Traditional singer and banjo player.
Born June 1, 1913, in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, Frank Profﬁtt Sr. moved with his family when a child to the Beaver Dam area of Watauga County, North Carolina. He left school after the sixth grade to work on the family farm. Best known as the source of the song “Tom Dooley,” Profﬁtt was a talented traditional singer and fretless banjo player.
In 1938 singer and folklorist Frank Warner and his wife, Anne, met Profﬁtt during a song-collecting trip. The ﬁrst number Profﬁtt performed for them, “Tom Dooley,” was the ﬁrst he remembered hearing his father, Noah, play on the banjo, as well as the ﬁrst song he himself learned to play. The song’s lyrics told the story of Tom Dula (pronounced “Duley”) from Wilkes County, North Carolina, who had murdered Laura Foster in 1866. Profﬁtt’s grandmother, Ade- line Pardue, who knew both Dula and Foster, passed the song down through the family. Frank Warner performed the song in programs and taught it to folklorist Alan Lomax, who included it in his 1947 book, Folksong U.S.A. In 1958 the Kingston Trio recorded “Tom Dooley” for Capitol Records. That group’s version eventually sold several million copies and is credited with expanding public interest in American folk music. Controversy soon arose over the song’s copyright. In 1962 an out-of-court settlement divided royalties among Warner, Lomax, and Profﬁtt—long after the song’s popularity had peaked. Nevertheless, the success of “Tom Dooley” drew attention to Profﬁtt’s music. Before his death on November 24, 1965, he performed at folk festivals around the country and recorded three albums of traditional songs and ballads. His son Frank Profﬁtt Jr. continued to perform much of that repertoire before his death in 2007
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"Frank Proffitt, Sr.," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2018, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 21 Apr 2018 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=176>
"Frank Proffitt, Sr.." (2018) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved April 21, 2018, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=176
Frank Proffitt, Sr.