Mudcat Café message #2989640 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #132214   Message #2989640
Posted By: MikeofNorthumbria
19-Sep-10 - 08:06 AM
Thread Name: What If Lonnie Donegan had not existed?
Subject: RE: What If Lonnie Donegan had not existed?
I agree entirely with Jerry and Roger that LD's exuberance, humour and charisma were as much a part of his success as his musicianship (and his skill at picking good songs). I first witnessed this at the old Chiswick Empire in (about) 1958, when I saw him playing Wishee Washee in "Aladdin".

In those days, it was quite common for pop stars and their backing groups to do walk-on parts in a Christmas pantomime. This gave them an excuse to play a selection of their hits at some point in the show, but for the rest of the time their impact was usually minimal. Not so with Lonnie he commanded the stage whenever he was on it, whether leading his band or playing the cockney "cheeky chappie" role to the hilt.

The last time I saw Lonnie live was at the New Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, the year before he died. He was as awesome as ever, and his band (which included his son Peter) were much better than most of the ensembles he recorded with in the old days. Besides being excellent instrumentalists they could also sing harmonies, and they performed some stunning a capella versions of work-songs and spirituals.

During the years between, Lonnie made a number of recordings that didn't appeal much to me. Some were just too frantic (like "Gambling Man") while others were far too sentimental (as on the EP "Lonnie in Tender Mood"). And on many of them, the cheerful informality of his earliest work was replaced by a glitzy show-biz style that clashed with the folkier items that remained in his repertoire. But nevertheless on the right occasion, and in the right company, he could still rock the joint as his recordings with Van Morrison and friends demonstrated.

Agreed, Lonnie had his flaws but despite them, he was (IMHO) the man without whom a great many of us would not be where we are now, musically speaking. And for that, we all owe him, big time.