Skiffle Gets Going in the UK
Skiffle hails from America, folk music with some blues, country, bluegrass and jazz.
Performed with a combination of homemade and purchased proper instruments, like banjo, guitar, washboard and tea chest. This gave anyone interested the chance to play music without a large financial outlay.
Originating in the USA in the early 20th Century, it became popular in the UK around 1950.
Artists, particularly Lonnie Donnegan, Ken Colyer and Chas McDivett, spread the word and became very popular.
Skiffle was a big part of many successful musicians, and was a contributed to the revival of folk music, the rise of Blues music and to the eventual British Invasion of the UK.
Lonnie Donegan was the best known of the skiffle scene. After the war, music gradually moved away from the swing music towards trad jazz. Leading this move were the Bill Bailey Skiffle Group and Ken Colyers Jazzmen. Colyer was self-taught, played guitar and clarinet. In his band was Lonnie Donnegan, and it was this was the band that got skiffle going.
The band played a variety of American folk and blues songs mainly from Leadbelly and the American Jug Bands.
The huge success of the "Rock Island Line" record and it was no longer a need for expensive instruments or skilled musicianship that kicked off the British skiffle era. Lots of new bands succeeded with chart success in the skiffle craze, including the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group ("Freight Train) Johnny Duncan and the Bluegrass Boys, but the importance of skiffle was as an amateur movement, particularly popular among working class guys, who could now cheaply get hold of their own instruments and get into a band. The craze probably reached its height with the commencing of the BBC TV programme Six-Five Special from 1957, first British youth music programme, using a skiffle song as its title music and featuring skiffle music.
By now the British rock and roll scene was starting to get
going with local stars Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard and the
Shadows (all originally involved in skiffle)
So skiffle directly influenced the future rock stars of the UK. As American black music came to the ears of musicians in Liverpool, Newcastle and other ports via the US sailors.
Sales of guitars exlpoded and other musicians were able to perform on improvised bass and percussion in venues such as church halls and cafes and in the flourishing coffee bars of Soho, London, like the 2i's Coffee Bar, the Cat's Whisker and nightspots like Coconut Grove and Churchill's, without having to aspire to musical perfection or virtuosity. Many British musicians began their careers playing skiffle in this period, and some became leading figures in their respective fields. including Van Morrison and British blues pioneer Alexis Korner, as well as Ronnie Wood, Alex Harvey, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Robin Trower and David Gilmour. popular Beat-music successes Graham Nash and Allan Clarke. Of course the most notably, the Beatles developed from John Lennon's 1957 skiffle group the Quarrymen; Paul McCartney was added after a few months and George Harrison joined in 1958.
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