BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Entertainment  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 19:19 GMT
'Skiffle king' Donegan dies
Music legend Lonnie Donegan
Donegan: Had heart surgery in May 2002
Musician Lonnie Donegan, known as the "king of skiffle", has died aged 71.

The Glasgow-born singer was midway through a UK tour after recovering from a heart operation earlier this year and was due to play a concert in Stoke, Staffordshire, on Monday.

He really was the first guy to bring the blues to England

Brian May
One of the most successful recording artists of the pre-Beatles era, he had three UK number one hits and numerous top 10 entries in the 1950s and 60s.

The star was with his wife and son when he died in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, on Sunday at about 0230 GMT. He had been complaining of back trouble shortly before he fell ill.

Donegan was staying with friends during his tour. His last performance was in Nottingham - the first city he played when he became a star in 1957.

Queen guitarist Brian May led tributes to Donegan saying: "He really was at the very cornerstone of English blues and rock."

Music legend Lonnie Donegan
Donegan received an MBE for services to pop music
May worked with Donegan on his comeback album. He said the skiffle movement, of which Donegan was at the forefront, helped a generation realise they could make music themselves.

"I think he's probably the principal reason I picked up a guitar," May told BBC Radio Five Live.

The skiffle king's hits included Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour, My Old Man's A Dustman, Cumberland Gap and Puttin' on the Style.

Sir Cliff Richard described him as a "terrific force".

"I think what was so good about [skiffle] was it was home-made music... so for those of us who had ambition bubbling, it was a way to start," he told Five Live.

A great musician and entertainer

Barry, England
"And of course, Lonnie Donegan was the man at the time and therefore was very helpful to me."

Rolf Harris added that Donegan was a great showman and his death saddened him greatly.

"Lonnie was a stunning entertainer and musician. My condolences go to his family," he said.

His more recent work with Van Morrison led to a resurgence in his career. His skiffle music was a mixture of folk, jazz, gospel and the blues.

Lonnie Donegan
His first single sold three million copies
Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, who recently played with Donegan in London, called him one of his greatest musical influences.

Elvis Presley recorded one of his songs, I'm Never Gonna Fall in Love Again, and in 1978 Sir Paul McCartney was the driving force behind a tribute album.

Donegan has been described as Britain's first musical superstar and his skiffle music swept through the country in the 1950s.

He quickly became a star, although he had only ever wanted to be a jazz banjo player.

In May this year, he had heart surgery in London and seemed to have been on the mend, although he had suffered from cardiac trouble since the 1970s.

Christened Anthony James, the star was married three times and leaves seven children.

A private funeral service is expected although will there will be a public memorial service later.

The BBC's David Sillito
"It was do-it-youself music"
Gerry Marsden, Gerry and the Pacemakers
"There were a lot of people influenced by Lonnie"
Joe Brown, Joe Brown and the brothers
"It's a great loss"

Lonnie Donegan
Send us your tributes to the 'skiffle king'
See also:

04 Nov 02 | Entertainment
04 Nov 02 | Entertainment
02 May 02 | Entertainment
16 Jun 00 | Scotland
09 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |