Grammy Award Winner Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (born Elizabeth Nevills) was a black American blues guitarist who invented “cotten picking.” She picked the guitar strings with the instrument upside down, and kept the sound in perfect pitch.

Born in 1892, the North Carolina native began playing her guitar, which she knick-named Stella, at age 11. She also started writing her own music. But soon, Cotten would have to go to work for a living as a maid. She then married and divorced, not returning to the guitar again until she was 60 years old.

Years later, while working as a maid for the Seeger family, who were musicians, Libba played again and the Seeger family recorded her sound at home. She released the album “Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar”, under Folkways Records in the late 1950’s. On the album was the song “freight train” that she had written when she was 11 years old.

Over the next decade, Cotten played shows with big names like Mississippi John Hurt, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. She performed at prestigious music events like the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. She later included her grandchildren in her performances and recorded music with them.

Cotten played until she was well into her 80’s. In 1984, she won the Grammy Award for “Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording” for her album on Arhoolie Records, “Elizabeth Cotten Live.”

Now deceased, Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten is memorialized in the book “I Dream a World”.

Watch video of Elizabeth Cotten performing below:

Also On Black America Web:

2 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten

  1. amyhenson201 on said:

    Charlotte. I agree that James`s blurb is impossible… last monday I got a new Chevrolet Corvette from bringing in $9284 this past 5 weeks and-a little over, $10k last month. this is actually the most financialy rewarding I’ve had. I began this 3 months ago and practically straight away started making a nice at least $81.. per hour. I work through this link,……..

Add Your Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s