Kingston Trio -- Tom DooleyKingston Trio -- Tom Dooley
I went to sleep with a mix playing, set to "repeat all," that had Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John" on it. I was plagued with dreams that I was Big Bad John but that, unlike John, I wasn't interested in sacrificing myself for others. I wanted out of the mine and I wasn't going down nobly.
John at Tofu Hut posted "Big Bad John" some time past so I'll go with another story-song, this one about someone facing certain death and, we assume, less stoic than John about it. This is the version by the Kingston Trio, the one that helped launch the folk revival in the U.S. in the late 1950s. The story's great; the harmonizing and the melodies all on point. It's easy to listen to this and see the attraction that people felt for it: the song feels immediately familiar, welcoming, something you'd want to seek more of. And if you do, well, the Kingston Trio have plenty in print.
This Geocities page has a bit of background about the historical Tom Dula, suggesting that the Kingston Trio's version is wrong, that the "love triangle" was a quadrangle, and that the other woman had killed Laura Foster and let Dula hang for it, going on to marry the Sheriff. Wikipedia mentions that story as a local legend, whereas snopes.com is mum on the subject.
Doc Watson and Lonnie Donegan both have covered the song, but I posted both of them in the 'train' mix so I'll skip them here.
Some days I get email that leaves me puzzled about how to respond. Yesterday was one of those days.