Lonnie Donegan was widely acknowledged to be the 'King Of Skiffle'. A situation that came about more by chance than by design for Donegan did not invent the music nor was he responsible for its introduction onto the British music scene. However, he was responsible for its popularisation and it is beyond doubt that he was the greatest influence on those musical performers who would follow him in the 1960s to bring about the 'beat boom', 'the group sound' and establish Britain as an important force in popular music.
Donegan was already an accomplished banjo player with the Chris Barber jazz band when the opportunity to provide a 'skiffle' break during the band's stage performances arose. One of the more popular numbers that Lonnie performed was 'Rock Island Line'- a song that he had taken from American bluesman 'Leadbelly' and provided with a new flavour of his own making. The issue of this number as a single proved so popular that Donegan had the temerity to ask Barber for a substantial raise. As Chris did not want to turn his band into a skiffle outfit the request was refused and Lonnie set out on his own.
With his energy and dazzling skills on the fret he was already a popular musician with audiences. This, together with his extrovert originality and humour, made him an even more popular recording artist. A long series of chart successes followed which inspired other competitive groups all over the country. Skiffle was sufficiently simple and cheap enough for any youngsters to get started. These would include some of the most famous popular musicians of the era.
Lonnie Donegan's stage act produced just as much enthusiasm as his recorded output. This EP (NEP24075) is a recording of a session made at the Conway Hall in London's Holborn on 25th January 1957. The sleeve notes claim that the audience reaction to Lonnie's performance was so enthusiastic that only four of the numbers performed were sufficiently audible above the noise to merit inclusion on the disc!
Lonnie's songs were a mixture of blues, bluegrass, Cajun, old music hall numbers and songs simply created by himself, for Lonnie was also a skillful songwriter. He had in fact written a number for Adam Faith called 'Have A Drink On Me' which Adam rejected. Lonnie recorded it himself, but included the line; 'You can make a fortune writing Adam Faith songs' !
However, Skiffle ceased almost as abruptly as it had started. After seven years of almost continuous chart presence Lonnie's reign came to an end. Despite changing his style a little to appeal to a new generation of record buyers Lonnie never returned to the charts. However, his legacy in the form of new talent who had learned their craft as skifflers would span the entire 1960s and beyond.
Sadly, Lonnie Donegan who was frequently troubled with a heart condition during his later years, died on November 4th 2002 while touring- still actively pursuing his musical career at the age of 71. Lonnie's musical influences continue to live on.
You can read a lot more about Lonnie Donegan in Spencer Leigh's book "Puttin' On The Style": click here
|Decca F10647||1955||Rock Island Line/ John Henry||#8|
|Decca F10695||1956||Diggin' My Potatoes/ Bury My Body|
|Columbia DB3850||1956||On A Christmas Day/ Take My Hand Precious Lord|
|Pye 7N15116||1957||Jack O'Diamonds/ Ham 'N' Eggs||#14|
|Pye 7N15129||1958||The Grand Coolie Dam/ Nobody Loves Like An Irishman||#6|
|Pye 7NJ2006||1958||Midnight Special/ When The Sun Goes Down|
|Pye 7N15148||1958||Sally Don't You Grieve/ Betty Betty Betty||#11|
|Pye 7N15158||1958||Lonesome Traveller/ Times Are Getting Hard Boys||#28|
|Pye 7N15165||1958||Lonnie's Skiffle Pt.1/ Pt.2||#23|
|Pye 7N15172||1958||Tom Dooley/ Rock O' My Soul||#3|
|Pye 7N15181||1959||Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour/ Aunt Rhody||#3|
|Pye 7N15198||1959||Fort Worth Jail/ Whoa Buck||#14|
|Pye 7N15206||1959||Battle Of New Orleans/ Darling Corey||#2|
|Pye 7N15223||1959||Sal's Got A Sugar Lip/ Chesapeake Bay||#13|
|Pye 7N15237||1959||San Miguel/ Talking Guitar Blues||#19|
|Pye 7N15256||1960||My Old Man's A Dustman/ The Golden Vanity||#1|
|Pye 7N15267||1960||I Wanna Go Home (Wreck Of the John B.)/ Jimmy Brown The Newsboy||#5|
|Pye 7N15275||1960||Lorelei/ In All My Wildest Dreams||#10|
|Pye 7N15312||1960||Lively/ Black Cat (Cross My Path Today)||#13|
|Pye 7N15315||1960||Virgin Mary/ Beyond The Sunset||#27|
|Pye 7N15330||1961||(Bury Me) Beneath The Willow/ Leave My Woman Alone|
|Pye 7N15354||1961||Have A Drink On Me/ Seven Daffodils||#8|
|Pye 7N15371||1961||Michael Row the Boat/ Lumbered||#6|
|Pye 7N15410||1961||The Comancheros/ Ramblin' Round||#14|
|Pye 7N15424||1962||The Party's Over/ Over the Rainbow||#9|
|Pye 7N15446||1962||I'll Never Fall In Love Again/ Keep On The Sunny Side|
|Pye 7N15455||1962||Pick A Bale Of Cotton/ Steal Away||#11|
|Pye 7N15493||1962||The Market Song/ Tit-Bits|
|Pye 7N15514||1963||Losing My Hair/ Trumpet Sounds|
|Pye 7N15530||1963||It Was A Very Good Year/ Rise Up|
|Pye 7N15564||1963||Lemon Tree/ I've Gotta Girl So Far|
|Pye 7N15579||1963||500 Miles Away From Home/ This Train|
|Pye 7N15669||1964||Beans In My Ears/ It's A Long Road To Travel|
|Pye 7N15679||1964||Fisherman's Luck/ There's A Big Wheel|
|Pye 7N15803||1965||Get Out Of My Life/ Won't You Tell Me|
|Pye 7N15893||1965||Louisiana Man/ Bound For Zion|
|Pye 7N15993||1966||World Cup Willie/ Where In This World Are We Going|
|Pye 7N17109||1966||I Wanna Go Home/ Black Cat (Cross My Path Today)|
|Pye 7N17232||1967||Aunt Maggie's Remedy/ (Ah) My Sweet Marie|
|Columbia DB8371||1968||Toys/ Relax Your Mind|
|Decca F12984||1969||My Lovely Juanita/ Who Knows Where The Time Goes|
Return to UK Artists Biography Index