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Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?

DigiTrad:
FREIGHT TRAIN
OH, BABE IT AIN'T NO LIE
SHAKE SUGAREE


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GUEST,hg 13 Mar 07 - 10:38 PM
Stephen L. Rich 14 Mar 07 - 01:45 AM
GUEST 14 Mar 07 - 09:26 AM
jeffp 14 Mar 07 - 09:31 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 14 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,scoville at work 14 Mar 07 - 11:21 AM
Stephen L. Rich 15 Mar 07 - 12:05 AM
GUEST,hg 15 Mar 07 - 08:23 AM
Mark Ross 15 Mar 07 - 09:28 AM
DonMeixner 15 Mar 07 - 09:33 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 13 Mar 07 - 10:38 PM

Hi all, I am looking to collect any personal stories, remembrances, or reminiscence of your encounters with Elizabeth Cotten for an ethnography. Any help would be greatly appreciated. hg


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 01:45 AM

I had the good fortune to see her perform years ago at the old Somebody Else's Troubles in Chicago. Troubles was a small, intimate sort of place. The result was that there were no bad seats. Everyone was able to actually see her. There was a no-nonsense sort of power about her. The kind that can only come from somebody who has been around the block a couple of times and wants to make sure that you know it. At the same time she had an almost whimsical gentleness to her which made being around her quite delightful. There will never be another like her.

Stephen Lee Rich


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 09:26 AM

Had an opportunity to participate in a workshop conducted by Mike Seeger w/Ms Cotten in attendence. The song we worked on was 'Freight Train'. The picking pattern she used by playing the guitar left-handed and strung for a right handed player was very difficult to duplicate. She was 89 at the time and had great energy and spirit. She listened to all our attempts to play her song w/patience and grace. At the time I was a ten-year pro musician w/studio, touring, club and concert experience and I was going to 'kill 'em' w/my version. When she came and sat next to me to listen all of the self-important egotism was sucked right out of me by the truth of conviction in her eyes. I played her a very straight and clean version w/no flash. She smiled, complimented my playing...then took my guitar, flipped it over and smilingly played it the way it was supposed to be played. In my musical life I've been blessed to have been in the presence of greatness and the common thread in them all has been truth. Ms Cotten was truth and anyone who ever had the good fortune to have been in her presence will say the same.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: jeffp
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 09:31 AM

In my freshman year of college (1971-72), the Travelling Newport Folk Festival came to my school, Juniata College in Pennsylvania. It included Michael Cooney, Joe Jackson and Elizabeth Cotten, among others. They spent a couple of days doing workshops and performances in the student union building. Ms. Cotten talked about her childhood and adult life and the song that made her famous. She was a very nice, quiet lady with great dignity and a good sense of humor. When she was speaking, you could hear a pin drop if anybody had had the audacity to do so. I felt very privileged to take part and I will always rememember that time.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:14 AM

In the 80's, I went to hear Elizabeth Cotton at the Pickin' Parlor in New Haven. Despite her honored place in folk music, it wasn't a particularly large turnout. While she was performing, she looked over at a banjo hanging on the wall of the store, and reminisced about her long desire to have a banjo. When she was a little girl, an older brother had a banjo, and she was fascinated by it. He kept it under his bed and warned her not to play it when he was gone. But, as soon as he was out the door, she'd get the banjo out from under the bed and try to play it. She had no idea how to do it, and she'd tune the strings up until she'd break one, and then put it back under the bed. When her brother came home, and found the string broken, he knew who to blame for it, and she'd get a good whacking, and a renewed warning. And then she'd do the same thing again. And there she was, in her 80's, talking about how she'd always wanted a banjo and never had one. So, Harry ,the owner of the Pickin' Parlor (I'm going to have rummage through the old grooves in my brain to come up with his last name,) walked over to the banjo, took it down from the wall and gave it to her as a gift.
It was one of the most emotional, magical moments I've ever experienced. Elizabeth's face lit up in a smile that was worth far more than the cost of the banjo.

I don't know if she ever learned to play it.

But the gift was beautiful.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: GUEST,scoville at work
Date: 14 Mar 07 - 11:21 AM

I know my parents saw her at the Ark in Ann Arbor when they were in grad school (late 1960's-early 1970's), but I'll have to ask if they remember anything specificially.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 12:05 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: GUEST,hg
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 08:23 AM

thanks, thus far folks. hg I saw her at the ark, scoville. I probably know your parents...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 09:28 AM

I met Miss Libba in '68 at the March on Washington, The Poor Peoples Campaign. I came down with the group from New York City, but ended up living with the contingent from Appalachia. Which was fantastic! The Georgia Sea Island Singers, Myles Horton, Rev. F.D. Kirkpatrick,
Jimmy Collier, Alan Lomax, Ralph Rinzler, Pete Seeger and family. and more, were either there or coming by to visit. Libba Cotton came by one evening with some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten, and I was, blessedly, invited to join in(back then I had a metabolism that enabled me to eat my weight in food, not gain an ounce, and still feel hungry). The music around the fire every night was simply heaven.

Two years later, hitchiking around the country with my then wife, we were in D.C. for the Smithsonian Festival. Miss Libba was one of the performers, and after her set I went up to say hello. She remembered me and invited the two of us to her house for lunch a couple of days later. She cooked enough for an army for just the three of us.

The next time I saw her was in NYC. I was working at the New York Folklore Center and we booked her for our concert series at Washington Square Methodist Church there in Greenwich Village. I was sent up up to the train station to fetch her back downtown on the subway. She got off the train carrying her guitar and her suitcase. I guess she would have been in her late 70's then. Her concert that night was a joy, the love that flowed between her and the audience was magical. Unfortunately, we had to be out of the church by 11PM, and it was my job to give her the signal to wind things up. The audience didn't want to let her stop, and she didn't want to either. We practically had to drag her off the stage and kick the audience out. She stayed with Rick and Chrissie Altman who owned the store, they lived over in Brooklyn. They offered her their bed, but she refused and insisted on sleeping on the couch. I still miss her smile and the sound of her playing. As confusing as it was to watch it still set a standard that I still try and achieve.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Elizabeth Cotten: Any Reminiscences
From: DonMeixner
Date: 15 Mar 07 - 09:33 AM

I saw Elizabeth a few times after she moved to Syracuse, NY to live with a relative. A number o local people and agencies contributed to buy her a new Martin guitar. I even played it briefly once. An 00 or 000 as I recall.

I believe there is a small park named in her honor near to where she lived.

Don


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