LONNIE DONEGAN DIES

The musical pioneer passes away aged 71...

“Skiffle king” LONNIE DONEGAN has died at the age of 71, after taking ill midway through a UK tour.

According to the BBC, he had been recovering from a heart operation earlier in the year and had complained of back pains shortly before he died in the early hours of Sunday morning (November 3). His wife and son were with him when he died in Peterborough.

Donegan, who was born in Glasgow on April 29, 1931, and became fascinated by swing, jazz, country and western and blues at an early age, and bought his first guitar when he was 14.

It was his first single, 1954’s ‘Rock Island Line’, which first propelled him to fame, selling three million copies and hitting both the British and American Top Tens, despite the fact that he received only £3.50 for the recording, and no royalties, according to legend. For the next six years, he enjoyed a string of consecutive hits including ‘Cumberland Gap’, ‘Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour’ and ‘Have A Drink On Me’.

One of his biggest hits, the million-selling chart-topper ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ was regarded by some fans as a comedy music hall song and a sell-out, but having created a huge impact on British music with his pioneering skiffle sound, he has been cited throughout the years as an influence by bands including The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Mark Knopfler. His song ‘I’m Never Gonna Fall In Love Again’ was recorded by Elvis Presley.

After a fallow period in the 70s, he returned in the 80s, recording an album of his early tracks with Elton John, Brian May, Ringo Starr and Ron Wood. In 1999, he released his first studio album of new material for 20 years, ‘Mule Skinner Blues’, which was followed in 2000 by the acclaimed live album, ‘The Skiffle Sessions – Live In Belfast’.

He was the first artist to win a gold record with his debut release and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the biggest hitmakers of all time. He is recognised as one of Britain’s first music superstars.

In recent years, Donegan had appeared at Glastonbury Festival, and the Fleadh at Finsbury Park in London. He recently toured with Van Morrison and was invited to play a Radio 1 concert at London Queen Elizabeth Hall by John Peel.

In 1997 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ivor Novello Awards, and received an MBE in November 2000 in recognition of his musical contribution to the UK.

Married three times, he had seven children.