Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lonnie Donegan & His Skiffle Group--Rock Island Line (1956)

     Over the years, all four of the Beatles had discussed their influences. Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and so on. One name however that comes up that most in the US have never heard of was Lonnie Donegan.
     Skiffle was a type of music that drew from traditional jazz, blues and folk, and generally performed with homemade instruments. It's roots are disputed, but began to show up in recorded form in Chicago during the 1920's. It popped up from time to time over the next 20 years, but was a rural genre that never saw a lot of popularity until Lonnie Donegan led a revival of the style in the UK during the 50's.
      Donegan spent much of the 40's and early 50's playing guitar in various traditional jazz bands throughout Britain. While playing with Ken Colyer's Jazzmen, he would play a guitar and banjo during a dixieland set. This led him to join with a couple of other members to play what they called a "skiffle" break which included a washboard, a tea-chest bass and Spanish guitar. 
     This proved to be so popular that the combo recorded a version of Leadbelly's, "Rock Island Line" in the summer of 1954, which became a hit in 1956. He recorded much of the rest of the 50's, with a great deal of success. His real influence however was how, in bringing skiffle to England, he inspired many a poor and middle class boys to pick up homemade (or very low rate) instruments and start banging out, "Rock Island Line".



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