The Tragedy of Skiffle
When you think of someone aged 68 what do you think? grey overcoat? constant moaning about the weather? Emmerdale? Maybe, but what you dont think about is guitars, wailing blues and banjo’s. That is unless you know my uncle Ted (and if you do then you shouldn’t be reading this because that probably means you’ve escaped!), anyway I digress and maybe I should back up a bit here.
I was 20 years old when I first visited St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, and on that cold night I witnessed a musical display to rival anything your average person my age has seen over the last two decades. The guy on stagewas 68 years old and he played guitar. When I say played I mean he made it sing everything from a sweet love song to low down dirty blues. And one more thing, this 68 year old could sing, he spread those lyrics round that hall like it was the last words he’d ever speak, forget voice deterioration so common in similar artists, Bob Dylan springs to mind, this guy could wail. Of course he’d written those lyrics himself, some old since his days when the Beatles looked to him for inspiration and some new from his latest release “Muleskinner Blues” which incidentally has a guest appearance from the artist he was supporting that night.
Didn’t I mention that? Yes, this was the support act. The artist I’m referring to is Lonnie Donnegan, ask your Dad about him. Or maybe not because the sad truth is that Lonnie isn’t remembered for being the grandfather of British rock that he is but for bringing skiffle to our country and a couple of novelty songs like “My old mans a dustman” and “Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost over-night?” These might be what your Dad remembers him for, but I’ve seen the truth. Check out “The rock island line” and listen to “Muleskinner Blues” and you will have discovered a tragically overlooked artist.
Better still, go and see him sing and he’ll blow you away, he certainly did at St. David’s Hall that night, not just me but the chap he was supporting too ... Van Morrison I think his name was.