Rock Island Line


The Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group

45-F.10647 1956
  Anthony Donegan born Glasgow, April 29th, 1931

It wasn't until later in 1957 that the new, smaller, 45 r.p.m. vinyl records began to become popular. So although it is quite easy to find a copy of this great classic on a shellac 78, it is rare on 7" vinyl.

I've been lucky to find it on a 45 and the sample shown probably came from a jukebox. This means that unfortunately it has its centre broken out.

'Rock Island Line' was actually recorded in 1955 while Lonnie Donegan was still a member of the great Chris Barber Jazz Band. The record became a top ten hit during January 1956 and launched Lonnie into skiffle in a big way. This record and the several Donegan hits that followed encouraged legions of young musicians to form groups. Many of these were instrumental in bringing about the 'Group' dominated beat boom of the 1960s.

The Rock Island Company, who inspired the song, laid the railroad line through Arkansas at the turn of the century. The song was previously recorded by the legendary Leadbelly (H. Ledbetter) during the 1940s. It was undoubtedly one of Leadbelly's recordings that inspired the young British skiffler.

Rip It Up


Bill Haley And His Comets

45-05615 1956


  Bill Haley born July 6th, 1925 in Detroit

Bill Haley's 'Shake Rattle and Roll' is certainly the record that introduced Rock and Roll to an unprepared British Public. But most people will probably tell you that it was another record that started it all.

That other record was 'Rock Around The Clock' which was recorded in 1954, but didn't chart in the UK until October 1955. However, it was still in the chart when 'Rip It Up', Haley's 11th UK success entered the chart at the end of 1956!

'Rip It Up' was almost the last in the amazing run of hit records that Bill Haley had issued in the UK during 1956. By the spring of 1957 he was never to enter the chart again save re-issues of his previous material.

Whatever doubts there may be about his musical influences, he can certainly be credited with unleashing Rock and Roll on the British record buyer.



Gene Vincent

  Eugene Vincent Craddock born in Norfolk, Virginia 11th February, 1935

Looking back from now we can see that Gene Vincent was one of the originators of that branch of rock and roll music that has since become known as 'Rockabilly'. His first hit, featured here, peaked at only #16 in the UK chart, but its originality of style proved inspirational to many British rock and rollers.

Indeed Gene Vincent, in common with several other rock and roll pioneers became more popular and better known in Europe than in his own country.

Gene Vincent was promoted in the UK by rock and roll entrepreneur Jack Good who tried to bring out the sinister side of the singer. This even included the use of steps on the set for his earliest UK TV appearances- in order to emphasise Gene's limp from a leg injury sustained in 1955 from a motorcycle accident. Jack Good has since claimed that he was attempting to produce a figure that strongly resembled Sheakspeare's 'Richard III'

In some ways, Gene Vincent did resemble a tragic figure, and he benefited considerably from the friendship bestowed on him by the late Eddie Cochran. They were both together in the car crash that killed Cochran: it exacerbated Gene's leg, but probably gave rise to deeper psychological problems.

Gene Vincent spent the rest of his short life trying to rekindle the popularity that 'BeBop-A-Lula' had brought him. This important figure in the development of rock and roll died on 12th October 1971.

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