On Tuesday 6 June, singer-songwriter, activist and folk hero Billy Bragg sat down with Classic Album Sundays’ Colleen Murphy for an in-depth conversation about the history, impact and legacy of skiffle music.
The two set out to explore what many consider to be Britain’s first indigenous pop movement, and how it inspired the British artists who would later go on to steer sixties counterculture.
Half-discussion, half-listening session, this special event featured vinyl picks of classics from the likes of Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Lonnie Donegan, Ewan MacColl, Alan Lomax, Chas McDevitt and Peggy Seeger – all played on Classic Album Sundays’ world-class hi-fi system.
In between songs, the conversation wandered from the origins and meaning of the term ‘skiffle’, to the genre’s intersection with genres like blues, jazz and country, as well as its impact on the politics and social climate of both sides of the Atlantic during the 1950s, and skiffle’s influence on the musical landscape of the next couple of decades.
Skiffle has had a profound effect on Bragg’s own creative output, and has even prompted him to write a book on the subject, Roots, Radicals and Rockers, in which he sets out to put this 50s DIY roots music phenomenon into its proper cultural context, arguing that the genre should be given the same respect as the punk rock that flourished in the same Soho clubs twenty years later.
“Billy’s relaying of the story of skiffle and how it inspired nearly every significant British musician in the Sixties was truly engaging. And listening to the records that illustrate this story was truly illuminating. One can hear how listening to the urgency of Lonnie Donegan’s voice for the first time would have been a clarion call to the 50’s teenager.”
Colleen Murphy, Classic Album Sundays
Classic Album Sundays is one of the most popular and respected music listening experiences, allowing music fans to get as close as possible to the artist’s original intent. Attendees hear the intriguing story behind an album or song that was a cultural milestone, before kicking back to listen to the record on a world-class audiophile hi-fi system. These immersive listening sessions are a transformative and inspirational shared experience, reminding people what they love about music.
1. Johnny Parker’s Washboard Band – Canine Stomp
2. Lead Belly – Rock Island Line
3. Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group – Midnight Special
4. Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group – Rock Island Line
5. Chris Barber Skiffle Group – Can’t You Line ‘Em
6. Peggy Seeger – Sail Away Lady
7. Chas McDevitt & Nancy Whiskey – Freight Train
8. The Vipers – Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O
9. Les Hobeaux – Mama Don’t Allow
10. The Bob Cort Skiffle Group – Six Five Special
11. The City Ramblers – Down By The Riverside 45rpm 7” vinyl