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Rock Island Line - Britain's first DIY pop music

Born of austerity and a love of American folk, skiffle was basic, direct and thrillingly raw. A kind of "make do and mend" pop.

But then this was a make do and mend time. Post-war Britain was a drab, bankrupt and almost broken country. Cities were still littered with bomb sites and rationing was still in place until 1954.

But teenagers were discovering new music in the nation's coffee houses via the wondrous technology of jukeboxes and freshly imported records. And one record in particular resonated with the UK's youth: Leadbelly's Rock Island Line.

Not everyone was so impressed though. Trad jazz was also enjoying a boom, and that scene's movers sneered at this rough 'n ready music. This was somewhat ironic given that Lonnie Donegan had first found fame in Chris Barber's jazz band. And Chris Barber himself would also be a pivotal figure in the British blues boom, bringing people like Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters to tour the UK.

The musicians who emerged from the skiffle scene read like a virtual who's who of British pop music: Cliff Richard, Martin Carthy, Mark Knopfler, Mickie Most, Jimmy Page and Lennon and McCartney all found inspiration and nominal success in this new scene.

We want to hear from skiffle fans, regular visitors to venues such as The 2i's Coffee Bar and those with memories of the highs and lows of life in the post-war decade.

57 minutes

Last on

Wed 23 Jan 2013 22:00

Share your comments and stories

Your contributions will play a key part in this episode, take a look at the questions below and send us your thoughts:

  • Did you hang out in coffee houses listening to singles on the jukebox?
  • Did you or your friends play in a skiffle band?
  • Did you prefer the trad jazz revival to the noisy skiffle bands
  • Did you see any of the American blues artists when they toured the UK

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