1997 George was to pen a foreword to Chas. McDevitt's book 'Skiffle' in which he
wrote: "Of course Lonnie Donegan was the major reason so many of us loved
this music for he was full of vitality and I saw him 'live' at the Liverpool
Empire on many occasions. I even knocked on the door of a house in the next road
to mine where he was visiting and got his autograph."
The king of skiffle was also a catalyst for the 16-year-old John Lennon. He’d
listened to the music on Radio Luxembourg and thought that it wasn’t difficult
to play, so he asked his Aunt Mimi if she could get him a guitar. He also bought
a 78rpm record of Rock Island Line, which he later sold to a schoolmate, Rod
Davis. Rod was also inspired by Donegan and bought a banjo for £3 from an uncle
and joined John Lennon’s new skiffle group, the Quarry Men.
Included in the Quarry Men’s repertoire were several skiffle numbers
popularized by Donegan, including ‘Rock Island Line’, ‘The Cumberland
Gap’, ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Railroad Bill’ and ‘Worried Man Blues’.
Ringo Starr also entered the music world during the skiffle era and joined the
Eddie Clayton Skiffle Group in 1957.
Donegan’s music was on the wane in the sixties, due to the popularity of the
new music spread by the Beatles and he went into the cabaret circuit. He was an
astute businessman and during the decade bought the copyright of the Moody
Blues’ ‘Knights in White Satin.’
the late 1970s Paul suggested that Lonnie re-record some of his skiffle hits.
The album ‘Puttin’ On the Style’, produced by Adam Faith in Los Angeles,
was released in January 1978. Among the musicians backing him were Ringo Starr,
Elton John, Leo Sayer, Brian May of Queen and Lonnie’s regular band. Ringo
appeared on the tracks ‘Have a Drink On Me’ and ‘Ham ‘n’ Eggs’.
In November 2000 Donegan received an MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Following a mild heart attack in 1986, Donegan went into semi-retirement, moving
to the Costa del Sol, with his second wife, Sharon, and their three songs,
Peter, David and Andrew.
Although the Beatles were later to be influenced by a range of American rock
‘n’ roll stars such as Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck
Berry, Little Richard and Gene Vincent, it was really Donegan, a British
musician, who set the ball rolling.
Following a heart operation early in 2002, Lonnie embarked on a British tour.
Midway through the tour he collapsed and died in Peterborough on Sunday 3
November 2002. He was 71 years old.