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Billy Bragg Skiffle


FRESH AIR: It’s hard to believe, but before the 1950s, guitars were rarely heard in British music. Billy Bragg says the first guitars to hit the British pop scene came as a part of skiffle, a musical movement inspired by African-American roots musicians.Bragg, who’s written a book on skiffle called Roots, Radicals And Rockers, describes the genre as “a bunch of British school boys in the mid-’50s playing Lead Belly’s repertoire… on acoustic guitars.” One of the most pivotal performances was Lonnie Donegan’s 1954 cover of Lead Belly’s “Rock Island Line,” which Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin later described as a song that changed his life. But Bragg notes that the entire genre was transformative in that it opened the door for The Beatles, Van Morrison and other Brit rock bands that followed. MORE

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