Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed The World

From the fields of Louisiana in the early 1900s to the world of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys, one musician stands out as a connecting bridge. For a brief moment in the early ’60s he topped the music charts, and his influence has carried on to the present day. In the early 1950s, Lonnie Donegan was the banjo and guitar player with Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen in Chris Barber’s Trad Jazz band. During intermissions he would play around with two other band members, to provide what he called a “skiffle” break. It was an up-tempo version of early blues and folk songs that had been played on banjos, guitars, home-made strings, and a variety of washboards as well anything for beating out a rhythm. Donegan was particularly influenced by American folk and blues singer Lead Belly. In July 1954, Donegan recorded “Rock Island Line” supported by Chris Barber and Beryl Bowden. It hit gold on the UK charts and reached number eight in the USA. This recording is cited by various famous musicians as a catalyst for their musical development. Recently, in a casual conversation with my son-in-law about music, he asked if I had heard of Lonnie Donegan. I said, “Yes, I heard him regularly in the Fifties.” “No way,” was the reply. To him Donegan was the Brit who sang “Rock Island Line.” To me he was Chris Barber’s guitar player. In the summer of 1951, moving from Ireland
You've read three articles this month! That makes you one of a rare breed, the true jazz fan!

The Syncopated Times is a monthly publication covering traditional jazz, ragtime and swing. We have the best historic content anywhere, and are the only American publication covering artists and bands currently playing Hot Jazz, Vintage Swing, or Ragtime. Our writers are legends themselves, paid to bring you the best coverage possible. Advertising will never be enough to keep these stories coming, we need your SUBSCRIPTION. Get unlimited access for $30 a year or $50 for two.

Not ready to pay for jazz yet? Register a Free Account for two weeks of unlimited access without nags or pop ups.

Already Registered? Log In

If you shouldn't be seeing this because you already logged in try refreshing the page.

Frank Farbenbloom is a traditional jazz supporter based in Israel.

Or look at our Subscription Options.