Anthony James "Lonnie" Donegan MBE (29 April 1931 – 3 November 2002 was a skiffle musician, with more than 20 UK Top 30 hits to his name. He is known as the "King of Skiffle" and is often cited as a large influence on the generation of British musicians who became famous in the 1960s. The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums states Donegan was "Britain's most successful and influential recording artist before The Beatles. He chalked up 24 successive Top 30 hits, and was the first UK male to score two U.S. Top 10s.
Born as Anthony James Donegan in Bridgeton, Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a professional violinist who had played with the Scottish National Orchestra, he moved with his family in 1933 to East Ham, Essex (now in Greater London). Donegan was evacuated to Cheshire to escape the Blitz in World War II, and he attended St Ambrose College, initially at the school's original site in Dunham Road, Altrincham. Donegan recorded sporadically during the 1960s, including some sessions at Hickory Records in Nashville, Tennessee with Charlie McCoy, Floyd Cramer and The Jordanaires. After 1964, he was primarily occupied as a record producer for most of the decade at Pye Records. Among those he worked with during this period was Justin Hayward. Donegan was unfashionable and generally ignored through the late 1960s and 1970s (although he wrote "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" for Tom Jones in 1967), and he began to play on the American cabaret circuit. A notable departure from his normal style was an a cappella recording of "The Party's Over". There was a reunion concert with the original Chris Barber band in Croydon in June 1975 - notable for a bomb scare, meaning that the recording had to be finished in the studio, though patrons were treated to an impromptu concert in the car park. The resultant release was entitled The Great Re-Union Album. He suffered his first heart attack in 1976 while in the United States and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He returned to the public's attention in 1978, when he made a record of his early songs with such figures as Ringo Starr, Elton John and Brian May called Putting on the Style. A follow-up album featuring Albert Lee saw Donegan working in a less familiar country and western vein. By 1980, he was making regular concert appearances again, and another album with Barber followed. In 1983 Donegan toured with Billie Jo Spears, and in 1984, he made his theatrical debut in a revival of the 1920 musical Mr. Cinders. More concert tours followed, along with a move from Florida to Spain. In 1992 Donegan underwent further bypass surgery following another heart attack.
In 1994, the Chris Barber band celebrated 40 years, with a tour with both bands. Pat Halcox was still on trumpet (a position he retained until July 2008). The reunion concert and the tour were recorded on CD and DVD.
Donegan experienced another late renaissance when in 2000 he appeared on Van Morrison's album The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast 1998, a critically acclaimed album featuring Donegan sharing vocals with Van Morrison and also featuring Chris Barber, with a guest appearance by Dr. John. Donegan also played at the Glastonbury Festival, and was awarded the MBE in 2000. Donegan's final CD was This Y'ere the Story. Donegan married three times. He had two daughters by his first wife, Maureen Tyler (divorced 1962), a son and a daughter by his second wife, Jill Westlake (divorced 1971), and three sons by his third wife, Sharon, whom he married in 1977. He was the second cousin three times removed of the Scottish Gaelic Footballer, Chris Pendergast. Mark Knopfler released a tribute song to Donegan entitled "Donegan's Gone" on his 2004 album, Shangri-La, and said that he was one of his greatest musical influences. Donegan's music formed the basis for a musical starring his two sons. Lonnie D - The Musical took its name from the Chas & Dave tribute song which started the show. Subsequently, Peter Donegan formed a new band that performed his father's material and has since linked up with his father's band from the last 30 years with newcomer Eddie Masters on bass. They released an album together in 2009 entitled "Here We Go Again". Donegan's eldest son, Anthony, also formed his own band, under the name Lonnie Donegan Jnr. On his album A Beach Full of Shells, Al Stewart paid tribute to Donegan in the song "Katherine of Oregon". Additionally, in the song "Class of '58", he describes a seminal British entertainer who is either Donegan or a composite including him. Lonnie Donegan died in 2002, aged 71, after suffering a heart attack in Market Deeping mid-way through a UK tour and shortly before he was due to perform at a memorial concert for George Harrison with The Rolling Stones. He had suffered from cardiac problems since the 1970s and had several heart attacks in his last years.
Lonnie Donegan in the 1970s
|Birth name||Anthony James Donegan|
|Also known as||The King of Skiffle|
|Born||29 April 1931|
|Died||3 November 2002 (aged 71)|
|Genres||Skiffle, traditional pop music,blues, folk, country|
|Occupations||Musician, singer, songwriter|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, banjo|
|Years active||Late 1940s–2002|
United Artists Records
|Associated acts||Tony Donegan Jazz Band|
Chris Barber's Jazz Band
Lonnie Donegan's Skiffle Group