Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Lonnie, early 45s and some more deaths

One of the most successful British artists of the late 50s and early 60s was skiffle king Lonnie Donegan, who was the subject of Radio 4's 'Great Lives' programme yesterday presented by Matthew Parris. Lonnie had a huge number of hits from 1956 onwards when his first single Rock Island Line made the charts, but they dried up after 1962 when the UK beat scene exploded. By that time skiffle sounded dated but Lonnie played a big part in establishing the UK rock and roll scene - a fact acknowledged by the Beatles and The Who, among others. Skiffle was derivative and on the whole pretty second rate, but Lonnie was its most accomplished exponent and even had success in the US, with Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour reaching number 5 in 1959.
Lonnie's early singles were issued only on 78, as his record label Pye was among the last to introduce 45 rpm singles in the UK. The earliest UK 45s were issued by EMI and I picked up a number of very early examples at a charity shop yesterday, including Bonnie Lou's Tennessee Wig Walk on Parlophone from 1953 (with Just Out Of Reach on the B side - a song that later became Solomon Burke's first UK single); Guy Mitchell's She Wears Red Feathers on Columbia, also from 1953 - a strange tale of a London banker who marries an exotic lady who eats only 'cokeynuts and fish from the sea'; and Tennessee Ernie Ford's Ballad of Davy Crockett on Capitol from 1956, one of several versions of the theme from the Disney movie. All of these are much more common on 78 - a format which swiftly died out and was extinct in the UK by the end of 1960.
Sadly there are a couple of deaths to report. Robert Dickey, who was the original Bobby of James and Bobby Purify (right of picture) and who recorded on their greatest sides in the late 60s, has died aged 72. His replacement as 'Bobby' - Ben Moore - who took over in 1971, appeared at Porretta in 2006. Also dead is Fred Milano, who was a member of the Belmonts,also aged 72.


At 9:45 am , Blogger Nick said...

Brian Cowling has sent you a link to a blog:

Your comments re Lonnie Donegan are well justified but I feel he was one of the most underated musicians of his time. He was idolised by the pop fraternity but in retrospect as I listen to all his interpretations of folk and jazz I am amazed at his range.


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