Tuesday, August 13, 2013
AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Elizabeth Cotten
Album:Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes
If you're a folk music fan, you are probably familiar with the folk music standard Freight Train. But you may not know that Elizabeth Cotten wrote Freight Train when she was 12 years old and then quit music. She was rediscovered as a senior and became a bit of a celebrity in the 60s. She was born Elizabeth Nevils Jan. 5, 1893 in Chapel Hill, NC. She learned to play guitar as a child and was writing as a teen. Freight Train is about the train that passes by her house. She was 12 years old when she wrote it. Freight Train was a top ten hit in England for the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group in 1956 and then a top ten hit in the US for Rusty Draper in 1957. Elizabeth started working with her mother as a maid at age 13. She married Frank Cotten at age 15 and they had a daughter. She gave up music and worked as a maid in Washington, DC for decades. She worked for songwriter Ruth Crawford Seeger and her family. This included Mike Seeger who would go on to lead The New Lost City Ramblers. He recorded Elizabeth in her home and those recordings were released on Folkways Records in 1957. They are available on CD. As I said, Freight Train was already popular and became even more popular when Ramblin' Jack Elliott recorded it. Many others have covered Freight Train and it is now a folk music standard. Elizabeth started playing shows with Mike Seeger in the early 60s and she was part of the folk music boom of the 60s. You will notice she plays guitar left handed but the strings are reversed. She was self taught and didn't know enough to restring the guitar. Elizabeth made enough money from music in the 60s that she bought a house in Syracuse, NY. She continued to record and perform and won a Grammy for her 1984 album Live!. Elizabeth Cotten died on June 29, 1987 at age 94. Here's Elizabeth Cotten performing Freight Train in the 60s.