The roots of skiffle
Billy Bragg explores British music craze in ‘Roots, Radicals and Rockers’
Skiffle may have been shortlived, but Billy Bragg says the 1950s British music craze that laid the groundwork for bands like the Beatles is deserving of greater recognition in the annals of pop history.
The British folk-punk icon turned music historian for his new book “Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World’’ (Faber and Faber), which explores the origins of the music phenomenon.
Bragg traces skiffle’s roots across the Atlantic to the U.S., where the guitar-driven British sound drew on influences from early 20th century American jazz, folk and blues.
“It’s a paradox, but they were trying to use music from the past to build a bridge to the future — and they kind of do,’’ the singer-songwriter said in an interview.
“They built a bridge that crossed the Atlantic and got them on the American charts.’’
Bragg looks at the British artists who were instrumental in giving rise to skiffle, such as New Orleans jazz devotee Ken Colyer. Lonnie Donegan helped kick-start the movement in earnest when he scored a chart smash in the U.K. and U.S. with “Rock Island Line.’’