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Rock Island Line ...

DigiTrad:
ROCK ME ON THE WATER
THE ROCK ISLAND LINE
THE ROCK ISLAND LINE (is a mighty fine line)


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GUEST,SB 13 Apr 19 - 03:59 AM
Will Fly 13 Apr 19 - 04:02 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 13 Apr 19 - 04:58 AM
Bonzo3legs 13 Apr 19 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 13 Apr 19 - 03:22 PM
Stanron 13 Apr 19 - 03:37 PM
punkfolkrocker 13 Apr 19 - 04:03 PM
John MacKenzie 13 Apr 19 - 04:17 PM
punkfolkrocker 13 Apr 19 - 05:38 PM
Roger the Skiffler 14 Apr 19 - 03:39 AM
Will Fly 14 Apr 19 - 04:42 AM
Liamtho 14 Apr 19 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 14 Apr 19 - 06:20 AM
Will Fly 14 Apr 19 - 06:52 AM
Roger the Skiffler 15 Apr 19 - 08:55 AM
r.padgett 15 Apr 19 - 09:36 AM
Stringsinger 15 Apr 19 - 10:13 AM
beachcomber 15 Apr 19 - 11:45 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 16 Apr 19 - 05:39 AM
Dave Hanson 16 Apr 19 - 07:23 AM
GUEST,akenaton 16 Apr 19 - 08:03 AM
punkfolkrocker 16 Apr 19 - 08:10 AM
punkfolkrocker 16 Apr 19 - 11:34 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 16 Apr 19 - 04:25 PM
punkfolkrocker 16 Apr 19 - 04:40 PM
Hagman 17 Apr 19 - 09:39 AM
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Subject: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,SB
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 03:59 AM

Rock Island Line: The Song That Made Britain Rock

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000433l

In January 1956, a new pop phenomenon appeared in the UK charts: a British artist playing a guitar. His name was Lonnie Donegan and the song he sang was Rock Island Line.

Donegan’s rough-and-ready style was at odds with the polished crooners who dominated the charts. He played the guitar in a way that sounded like anyone could do it. Rock Island Line sounded like nothing else on the radio and it inspired a generation of British youths to pick up guitars and begin a journey that would take them to the top of the American charts.

Rock Island Line, the biggest hit of the skiffle craze, spoke directly to a generation of British teenagers who had grown up during post-war rationing. Within 18 months of its release, sales of acoustic guitars in the UK had rocketed from 5,000 to over 250,000 a year.

The song began its life in the 1920s as a jingle in the workshops of the Rock Island Line railroad in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1933, John A Lomax visited Cummins Prison Farm, south of Little Rock, collecting work songs for the Library of Congress. On the day of the recording, a group of eight prisoners, led by Kelly Pace, came up to Lomax’s mic and sang Rock Island Line. Lomax’s driver was the African-American musician who became the celebrated folk singer Lead Belly. He was so impressed that he learned the tune, added verses and made it a staple of his own repertoire.

In the late 1940s, young music fans in the UK began to seek out recordings from the early years of jazz, becoming obsessed with the New Orleans style (known as Trad Jazz) that favoured collective interaction over the prevailing emphasis on soloists. Blowing on their instruments very hard, they found that their lips were numb after half an hour. So as to not lose their audience, they put down their instruments and picked up guitars, a double bass and a washboard.

These ‘breakdown sessions’ were initiated by Ken Colyer, a trumpet player who sought out his heroes in New Orleans. Because he was so familiar with their recordings, he was able to sit in with them, but a white kid playing with black musicians soon drew attention and when he went to renew his visa, he was arrested and held in jail for over two months. Returning to the UK, his brother pulled together a bunch of musicians to form a band that included Chris Barber on trombone, Monty Sunshine on clarinet and, on banjo, Lonnie Donegan. Lonnie was a natural front man, with a voice that sounded American. He stood at the back with the rhythm section during the jazz numbers, but when he came to the front during the breakdown, he grabbed the audience with his renditions of Lead Belly’s most famous songs, Rock Island Line prominent among them. Asked what kind of music they were playing, they replied that it was skiffle.

Now known as Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, they secured an offer to make a record for Decca. When they gathered in the label’s studios on 13 July 1954, it became apparent that the band did not have enough material to fill an album so it was decided that they should record songs from the band’s popular skiffle breakdown. They cut an incendiary version of Rock Island Line as well as another Lead Belly standard, John Henry.

The British record industry was scrambling to find artists who might jump on the rock bandwagon, and someone at Decca remembered Lonnie Donegan. Here was a chap who looked the part - open-necked shirt, acoustic guitar, sounding like an American cowboy, singing about railroads. More importantly, his song had the word ‘rock’ in the title.

In January 1956, Rock Island Line hit the top ten and the skiffle craze was born. Donegan sent a revolutionary message to the youth of Britain: you don’t have to be a trained musician to play this music. When Lonnie toured in late 1956, he took skiffle to the masses. During his six-night stand at the Liverpool Empire, thirteen-year-old George Harrison went every night. His pal, fourteen-year-old Paul McCartney also saw Donegan and promptly asked his dad to buy him a guitar. It is not known if John Lennon saw the show, but just two weeks later he had formed his own skiffle group, The Quarrymen.

Schoolboys in their thousands picked up guitars and formed skiffle groups. The pop charts began to feature other skiffle artists, mostly following Donegan’s Rock Island Line blueprint by recording songs about the American railroad like Freight Train by Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey.

The skiffle craze was short-lived, lasting barely eighteen months, but in that time it inspired a generation of British boys to pick up a guitar and play. It was DIY, self-empowering and set out to challenge the bland chart music of the day. Skiffle provided a nursery for the British invasion of the American charts in the 1960s. We have taken it for granted that British kids always played guitars and wrote their own songs. It was skiffle that put guitars into the hands of the war babies – and all of skiffle’s influence can be traced back to Rock Island Line.

====


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 04:02 AM

Watched it last night - great fun, and Billy Bragg was a good interviewer and presenter. Nice to see and hear Chas McDevitt and some others from the period.

The first blues record I ever heard was Leadbelly singing "Grasshoppers in my pillow", his take on "Leaving Blues", and the notes that made me itch to get a guitar were the opening guitar notes to Donegan's "Battle of New Orleans".


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 04:58 AM

I haven't seen it yet, but marked it to watch later.

RtS


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 12:17 PM

I remember watching Lonnie Donegan on the 6.5 Special in the late 1950s, I have been playing his early hits loud for 60 years now!!


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 03:22 PM

I thought they did a good job well researched, and good to hear and

see some of the guys who were there and still are around to tell the

tale.

Not everyone went into rock though, many of us went into folk and/or blues.

It'a a pity though that the folks at the L of C in Washington couldn't

supply a correct photograph of John Lomax. I'm sure that wasn't him.

Nitpicking though.

Hopefully the Woody Guthrie programme next Friday is of the same

standard.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Stanron
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 03:37 PM

I enjoyed the program. I also enjoyed the Chas and Dave program that followed. I'm not sure which of the two was more relevant to folk music.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 04:03 PM

"Donegan’s rough-and-ready style was at odds with the polished crooners who dominated the charts. He played the guitar in a way that sounded like anyone could do it. Rock Island Line sounded like nothing else on the radio and it inspired a generation of British youths to pick up guitars and begin a journey that would take them to the top of the American charts."

..and that was 2 decades before history repeated with punk rock...


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 04:17 PM

I enjoyed it, and Billy's Jeremy Corbyn impression is getting netter all the time


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 13 Apr 19 - 05:38 PM

Just watched it.. that was good.. much better than I expected...

Reminded me of stuff I'd forgotten, and filled in gaps of history I never knew..

Hylda Sims is a revelation.
I need to find out more about her...


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 14 Apr 19 - 03:39 AM

Yes, I enjoyed it although most of the anecdotes were not new if you've read Ken or lonnie's biographies but it was good to see some of the old lags are still alive.

RtS
(PS skiffle didn't die in 1958, it just went underground!)


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Apr 19 - 04:42 AM

It's a pity though that the folks at the L of C in Washington couldn't supply a correct photograph of John Lomax. I'm sure that wasn't him.

It's the same photo as in Wikipedia and other sources. It's obviously a young photo, and others are of a much older man, so I suppose you could doubt the provenance of the younger photo. I've never seen any other photo of the young John Lomax, though I have to say that photos of his son around the same age have a serious resemblance.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Liamtho
Date: 14 Apr 19 - 05:28 AM

Fantastic version by Lonnie and his son Peter of Grand Coulee Dam on Gloria Hunniford show - skip to 10:45 if you don't want the interview. I think his son really added something to the performance.

https://youtu.be/BQGazCVwNE0


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 14 Apr 19 - 06:20 AM

Hi Will,

I have seen this pic before but can't remember where. Taking a quick look through various books I think it probably is John Lomax BUT John Lomax III i.e; Alan's brother not father.

I could of course be completely wrong.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Will Fly
Date: 14 Apr 19 - 06:52 AM

I'l take your word, Hoot - I really don't know! :-)


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 15 Apr 19 - 08:55 AM

I enjoyed the Chas 'n' Dave programme as well.Interesting careers embracing Richie Blackmore, Albert Lee, Clapton, Jerry Lee Lewis etc.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: r.padgett
Date: 15 Apr 19 - 09:36 AM

Ken Colyer ~

"These ‘breakdown sessions’ were initiated by Ken Colyer, a trumpet player who sought out his heroes in New Orleans. Because he was so familiar with their recordings, he was able to sit in with them, but a white kid playing with black musicians soon drew attention and when he went to renew his visa, he was arrested and held in jail for over two months."

Yea enjoyed this prog by Billy Bragg and the historical bits ~ as I remember it Ken Colyer joined ships crew and hiked to New Orleans and joined the black trad Jazz men ~ was arrested for breaking apartheid US laws and got a free trip back to UK ~ all in pursuit of the real trad Jazz tunes etc

Great stuff IMO

Ray


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Apr 19 - 10:13 AM

Did they mention that Donnegan attempted to collect royalties from Moe Asch at Folkways Records? Moe suggest he come by and he would be glad to break Leadbelly recordings over his head.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: beachcomber
Date: 15 Apr 19 - 11:45 AM

Lennon and McCartney's old mates, the other Quarrymen, were really great, and a great example - not a bitter word or memory among them. Good lads, they were.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 05:39 AM

Stringsinger,

The Folkways incident didn't get a mention as far as I recall. in the same way that Elizabeth Cotten seemed to be overlooked in the section on Freight Train which was copyrighted by a couple of skifflers here. Fortunately it is my understanding things got sorted and Elizabeth did get a share of royalties.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 07:23 AM

It wasn't a particularly good programme, how could they talk about Freight Train and not mention Elizabeth Cotton ? Very Poorly researched programme, Billy Bragg ought to know better.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,akenaton
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 08:03 AM

Bragg is to folk music, as Evette Cooper is to truth.   Only a passing connection.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 08:10 AM

Bragg is my contemporary, only a few years older than me.

My impression is that the program is intended more towards informing our 'punk' generation
and younger folks,
than you older guys who had good fortune to be teenagers back in the skiffle and rock 'n' roll boom;
experiencing it first hand...


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 11:34 AM

..actually, he's only one year older than me..

We were born when skiffle died..

can't blame us punk rockers for that.. can you...???

Good job we revitalised the spirit of skiffle in 1977...


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 04:25 PM

A colleague of mine said that Peggy Seeger didn't mention Elizabeth Cotten with regard to Freight Train in the programme. I thought she would have seeing as Elizabeth was employed by the Seeger family which is how Peggy learnt it and then taught it to us when she came over.


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 16 Apr 19 - 04:40 PM

Thing is, we don't know how much extra interview footage ended up on the cutting room floor,
so not much point taking folks to task for not mentioning someone..
How do we know they didn't,
but the director can only use so much material in the alloted program duration...???


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Subject: RE: Rock Island Line ...
From: Hagman
Date: 17 Apr 19 - 09:39 AM

Hootenanny wrote: "It's a pity though that the folks at the L of C in Washington couldn't supply a correct photograph of John Lomax. I'm sure that wasn't him."

Will Fly responded: "It's the same photo as in Wikipedia and other sources. It's obviously a young photo, and others are of a much older man, so I suppose you could doubt the provenance of the younger photo. I've never seen any other photo of the young John Lomax, though I have to say that photos of his son around the same age have a serious resemblance."

All the references and metadata I could find point to the photo that was used to be that of John Lomax Jnr., son of John and brother of Alan.

I wouldn't think it was an LOC mistake, more a BBC lack of fact-checking. And most likely out of control and/or knowledge of Bragg as well.

Liked the program a lot, btw, fwiw - most informative.


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