddly, that golden Capitol T-996 that Bert mentions below does not open with one of these - "Three Jolly Coachmen" isn't "Hard Ain't It Hard" (which we know became their concert-opening staple) or "Little Maggie" on that same album. Most - but not all - of their subsequent albums, however, do open with a toe-tapper, if not always with a banjo number.

Now while At The Hungry i is often listed as the Trio's top-selling album (with no hit single but opening with generic UTFS "Tic Tic Tic") [KTOR lists [The Best of the Kingston Trio, there is no doubt that for many fans, College Concert is at or near the top of the list for either favorite album or favorite live performance album. And it, of course, opens with the Trio's stirring rendition of "This Little Light Of Mine," presented here as our benchmark for comparison:



The Trio always seemed both comfortable with spirituals, and after "When The Saint Go Marching In " (whose arrangement down to lyrics, pauses, and inflections is borrowed directly from The Weavers) had an interesting and original way with them - think about the key shifts in "Good News," or the modulations of volume in "Round About The Mountain" or the antiphony in "To Be Redeemed." They also stayed within themselves, to use the sports phrase, and didn't try to be something they weren't - like a gospel choir. For that - the roots version, I guess you could say, sounding probably a little bit closer to the way that the song actually was sung in the 19th century - here is the Sydney Ellis Gospel Quartet:



It's hard to say at this distance in time where the Trio got the idea for doing "Little Light," but certainly one of the highlight performances of the number pre-CC was by Bob Gibson as the Bob Gibson Trio (with master guitarist Dick Rosmini, whom our own Mr. Roadie knew, and legendary jazz bassist Herb Brown) at the Newport Folk Festival of 1960, the two Vanguard albums of which are personal treasures of mine. Gibson was the best damned folksinger that you may have never heard and had three albums of popped-up folk songs including a Carnegie Hall concert before the Trio hit Capitol Studio B.

No video of Bob is currently available - but Australia's Seekers are definitely doing Bob's arrangement in both lyrics and chord structure here:



For an interesting alternative take, here is Leontyne Price, one of the great American operatic sopranos of the last century:



I suppose I have to acknowledge that Bruce Springsteen did a creditable job with the song during the 2006 Seeger Sessions recording and tour - here he is in Italy closing his show with the Trio's opener:



If you do a YouTube search for the song, you will find literally scores, including many from European gospel choirs, clearly singing in a language and idiom not familiar to them in some cases.

As the Trio's version of this classic shows - they created their own idiom and performed brilliantly with in it.

Appendix

The Limeliters "Generic Uptempo Folk Song":

(Yanked for CopyVio - so here are The Limeliters Who Never Were - current Lime Gaylan Taylor in the center flanked by former Limes Bill Zorn (L) and Rick Daugherty (R), currently in the Kingston Trio. Though all three had been Limeliters, they never played together until 8/10 at the KT Fantasy Camp. This one is not copyvio - this is just three guys playing a song):



And finally - I used to say that YouTube was over-populated by teenage girls lip-syncing and undulating in their rooms to various pop songs (leaving one to wonder about parental monitoring of online activity....another question).

I'm not a fan of that so this last may seem odd - but a) the girls aren't teens, b) they're in the driveway, c) the sound is surprisingly good, and d) they do a bang-up job. Here are Jenny and Kathy:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Across The Wide Missouri/Shenandoah"

I've always had the strongest affinity for the NBD (Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane, Dave Guard) portion of the 51 years of the Kingston Trio, sadly a mere 3 1/2 of that total. I liked the first few NBJ (Nick, Bob, John Stewart) albums (and became a huge fan of JS' solo career) - but I just never wore out the grooves on any of those records the way I did on especially the first half dozen or so of the original Trio releases (excepting Stereo Concert, which I never saw any point in getting until it came out on CD with a few extra songs - mono is mono and unlike many of my fellow Xroaders, I thought the studio albums were far superior to the live recordings and represent some of the best professional recordings of that or any other era). Just IMHO of course.

What I came to miss about the original Trio sound and formula is represented brilliantly by their "Across The Wide Missouri" from Here We Go Again. First, the NBD albums relied much more heavily than the NBJ albums on real folk songs, adapted sometimes tastefully and with startling originality (I always nominate "Bay of Mexico" and "Sloop John B" here ) sometimes with fidelity to their sources ("Goober Peas" is pretty much a straightforward rendition of the Civil War song, and "Tom Dooley" is right out of the Lomaxes' Folk Songs of North America - and after the comedic intro, "Wimoweh" is a more than decent attempt), and less often with forgettable and for me failed transformations into 50s pop numbers (list available upon request )

Second, again as "Missouri" attests, the NBD trio knew how to sing quietly - and slowly - and for pacing and atmosphere. Consider "Gue, Gue" (another melodic classic), "Senora," "San Miguel," "Fast Freight" [not slow, but almost hushed], "Mountains of Mourne," and many others - many more and much better, I think, than all but a handful of NBJ songs of the same stripe ("The First Time" is great, maybe "Rusting In The Rain," though that's not slow, and a few others).

So, to start - to remind us all of just how stunning that original troupe could handle legitimate three part harmony, my friend Tom Salter of Stonewall Studios in Niagara, Ontario created this video poem for the Trio's classic:




The song itself, of course, is a derivation of the sea shanty "Shenandoah," which has more variants in its lyrics/story than many other folk songs. The Shenandoah Valley (from a Rapahannock word meaning "daughter of the stars") is one of the scenic highlights of the Appalachian mountains, and the eponymous river is sparkling and clear for most of its length - seeing it join the muddy Potomac at Harper's Ferry is a real sight). The song likely originated among the voyageurs of the fur trade era ( missing the beauties of the landscape of the East and possibly an "Indian maiden" of the same name) but was adapted and promulgated worldwide by American deep water sailors, who used its stately rhythm as a "capstan shanty" - a song to accompany the back-breaking labor of weighing anchor.

The immediate ancestor of the Kingston's version is this rather odd recording below - two KT influences, Terry Gilkyson (of "Fast Freight" and the Easy Riders) and the Weavers joining together under the direction of arranger Gordon Jenkins (a brilliant arranger, for Sinatra, Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and many more) with his over-done for folk orchestrations (conducted here by Vern Schoen) - this isn't much of a video, but if you have never heard it - listen to a few bars and whisper a quiet payer of thanksgiving for the brilliance of Voyle Gilmore, who put his foot down and defied Capitol's wish to add orchestration to that first album:



Another early version here, from the legendary operatic bass-baritone Paul Robeson:



That the song has had legs for its two hundred year history is evidenced by the incredible number of variations on it, and the great number of brilliant interpretations of it - to wit, first, Tony Rice's instrumental version of sublime technique and taste:




The song is a treasure for the vocally gifted and seems especially well-suited to the ladies - for example, the just-turned 21 Kiwi soprano Hayley Westenra (seen widely on the second Celtic Women show):



and here, equal time for the guys - Tennessee Ernie Ford - one of the comments on YT says, "Oh Man, I'd forgotten how good he was."



A full choral version brings out some of the subtleties of the tune - here the St. Petersburg College choral group:



and to close - a Civil War era brass band arrangement (I've always loved these bands):




In nearly any version, I have always thought this the #1 loveliest of American folk songs and am thoroughly delighted that the Kingston Trio does one of the best versions of it ever.

Addendum

In 2010, the Kingston Trio released some of the earliest tapes from 1957-58 of their rehearsals and performances on a CD called Above the Purple Onion, named for the loft above the site of their first serious professional engagement, where they honed their skills and developed their repertoire. One of the songs included is "Shenandoah," a recording notably different from the "Missouri" above that came along two years later - among other differences, the lead here is sung by Dave Guard, not Bob Shane as on the latter:



Addendum 2 - May, 2013

The comment below is from my brother Larry - a couple of years after this piece was published and Larry recommended Van Morrison's version, some goodly soul uploaded Morrison and The Chieftains to YouTube:



Monday, July 7, 2008

Long Black Veil

As all true Trio fans know and are quick to point out, the members of the first two troupes were what critic Richard Corliss of Time Magazine called them, "gifted song sleuths" - the evidence for which is the number of fine songs first recorded by the group (or first among high profile mainstream acts) that were later covered and made major hits by other interpretive artists.

THAT list, of course, is amazingly long, and it would be difficult to winnow out which are the most prominent - The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B"? Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever"? Sinatra's "It Was A Very Good Year"? (no inference or apocrypha here - Frank is on film in the Capitol Records studio acknowledging that he heard the Kingston Trio singing it on the radio and immediately loved it - in PBS' Sinatra: A Man And His Music) The Tokens "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"? even Terry Jacks' "Seasons In The Sun"?

It would be hard to find a song that the Trio "discovered" that has had more different subsequent lives than "Long Black Veil" from late 62/early 63 New Frontier.[Parenthesis: an extraordinary discography compiled by a Springsteen fan of the recorded versions of the song is HERE].

And why not? Though it is what Corliss calls "faux folk" - a song written to sound traditional (in this case of course like one of those many murder ballads) but which was crafted deliberately by (in this case again) two skilled songwriters, it has a cleanness of line and lyric and a musical vocabulary and lyrical resonance that both effectively echo real folk songs.

Plus, of course, it has a great Trio arrangement. Does music get better than a fine Shane lead vocal, a soaring Nick tenor harmony, and an amazingly tasteful Stewart banjo arrangement that is, well, neither bluegrass nor folk but just pure John Stewart?

June, 2013 - An Interpolation

As detailed in the margin note to the left, Capitol is now permitting playback of Kingston Trio videos on YouTube that had been blocked on copyright grounds for several years, including the Trio's very early and very fine rendition of this song. It is with great pleasure and thanks to Capitol/EMI that I now can add it here:



What is hard here is to select the best or most interesting of the scores of other versions up on YouTube - and where to start? Well, the most recent high-profile version has been presented by Bruce Springsteen on the Seeger Sessions tour of 2006:




For a really interesting musical version - how about Mick Jagger joining with The Chieftans? (and people thought Robert Plant/Alison Krause was strange!)Yes that Jagger - surprisingly good here. And the Chieftans were widely regarded as "pure" Irish folk music (as opposed to the KT/popularizing canard lodged against the Clancys and the Dubliners) and create a singularly eerie background:



Until Springsteen put the song into his Seeger Sessions package in 2006, the most prominent contemporary artist covering the number has been Dave Matthews, who since 1999 has done it with about ten different collaborators (all on YT). I'm not a huge fan of Matthews on this number - but in my next life I will keep company with the angelic Emmylou Harris, who duets with him here:



I think four videos should do it for a single post - so I'll put links to Springsteen and others below. For a conclusion, though - I just don't think you can improve on Johnny Cash in his prime singing it as a duet with Joni Mitchell in her prime:



And a selection of other famous folks:

The Band
The Seldom Scene

Addendum, 10/12/11
Clearly more to add to this post but for now, I just saw on Facebook this fine version done by country superstar Marty Stuart:




Early Morning Rain


The song that gave Gordon Lightfoot an entry into Big Time Show Business (remember the liner notes to College Concert?) is one of the most elastic of all of the major pop folk numbers of the 60s, having been covered innumerable times (according to some sources, second only to "Yesterday" as the most often-covered song of the decade) in almost as many different arrangements.

Talented interpreters from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash to Eva Cassady have taken a shot at it, and the song is just so good that for me each version has its merits.

The Trio recorded it early in its life, though it was buried on the first KT album that sold so poorly that it never appeared on any of the many Billboard charts, and consequently the song has never been regarded by the public as a Trio song, as fine a version as they did of it.

The 1967 Shane-Reynolds-Stewart trio version is on YouTube



...and one of the many videos made of the Elvis cover is here:



Ian and Sylvia from their 1984 reunion - they were the first to record and popularize it:



Watch this one quick - before Sylvia's lawyers catch that its embeddable.

No one does it quite like the master himself, though....



here from the late 70s.

Likely the most familiar version to U.S. record buyers of the day was PP&M's fine and melodic take on the song:



Classic country legend Jerry Reed delivers a superior reading of the song, here from 1971:




I think my favorite non-standard version of the song, by Paul Weller with guitar in an open D tunng - it's got much of the grit as in Gordon's own version and that I think he intended for the song:



It's a favorite of all three of us in the Chilly Winds - our version combines elements of PP&M, the KT, and our own ideas:

Scotch And Soda x 4...Plus Later Additions

The slow, hot days of summer, indeed - no new posts in a few days. Well, the extreme heat wave here in Southern California has finally broken (only in the 90s today) - and maybe the creative/expressive logjam here vat Xroads will likewise be broken.

My contribution to the same is this little set of videos. Now - and I say this categorically - there is no single song of the 400 + recorded and performed by the Kingston Trio in its 51 years of existence that is as thoroughly and completely identified with the group than is "Scotch and Soda." Even "Tom Dooley," as I and others have noted here before, has its cadre of partisans who don't at all like the Trio's take on the Warner-Lomax-Profitt copyrighted version of the song and prefer the Grayson/Whitter original take on the number, the greatest living exponent of which is probably Doc Watson, who is from the same NC county as Thomas Dula and whose wife's grandmother knew Anne Melton's family.

But S&S is wholly owned by the Trio going back to the 1954 date that Guard had with Katie Seaver and that Shane doubled on when Mr. Seaver trotted out the old jazz/blues piano number that the elder Seavers had heard on their Phoenix honeymoon around 1930. For those who don't know it (am I repeating myself here?)...the full story is told elsewhere here on K3P, on Jerry Kergan's Liner Notes, and in KTOR.

That the song resonates through the decades is self-evident. Many hear have possibly not heard Nick Reynolds' commentary on the song that he delivered at every Fantasy Camp (the last five) that I've been to - hearing Nick tell the Luciano Pavarotti part is priceless. (Pavrotti and the Reynolds-Shane-Grove trio was performing in the 80s at a benefit for the SF Opera House. Shane always did S&S alone on stage, and Reynolds related that when he and Grove were in the wings, Pavrotti shushed his entourage, saying that he wanted to hear "what may be my favorite singer singing what may be my favorite song." I'd add that unlike Bob, Nick was not given to creative exagerration.) And while I think that Sinatra's ego was big enough (he did after all cover Shane on "It Was A Very Good Year" and "Love's Been Good To Me") not to be bothered at all by the brilliance of Shane's version, his reasons for not recording a song so perfectly suited for him done initially by a fellow Capitol Records' recording star are still obscure (the "I couldn't do it as well as Bob" being completely apocryphal and likely an inference from the fact that ol' Blue Eyes did not in fact record it).

But Frank's hesitance is clearly not shared by a wide variety of other singers, so - acknowledging that Bob at any and every point completely OWNS this song (except the copyright - sorry Bob! ) here are some other interesting versions currently out there.

Here is the original studio track, recorded in early February, 1958:



Next, Laurel Masse, an entrancing female vocalist from Manhattan Transfer, a fusion vocal group who were open and articulate about the influence the KT had on them:



R&B/pop superstar Lou Rawls with a very different take, completely his own:



Here's the full-on blues-sounding nightclub version done in the way you can imagine Sinatra doing it by vocalist-keyboardist Mary Davis:



For another completely different take - one of those many vocal groups from Yale, a capella and with another young lady on the lead:



And finally - and there are dozens more - a really fine street performance with a delightful guitar part:





If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Bob can be more than flattered. And note - of these versions, only Mary Davis looks to be approximately of Bob's generation. Looking at those Yalies - Bob's song will be around for a long time yet to come, I think.

Appendix - 7/4/09 and 12/21/10

And two more - Bob Shane in 2007, age 73, sitting with KT mates John Stewart and Nick Reynolds in what would be the group's last joint appearance (Stewart died five months later, Reynolds thirteen) - demonstrating that he still has the chops after fifty years:



Bob at Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp in Scottsdale AZ, August 2010:

A Worried Man

Just as Peter Fields finds the most interesting and unusual published stuff on Trio/folk matters - I delight in finding these odd videos, as below.

My proudest moment, I think, was two years ago when I embedded Vanilla Mood (an all-girl Japanese instrumental quartet) doing a fetching version of "Tom Dooley"(since disappeared from YT). THAT was even stranger than our Danish friends doing the same song, as posted a few weeks back.

This video was among the "favorites" of someone who subscribes to our CW videos. When I saw the title, I figured that the performer would be doing the Carter family arrangement of the traditional song - which, if you didn't know it, is substantially different from that of the KT.

But nope - she's doing the KT arrangement all the way - and rather well, too, I'd say:

(Removed by The User)

Johnny Cash + June Carter Cash + Pete Seeger - it gets no better than this:



Here is Mike Seeger, half brother of Pete and former NLCR member, doing the original Carter family version:

(CopyVio - so here are the equally authentic Stanley Brothers from Seeger's show)



Finally - the pervasive influence of the Trio: here is the Carter Family itself in the 60s (I'd guess) including Mrs. J. Cash June Carter. Sister Helene plays "clawhammer guitar" with the "Carter lick" her mother invented and everyone else imitated. Note the Trio influence:

a) three lines of "it takes a worried man" instead of the two as the family had always done, and

b) the definite KT syncopation/hitch in the second chorus - old AP never did it this way, nor did the front porch clawhammer players he pinched it from:



And in living color - The Kingston Trio:

Some Thoughts On Tom Dooley

Scenes From Karen W. Reynolds' Play
Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend

Sometime this week at current rates, our Chilly Winds' video of Tom Dooley on YouTube will pass the 30,000 views mark, making it our most popular upload by far. I am proud to say that of the dozens of versions on the web, ours is second only to the Kingston Trio itself, whose version from the 1981 Reunion Concert weighs in at 70,000 plus views (making it, I'm pretty sure, the most viewed single file of any of the now scores of videos of the group that YouTubers have posted in the last year and a half).

I hope Xroaders have seen theirs and ours. I dressed up the audio for ours for our upcoming CD and you can hear it here:

The Chilly Winds: Tom Dooley

The popularity on YT of the song is odd for a whole host of reasons, and the odyssey of the song itself from its origin to this point in time is strange. I figured that our version of The Gypsy Rover uploaded at the same time exactly a year ago would have outpointed TD by a mile, given the incredible popularity of Irish folk music online and on TV in the last few years. Well, our GR is closing in on 9,000 views and is the #1 version on YT - but our Tom Dooley hit 1,000 in three days and has never looked back.

And yet the song gets so little respect. I've been to the last five fantasy camps, and I have never heard the song performed from the stage or suggested and sung in any of the never-ending jams I've been a part of. It never appears on any of the "favorite song" polls occasionally conducted by KT fans. I've never heard it on oldies radio over the air (and once in a while I do hear MTA or Tijuana Jail or A Worried Man).

But TD is the only single song of the hundreds recorded by the Trio to be recognized by the Grammy people, both with the now famous first award for a Country and Western performance in 1959 and as #88 on the 100 Greatest Records of all time.

Probably the best extended discussion of the background of both the song itself and this recording was written by KT expert Pete Curry and can be found HERE.

The song remains controversial. Our upload generated a number of semi-negative comments, and there are more videos on YT of people making serious attempts to do something like the original Grayson/Whitter version from 1929 popularized by Doc Watson in recent decades (whose YT version has but - gulp - 13,000 views). Jeremy Raven did an excellent piece here two or three years ago complete with pictures and audio files - and yes, the Grayson of the duo was related to the Grayson who captured Dula.

Doc's version on YT is part of a documentary and not complete, but here's a band doing TD in its original form:





I've been surprised at FC at how many KT fans know primarily the Stereo Concert
version (which was not the Record of the Year) and not the original album
cut/single in glorious mono. So - here's what sold six million copies:




I'd guess that most KT fans know the murky story of their acquisition of the song. They allegedly ( KTOR p. 27) heard it at an open mic audition on 8/27/57 at The
Purple Onion and decided to include it on the first album, with Dave Guard grabbing
a copyright for the arrangement (and the subsequent writer royalties ).
But I always suspected part of the story. Most people don't learn a song after listening to it once. I've always guessed that Dave had a copy of John A. and Alan Lomax's 1947 Folk Songs Of North America, which includes seven songs that appear on the first album, including Tom Dooley with the exact words the Trio uses and the exact tune, adapted according to the Lomaxes by folkies Frank Warner and Frank Profitt from the Grayson/Whitter version, which as you can see above is very different. Warner and Profitt of course sued Guard and got the rights and the money back in 1961.

I've always thought that it is indeed a great, great song. The two hallmark aspects of the Trio's version, I always thought, were Buzz Wheeler's great bass work (whose syncopated "bottom" to the number makes it swing - it's almost jazzy) and the arrangement that gives Nick Reynolds that soaring "Hang down your head and cry" line following the second verse. It was also a statement song, even if initially the KT did not intend it to be so and it took the DJ at KLUB to make it so. But a statement it became, the Trio saying we are here, we are really good, and we are going to be different from anything you've ever heard before.

And they have been. And are. And because of Tom Dooley, the breakthrough mega-hit whose sales no other Trio recording ever equaled, they have enthralled us for fifty years.


Appendix - One Year Later, 7/4/09

Some other great videos have surfaced on YouTube since the initial post. First, Frank Warner (who "found" the song and arranged it) Pete Seeger:



The most genuinely traditional version by Doc Watson, whose grandmother knew Annie Melton, the "other woman" in the Tom Dula-Laura Foster association. Some still believe that Melton was the real murderer:



And recently added - the original 1929 Grayson and Whitter recording from which all the others are derived: