Women's History Month: NC musician keeps legacy of blues legend Elizabeth Cotten alive

Tamara Scott Image
Saturday, April 1, 2023
Artist works to honor legendary NC Bluegrass singer Elizabeth Cotton
Elizabeth Cotten, born in 1893 in Chapel Hill. "Freight Train" was one of her most popular songs.

CARRBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- There are many fabulous artist who have found success but started their career right here in North Carolina.

One of those people is Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten. A legendary blues woman with a gift born right here in Chapel Hill.

In the rural backroads of Pittsville, Virginia you may drive by this house and hear some sweet tunes, and inside find an even sweeter woman.

She is a bluegrass singer/songwriter who has spent time in North Carolina learning from the legendary musician Elizabeth Cotten.

Who this year performed for the national gallery in Washington, DC and released her debut album through music maker titled Guitar woman blues.

" I was back in middle school and I remember that this all freight train was one of the first songs I learned how to play on guitar," said when talking about ELizabeth Cotten.

Cotten, born in 1893 in Chapel Hill, made her name in the industry as a Black woman and a left handed bluegrass guitar player.

Freight Train was one of her most popular songs eventually covered by artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

She was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in September 2022 and Gail Ceasar is determined to carry out her legacy

"Because it was so much going on these days. And you know, you don't hear too much about him. And I don't think these people in their music I don't believe it should be forgotten," Gail Ceasar tells ABC11.

Ceasar has her own difficulties in life.

"I was born with retinitis pigmentosa, severely visually impaired me the effect that I don't have any peripheral vision. So I can't see off to the side. Here. Everything has to be in front of me almost kind of like tunnel vision."

But that won't stop her especially when she plays at the Freight train concert series starting in May in Carrboro.

And of course she already knows which song she's start with.

"I do want to do 'Freight train'," she said.

The concert series begins in May and runs through June. And of course you can always visit her mural on Merritt Mill Road in Chapel Hill.

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