The NYT, in its obit of Dave Fisher who died last week, traces their fairytale twice over. First in the 1960’s when in a period of 4 years they came away with 3 Ed Sullivan Show appearances, lots of albums, concerts and the number 1 hit Micheal.
and this Leadbelly original.
There’s an interesting story about Cottonfields, from the allmusic website.
“Cotton Fields” was a Leadbelly song that even the late blues-folk singer’s estate had not recognized or, until then, copyrighted. It proved to be one of the most valuable copyrights owned by the Leadbelly estate and his publisher, discovered in the wake of the Highwaymen by a whole generation of listeners, among them Alan Jardine and John Fogerty, both of whom covered it successfully later in the 1960s as members of the Beach Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival, respectively.
This first fairytale ended around 1964 when the group members went their own ways – three of them went to Harvard Law, one went to Harvard Business School, another to Columbia while Dave Fisher continued with his music career doing productions, composing music for television and the movies.
The second fairytale happened in the 90’s when the supergroup of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson came together and called themselves The Highwaymen. Dave Fisher and his former band mate Steven Trott sued. Trott incidentally was one of the people who went to law school and became a Federal judge. There was an amicable solution, the original folk Highwaymen would open the supergroup country Highwaymen in a series of concerts. The revival along with some studio albums brought in a new wave of hits and fame.
Indeed, the Highwaymen, with all of their other “firsts” in terms of cutting certain songs, may be the only folk group in the history of the United States to boast a sitting Federal appeals court judge, in the person of Steve Trott, in their lineup.