The Skelly Suggests… Cotten & Carter, Pickin’ & Scratchin’

Cotten and Carter by JOtwell
Cotten and Carter by JOtwell

Today’s playlist accompanies the learnin’ we engaged in last Thursday. If you missed it, get your playlist started and then check out this entry:

Pickin’ & Scratchin’

    A Letter From Home
    Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now
    Ball The Jack
    Black Mountain Rag
    Buck Dance
    Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow
    Freight Train
    Fiddle Solo/In The Pines
    Foggy Mountain Top
    Going Down The Road Feeling Bad
    I Don’t Love Nobody
    I’m Going Away
    Keep On The Sunny Side
    Kitty Puss
    Mama’s Irish Jig
    I’m Leaving You
    Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie
    Pick The Wildwood Flower
    Shake Sugaree
    Sourwood Mountain
    Take Me Back To Baltimore
    There’s A Mother Always Waiting
    Tom Cat’s Kitten
    Untitled/Georgie Buck
    Washington Blues
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Carter Sisters
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Mother Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Johnny Cash
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Carter Sisters
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Maybelle Carter
    Maybelle Carter
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Elizabeth Cotten

From The Desk… Something in the Way They Play: Legendary Female Guitarists Part 1

The guitar didn’t begin its ascendancy to being the most popular of popular instruments until the mid-1920s, and picked up momentum in the ‘30s with the advent of the electric guitar.

Women had been playing parlor guitars since the late 1800s and the image of the female folk singer earnestly strumming away became iconic from the 50s onward. With the development of electric instruments, it seemed that women were not as accepted playing the electric axe, with its inherent bluster, as they were playing its more muted relation.

In the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, two significant and innovative women emerged from the rural south with acoustic instrumental techniques that would influence generations:  Elizabeth Cotten and Mother Maybelle Carter.

Born Elizabeth Neville, in Carrboro, North Carolina, into a musical family, Elizabeth Cotten was left‑handed and translated her early musical leanings by flipping her brother’s banjo without reversing the strings, a method she then transferred to her first guitar (all of which occurred before Jimi Hendrix was even the faintest glint in his father’s eye). By age thirteen she had already composed the iconic Freight Train, with the signature finger-picking technique that became known as “Cotten-Pickin’”.  Elizabeth eventually drifted into the obscurity of the southern black experience until she was more than 60 years old and working as a housekeeper with the noted Seegar family, of folk music fame, who brought her to well‑deserved attention later in her life.

Elizabeth Cotten by JOtwell
Elizabeth Cotten by JOtwell

In 1967, she recorded an acclaimed album of self-composed children’s songs, Shake Sugaree, and won a Grammy in 1984 for best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for Elizabeth Cotten Live (Arhoolie Records).  She died at the age of 94.

Maybelle Carter, nee Addington, a Virginian by birth, first came to attention in the 1920s as one-third of The Carter Family with her brother-in-law A.P.Carter and his wife Sara, who, being Maybelle’s cousin, kept it in the family in true Appalachian fashion. The Carter Family is rightly celebrated as a cornerstone of the Folk revival, an essential building block of what became country music. Crucial to The Carter Family sound was Maybelle’s innovative and unique guitar style, which became known as the “Carter Scratch”.  In common with Ms. Cotten’s eponymous style, it involved counterpoint in the bass and strumming or picking of the higher strings, a technique later brought to perfection by Chet Atkins (who logged time with The Carter Family in his early career). Even in lesser hands the style became a ubiquitous, indispensable part of guitar technique.

Maybelle Carter by JOtwell
Maybelle Carter by JOtwell

By the 1950s, Maybelle Carter had become the matriarchal figure “Mother Maybelle,” although still only in her forties. She, together with her extended family, including Johnny Cash, who married her daughter June and two other daughters, Helen and Anita, all contributed to “The First Family Of Country Music.”  She remained active in both studio and concert, continuing to showcase her expertise with autoharp and banjo, in addition to her vastly influential guitar playing.  She died at age 69 in 1978.

The Skelly Suggests…Unusual Covers Of Lennon and McCartney

Lennon/McCartney Covers
Lennon/McCartney Covers


With the 50th. Anniversary of the Beatles emergence, and the two surviving members hitting their seventies, there’s been an increased focus on their astonishingly long-lived musical impact, particularly the juggernaut that is the Lennon & McCartney song catalog. Everyone who is anyone has had a crack at it, with varying results, from the giants of previous generations, like Sinatra, Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, to the soul singers of their own time, plus folkies, popsters, hipsters and artists of every ethnic persuasion imaginable.

Their output was astonishing from day one, and the many songs they never recorded as a band are wonderfully documented in Steve Boyle’s soon to be released film “Lost Beatle Songs” in which ( for the interest of full disclosure) I have a cameo part.

However, the following list collects some of the more unusual and unlikely cover versions from the Lennon & McCartney oeuvre, each hand-picked for your delectation.

1. Ticket To Ride
2. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
3. Eleanor Rigby
4. She’s A Woman
5. The Fool On The Hill
6. All My Lovin
7. A Little Help From My Friends
8. Goodnight
9. Norwegian Wood
10. In My Life
11. The Long And Winding Road
12. Magical Mystery Tour
13. Rain
14. Oobla-Di, Oobla-Da
15. We Can Work It Out
16. Me And My Monkey
17. Do You Want To Know A Secret
18. You Can’t Do That
19. You Won’t See Me
20. The Long And Winding Road
21. I will
22. Day Tripper
23. Rocky Racoon
24. Let It Be
25. I Call Your Name
26. I Want To Tell You
27. Not A Second Time
28. Blackbird
29. From Me To You
30. Good Day Sunshine
The 5th Dimension
Tori Amos
P.P. Arnold
Jeff Beck
Suzy Bogguss & Chet Atkins
Joe Brown
The Carpenters
Johnny Cash
Ray Charles
Cheap Trick
Petula Clark
Arthur Conley
Deep Purple
Fats Domino
Fairground Attraction
Georgie Fame
Bryan Ferry
Aretha Franklin
Art Garfunkel
The Grateful Dead
Ritchie Havens
Gladys Knight
The Mamas and The Papas
Ted Nugent
Robert Palmer
Billy Preston
Del Shannon
Roy Redmond