1956 Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line

1956 Lonnie Donegan – Rock Island Line 

Anthony James Donegan was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and lived in London until WW II forced him to relocate to Cheshire.

At various times, he appears to have played the banjo, guitar, and even drums in various groups. He formed the Tony Donegan Jazzband in 1952. After opening for American blues and jazz singer Lonnie Johnson, he began using Lonnie as his first name as a tribute.

Lonnie became a member of Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen in 1953. Ken left the next year, and the band became Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. During the jazz band’s breaks, Lonnie and two of his bandmates would sing onstage with a cheap old guitar, a washboard, and a tea-chest bass. Posters for their extra performances referred to those breaks as Skiffle music, a term used back in the thirties by the Dan Burley Skiffle Group.

A cover by the skiffle group of an old Leadbelly song, Rock Island Line, became a single that reached #8 in the UK in 1955 and #8 in the US in 1956.


Lonnie had 16 more top ten hits in the UK, but only reached the Hot 100 in the US twice more. He wrote Lost John, which made it up to #2 in the UK in 1956 but stalled at only #58 on the Hot 100 in the US. His last charting record in the US was the novelty hit Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight in 1959.

An Irish folksong that dates back to the beginning of the twentieth century became a hit in the US when Sammy Kaye’s recording of Wanderin’ reached #11 in 1950.

Like many folksingers, Lonnie often enhanced existing songs with new lyrics. He took the music for Wanderin’ and rewrote it completely into the song I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. While his records credit him for the new lyrics, the labels also properly credited Jimmy Currie as the composer of the music.

Lonnie released the song as a single in 1962, but it failed to chart. Fortunately, Tom Jones covered the song in 1967 and reached #2 in the UK. It took until 1969 for that version of the song to become a hit in the US, where it did finally peak at #6.


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