I was lucky enough to be running the recorder when Harvey recorded “King Cotton.” It’s a short song with a lot of punch. Harvey writes from his own life experience. Growing up in Eastern Carolina off of old country roads, the house he grew up in was surrounded by flat fields full of varying green leaves and the stink of tobacco hovering in the air. That smell, to many, was the smell of financial security.
In 2005, tobacco was removed from a list of farmed commodities that were covered by a system called acreage allotment, established as a provision of the permanent commodity price support law. The law offered tobacco farmers price support, yearly production quotas and federal buyouts. Since the protections have been lifted, the tobacco market has changed markedly. The cash market has shrunk considerably in favor of tobacco companies contracting farmers directly. That, combined with flagging domestic sales of cigarettes and competition from global markets, has made tobacco a less and less appealing crop in the Carolina Piedmont.
Market shift can have a noticeable impact on the landscape of a region as many tobacco farmers find their crop not pulling the profits it once did. Cotton is a crop many farmers of this region are familiar with, so as Harvey’s song states “Oh Tobacco had to go, made my uncle rich, made my daddy poor. When you get real bad you need a good ol’ friend, King Cotton coming back again.”
This song has a catchy hook and tells an interesting story. Check it out.
PS – You can buy Harvey Dalton Arnold’s album here!