Glasgow musician who inspired The Beatles, Dire Straits, Queen and more

Lonnie Donegan and the Shakin' Pyramids <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Lonnie Donegan and the Shakin' Pyramids (Image: Newsquest)

THE stars who turned out for Glasgow-born musician Lonnie Donegan’s memorial service included Brian May, Mark Knopfler and Bill Wyman.

Lonnie died 20 years ago this week, on November 3, 2002, leaving a legacy of work that is second to none, and a huge hole in the British music scene.

Glasgow Times: Lonnie Donegan
Glasgow Times: Lonnie Donegan

Lonnie Donegan (Image: Newsquest)

The Bridgeton-born singer was the king of skiffle and the founding father of British pop. His mother was Irish, his father was Scottish and a violinist who once played with the Scottish National Orchestra, and later joined the Merchant Navy.

In 1933, the family moved to London, where the teenage Donegan learned to play the guitar and the banjo, and formed the Anthony Donegan - later Tony Donegan - Jazz Band, which he financed through part-time delivery work for a photographer.

Donegan changed his name to Lonnie after his idol, the American blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson, with whom he had once played.

READ MORE: Look back at our pictures of Glasgow clubs in the 90s and Noughties

Between 1956 and 1962 he had recorded an incredible 26 hits, including Rock Island Line, an old American song – and other classics like Cumberland Gap and My Old Man’s a Dustman.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

In 1959, his song Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour On The Bedpost Overnight reached number three in the British charts, and number five in the United States, selling a million copies.

Music historian Peter Doggett in his book, Electric Shock, says: “Sales of acoustic guitars soared during 1956, mothers’ washboards were ‘borrowed’ for their percussive effect, and schoolboys learned how to manufacture an upright bass from an old tea chest and some string... Donegan’s success prompted an outbreak of teenage music-making unprecedented in the nation’s history.”

Thousands of these groups were launched – among them, The Peepel, seen here entertaining holidaymakers on a beach in Millport in July 1957.

Glasgow Times: The Peepel performing in Millport. Pic: Newsquest
Glasgow Times: The Peepel performing in Millport. Pic: Newsquest

The Peepel performing in Millport. Pic: Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

In Liverpool, Donegan inspired the Quarrymen, featuring one John Lennon, which of course later evolved into The Beatles…

Lonnie died, aged 71, while on tour, after spending his later years performing in cabaret and in skiffle revival shows.

Stars attending the memorial service at St Paul's Church in Covent Garden six months later, also performed at the event.

Brian May, of Queen, sang I'm Just A Rolling Stone, accompanied by Donegan's son, Peter, and his group. And there was a rollicking finale when they performed Have A Drink On Me.

Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straits, said after the ceremony that Lonnie was responsible for inspiring a number of stars, including May and Sir Paul McCartney, to take an interest in music.

He added: ''It was Lonnie got me started - his were the first records that I bought, or got my mum to buy.''

Also present was Mo Mowlam, former Northern Ireland secretary, who said: ''He was a friend of mine, it was a very moving service.''