The roots of skif­fle

Billy Bragg ex­plores Bri­tish mu­sic craze in ‘Roots, Rad­i­cals and Rock­ers’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY LAU­REN LA ROSE

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.’’

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