One of the
stas of the 50s, Donegan's stage name was a tribute to his idol, Lonnie Johnson
(he was born Anthony Donegan). A Jazz
band banjo-player, Donegan switched to guitar for numbers during intervals at club dates. Leadbelly
's 'Rock Island Line', a highlight of his act, became a smash in Britain and, rarely for the time, the USA.
Between 1956 and 1962 his Skiffle formula- reworking Folk and Blues songs- yielded over 30 hits, including No. 1s in 1957 with 'Cumberland Gap' and 'Gamblin' Man'/'Puttin' On the Style'. His final international hit, 'Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour?' (1959) moved him towards family entertainment, culminating in final chart-topper 'My Old Man's A Dustman' (1960).
Donegan single-handedly popularized Skiffle and inspired countless teenagers. A re-recording of his hits in 1978, Puttin' On The Style, produced by Adam Faith, featured Elton John, Brian May and Ron Wood. Depite having heart surgery in 1985, Donegan was still playing occasional dates a decade later.
Update: Monday 4th November 2002: Lonnie Donegan passed away aged 71 after several heart attacks. He will be sorely missed.
Source: Skiffle, The Definitive Inside Story