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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Dan Zanes & Billy Bragg Cover Leadbelly's 'Rock Island Line'

Not the first cover - after Kelly Pace, Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan...

From Billboard, listen - Dan Zanes and Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry

John Lennon version

Lennon and McCartney

Carl Perkins

Original 1934 John Lomax recording of 'Rock Island Line' by Kelly Pace and Prisoners

Billy Bragg's Diary: would Harry Potter have voted for Brexit? New Statesman

A skiffler’s trip to the library

"I’m in Washington, DC, to deliver a talk at the Library of Congress on skiffle, the 1950s roots music craze that introduced the guitar to UK pop music and acted as a nursery for the British invasion of the US charts. The movement began in January 1956, when Lonnie Donegan scored his first hit single with a cover of Lead Belly’s classic railroad song “Rock Island Line”.

I’ve been invited to speak at this august institution because many of the skifflers were sourcing their material from the Library of Congress recordings, which were available to borrow from the United States Information Service at the embassy in Grosvenor Square, London. The library archivists have a special treat for me: the brown paper sleeve of the original recording of “Rock Island Line” made by John A Lomax, assisted by Lead Belly, at Cummins prison farm near Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1934. The ten-inch shellac disc they cut that day is stored elsewhere, but the sleeve, bearing Lomax’s handwritten notes, is removed from its protective folder and passed to me. I become acutely aware that I’m holding in my hands an artefact from the earliest moments of the genesis of British pop music".

Update, just discovered (November 2017): Rock Island Line: Leadbelly, Lonnie Donegan, and John Lennon, Tim Londergan (a professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Indiana University-Bloomington)

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