Friday Five: Cotton
Cotton and country music have a long and passionate love affair together. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” is one of the earliest recorded country-folk songs on record. Cotton blue jeans are practically the stock uniform for contemporary country performers. And with as many drinking songs that have been written over the years, certainly a fair share of country performers have woken up to cotton mouth. Why, cotton, the fabric of our lives. And in case you don’t think it is a sweet topic for a Friday Five, let me remind you that it even has a candy named after it.
5. Alabama – “High Cotton”
Remember when Alabama was a quartet instead of a trio?
4. Charley Pride – “Mississippi Delta Cotton Picking Town”
Interestingly enough, although cotton growing was a strictly Southern affair back in the day—North Carolina alone has had over a million acres of cotton fields for over 100 years—it was a true Yankee named Eli Whitney that revolutionized the farming industry with the invention of the cotton gin.
3. Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Hey, Mr. Cotton Picker”
“Yonder comes a cotton picker walkin’ down the road
Puffin’ like a locomotive carryin’ a load
‘Hey, Mr. Cotton Picker, watcha gonna do?’
‘Gonna get gone away from you’
Here is Mr. Cotton Picker passin’ by my shack
Seems as if his back is breakin’ with a cotton sack
‘Hey, Mr. Cotton Picker, when you gettin’ paid?’
‘Reckon as soon as my sack gets weighed’”
The moral of this story is that manual labor is equal parts pain and suffering.
2.Johnny Cash – “I Never Picked Cotton”
This little tune was made famous first by Roy Clark back in 1970 on his album of the same name. Cash released this as a cover on his 1996 album Unchained. Sharecropping, cotton picking, coal mine deaths and hangings all make this the perfect tune for the Man in Black, who grew up picking cotton with his family in Dyess, Arkansas.
1. Merle Haggard – “California Cotton Fields”
This heartbreaking tale by The Hag tells the story of his “Daddy” trading one miserable existence farming cotton in Oklahoma to one miserable existence farming cotton in California: “But the only change I remember seeing for my Daddy was when his dark hair turned to silver gray.”
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