an American folk song written by Elizabeth Cotten in the early 20th century, and popularized during the American folk revival and British skiffle period of the 1950s and 1960s. By Cotten’s own account in the 1985 BBC series Down Home, she composed “Freight Train” as a teenager (sometime between 1906 and 1912), inspired by the sound of the trains rolling in on the tracks near her home in North Carolina.
Early British skiffle singer Chas McDevitt recorded the song in December 1956, however under advice from his manager (Bill Varley), McDevitt then brought in folk-singer Nancy Whiskey and re-recorded the song with her doing the vocal, the result was a chart hit. McDevitt's version influenced many young skiffle groups of the day including one known as The Quarrymen. The Elizabeth Cotten recording for the Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar album was made by Mike Seeger in late 1957, early 1958, at Cotten’s home in Washington, D.C. Ramblin' Jack Elliott recorded this song in 1957. It is included on the CD, The Lost Topic Tapes: Cowes Harbour 1957.
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