Elizabeth Cotten


Elizabeth Cotton has one of the most interesting stories. She learned to play her brother’s banjo at a young age, but being left handed she taught herself upside down. After working she bought herself a guitar and continued playing upside down inventing a really unusual fingering style.

She got married at the age of 17 had a child and stopped playing. She was working, being a mother, and if her divorce that happened the minute her daughter turned 18 says anything, probably spending a lot of time in not the most happiest of situations.

Through an odd twist of fate she became the maid for the Seegers, you know, the family who recorded everyone. She picked the guitar back up after 40 years of almost never playing it at all.

She went on to record and tour and write up until she passed at the age of 95. That her career didn’t start until she was in her 60’s is actually inspiring and sad. I wonder about all of the great work she would have produced if things were different. The fact that this exceptional talent was only “discovered” because she was a certain families maid says a lot. I have often thought about all of this amazing talent that never had a chance to blossom due to the lack of societal support or suppression.  I am very grateful she got the chance to be heard.

It is a good reminder that working and producing your music or art can still happen at any age. Don’t stop, or if you have, pick it back up. Enjoy!


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