Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group

Freight Train

First popular version recorded by The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group (US #40/UK #5 1957).
Other popular versions by Rusty Draper (US #3 1957), Elizabeth Cotten, writer (1958), Peter, Paul & Mary (1963).

From the wiki: “‘Freight Train’ is 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.

“Cotten was a one-time nanny for folk singer Peggy Seeger, who took this song with her to England where it became popular in folk music circles. British songwriters Paul James and Fred Williams subsequently misappropriated it as their own composition and copyrighted it. Under their credit, it was then recorded by British skiffle singer Chas McDevitt, who recorded the song in December, 1956. The record became a hit in the UK in 1957 at the height of the skiffle boom, reaching #5 in the UK Singles Chart.