freight train

freight train

Hank C.Burnette - "Freight Train"

6mo ago
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In my neck of the woods, Elizabeth Cotton's "Freight Train" is a song I mostly associate with scottish born Nancy Whiskey's great hit rendition from 1957, as member of the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group. Her recording also had featured spots in the films 'The Tommy Steele Story' from 1957 and 'The Golden Disc' a year later. My own instru version (as featured here) was cut seven years later in 1964, a.k.a. two years before I signed my very first record deal in 1966 with the US based Blue Horizon label out of Warrington, Florida. As usual, at the time, I cut it in my parents makeshift garage using nothing more than my old Hagström 'plank' from 1960 and a battered snare drum from the early '60s, made by Lefima in Germany...that's all!! Bass was fixed in those days by tuning down the Hagström as low as it would go, without the strings getting too sloppy, talk about 'back to the roots'!! The peculiar sounding melody part in the middle of the song was achieved by me slapping the strings with a pencil ... the things you do for fame and fortune, ha, ha!! The rest, as they say, is history ... please dig in!! TRIVIA: Anne Alexandra Young "Nancy" Wilson, a.k.a. Nancy Whiskey, was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow, Scotland on March 4, 1935, and learned guitar as a child. While attending art school in Glasgow, she performed on the local folk club circuit where she met fellow singer and guitarist Jimmie MacGregor who introduced her to blues and hillbilly music. She took her stage name from a Scottish folk song, "The Calton Weaver", which has a chorus of: "Whisky, whisky, Nancy whisky, Whisky, whisky, Nancy-O". She formed a relationship with jazz pianist Bob Kelly, and they moved to London in 1955. On MacGregor's recommendation, she was signed by Topic Records and, although reluctant to surrender her reputation as a solo performer, was persuaded to join the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group to record Elizabeth Cotten's song "Freight Train". The group had already recorded the song, with McDevitt singing, but re-recorded it with Nancy Whiskey's vocals. The song was driven by Whiskey's ebullient soprano and McDevitt's whistled obligato. It was the group's first single, and its upbeat arrangement belied the gloomy lyrics of its 1905 composition by black North Carolina singer Elizabeth Cotton. A dispute over the rights to the song, which had been introduced to Britain by Peggy Seeger, was eventually settled out of court and the song sold over one million copies, making the No. 5 spot in the UK Singles Chart and was awarded a gold disc. The record also penetrated the American top 40 at a time when British artists rarely made any headway, which led Nancy to tour the United States with McDevitt's group, making appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and other television slots, and a handful of stage shows, including one at Palisades Park, New Jersey. After a second, smaller hit, "Greenback Dollar", Nancy left the group. She disliked the skiffle style which she was obliged to perform with McDevitt, and her outspoken comments, together with the fact that she was expecting a child with Bob Kelly, a married man, offended some fans. She resumed a solo career and - after his divorce - married Kelly, who became a member of her backing group, the Skifflers, who later renamed themselves as the Teetotallers. She also recorded several singles for Oriole Records in the late 1950s, and released an album, 'The Intoxicating Miss Whiskey'. She and Kelly moved to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, around 1958 after the birth of their daughter (named Yancey Anne in tribute to pianist Jimmy Yancey). Although by the 1970s she had largely retired from the mainstream music industry, she continued to perform occasionally in folk clubs, and at other events such as a 1997 gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall billed as "The Roots Of British Rock". Nancy Whiskey died in February 1, 2003 in Leicester, aged 67.