The Scottish singer born Anthony James Donegan was a fan of Blues and Country music, and played guitar around the London clubs in the early 50s. He joined Chris Barber‘s Band as they brought new kinds of American music to Britain, but he was drafted into the Army and sent to Germany where he met lots more Americans and listened to AFN radio. After discharge, he formed the Tony Donegan Jazz Band, but after opening a gig for Lonnie Johnson in London, he changed his name in tribute to the masterful guitarist. A leading light in the ‘skiffle’ movement of home-made music, Lonnie’s first record was a cover of Leadbelly‘s ‘Rock Island Line’ with ‘John Henry’ on the B-side. The single went gold in Britain and made the US Top Ten. Lonnie appeared on European and US television and recorded his first album, including songs by Leadbelly and Leroy Carr. He had a lot of hit records in Britain when he cut some commercially successful novelty songs, but the arrival of bands like The Beatles and Rolling Stones, with their strong adaptations of Blues and R&B, buried his career. He played the British and US cabaret circuits for many years, living in Miami and later in Spain, and in 1994 he took part in a 40th Anniversary Tour with Chris Barber. In 2000 he joined Van Morrison to record ‘The Skiffle Sessions’ with Dr. John as a guest. Lonnie died from a heart attack while on tour in 2002.
Lonnie and Chris Barber sing ‘Over the New Burying Ground’;