From the Land of Band Box Records

Skiffle….Everybody Skiffle!

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Skiffle music grew directly out of traditional jazz – New Orleans style, driven by Ken and Billy Colyer and their devotion to the form.  It was through the Crane River Band and subsequently Chris Barber’s assemblage that Skiffle first emerged – via the “breakdown” sessions which were spontaneous in-between sets by Chris Barber band members (sometimes joined by others) playing country, blues and folk inspired numbers primarily out of the U.S..

These sessions came to feature a prominent guitar lead – up front for the first time – with Lonnie Donegan leading the way – and joined by a double bass and sometimes improvised instruments such as a washboard.  These breakdown presentations were wild and woolly and captured the imagination of young audiences who were looking for alternatives to their parent’s music.

Rent Party! The First Skiffles…

Image result for rent parties great depressionThe term “skiffle” ironically had it’s roots in the U.S. when neighbors in urban centers would rally together to raise funds for a fellow resident in order to meet the landlord’s demand for the monthly rent.  Often times the landlords would actually join in and support these fund raisers, providing food and drink, and the local surrounding community would bring the music.

The music provided was not the skiffle that Great Britain would first witness, but more likely blues and rural folk mixed with R&B and traditional tunes.  Bill Colyer first borrowed the term for his writings in the U.K. which were often submitted to the publication “Melody Maker” and often based on the correspondence he was receiving from his brother Ken, who had ventured into New Orleans to experience traditional jazz first hand.  Ken’s journey was abruptly terminated when local New Orleans’ authorities arrested him for repeated violation of unwritten ‘Jim Crow’ laws – namely mixing with black musicians in the city’s jazz quarter.

Skiffle made a tremendous impression on the youth of Great Britain, not so much in record sales or chart performances, but more for the dramatic excitement it generated live, and encouraged thousands of young Brits – mostly males – to rally to the call.

It has been estimated that by 1957 tens of thousands of skiffle combos had formed – perhaps as many as 50 or 60 thousand!  Guitar sales went off the charts, with a demand in 1957/58 for nearly a quarter million of the instruments up from a small fraction of that number just a year or so earlier.

Skiflle would naturally morph directly into rock and roll quickly and thus only enjoyed about a three-year run – pretty much a bygone genre by late 1958 with some exceptions.  The U.S. would not really come to appreciate skiffle – with only a few examples breaking through – and those perceived as novelty numbers more or less (think “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor…..”).

Skiffle was born in Britain just as rock and roll was born the U.S.A..  The U.S. and the U.K. would find common ground between the two with the advent of the Beat Groups – and all of us would be treated to what would follow……  perhaps the most exciting time in the history of music!.

Crane River Jazz Band (1949)

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  • Ken Colyer – (trumpet)
  • Ron Bowden (drums)
  • Chris Barber (trombone/bass)
  • Tony Donegan (guitar)
  • Jim Bray (bass)
  • John R.T. Davies
  • Julian Davies
  • Bill Colyer (filled in temporarily for Bowden on drums)
  • Monty Sunshine – later with Chris Barber then formed his own band
  • Chas McDevitt – later formed his own Skiffle Band

Crane River Jazz Band Skiffle-Era Selected Discography

(Note – The Crane River Jazz Band did not place any recordings on the British Charts).

78 10-Inch – Ristic 3 – 1953

45 – Parlophone MSP 6008 – March, 1953

78 10-Inch – Melodisc 1030 – 1956

45 EP – Melodisc EPM 7-59 – 1956

45 EP – Parlophone GEP 8652 – 1957

LP – 77 Records 77 LP-4 – 1957

Chris Barber and His New Orleans Jazz Band (1950)

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  • Chris Barber (trombone)
  • Alex Korner (electric guitar)
  • Tony Donegan (gutiar) – formerly with the Bill Brunskill Jazz Band
  • Monty Sunshine (clarinet) – later formed the Monty Sunshine Band
  • Jim Bray (bass)
  • Ron Bowden (drums)
  • Marty Ashman (bass) later with Lonnie Donegan
  • Johnny Duncan (guitar) later formed Johnny Duncan & His Blue Grass Boys

Visit the Chris Barber’s Jazz Band Skiffle-Era Selected Discography – thru 1958 – Click Here

Ken Colyer’s All-Stars (February, 1953)

In London. Left to right: Ken Colyer; Alex Korner; Lonnie Donegan; Bill Colyer (on washboard); and Chris Barber on bass for First Skiffle Breakdown

  • Ken Colyer (trumpet)
  • Ron Bowden (drums)
  • Chris Barber (trombone)
  • Jim Bray (bass)
  • Lonnie Donegan

Breakdown skiffle segment adding:

  • Bill Coyler (washboard)
  • Alex Korner (guitar)

Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen (June, 1954)

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  • Ken Colyer (trumpet)
  • Ed O’ Donnell (trombone)
  • Bernard “Acker” Bilk (clarinet)
  • Diz Disley (banjo)
  • Dick Smith (bass)
  • Stan Gregg (drums)

Bob Watson Skiffle Band – August, 1955

Ealing, West London

  • Bob Watson  (guitar)
  • Adrian Brand (bass)
  • Cyril Davies (banjo/12 string guitar) – Occasionally sat in

The Southern Skiffle Group – 1955

  • Ron Gould

Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Band – January, 1956

  • Lonnie Donegan (vocals/guitar)
  • Dickie Bishop (vocals/guitar)
  • Chris Barber (bass)
  • Ron Bowden (bass)

45 EP – Pye Nixa NJE 1017 – 1956

Visit the Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle-Era Selected Discography thru 1958 by clicking here

The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group (with Nancy Whiskey) – January, 1956

Formed at a venue called “The Metropolitan” in London.  The McDevitt group was embroiled in somewhat of a controversy when they recorded “Freight Train” a song penned by an African American maid from the Seeger household – and did not give her composing credits – instead making up a couple of names and taking those royalties – Folk singer Pete Seeger took up her cause and lobbied for her rights – eventually obtaining a settlement.

In fairness to Chas and company, they wouldn’t have known the composer of Freight Train.

Nancy Whiskey remained with the group for only about a half year – moving back to folk and away from skiffle which was never her cup of tea.

  • Chas McDevitt (banjo) – formerly with the Crane River Jazz Band and The High Curley Stompers
  • Nancy Whiskey (vocals)
  • Pete Timiett (piano)
  • Marc Sharrat (washboard)
  • Denny Carter (guitar) – Went to the Oldtimers Skiffle Group
  • Jimmie MaGregor
  • Alex Whitehouse (guitar) Went to the Oldtimers Skiffle Group
  • Shirley Douglas (vocals) – Replaced Nancy Whiskey
  • Tony Kohn
  • Lennie Harrison
  • Bill Bramwell (bass)

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Visit the Chas McDevitt Skiffle-Era Selected Discography thru 1958 by clicking here

The John Hasted Skiffle & Folksong Group – April, 1956

Performed at the Forty-four  Skiffle and Folksong Club in Picadilly – The band lasted with several lineup changes until 1959.

  • John Hasted (guitar/banjo)
  • John Cole (harmonica)
  • Paul Fineberg (clarinet)
  • Dennis Finn (washboard)
  • Chaim Morris (double bass)
  • Judith Goldblum (vocals)
  • Redd Sullivan (vocals)
  • Shirley Collins (vocals)

John Hasted Skiffle-Era Discography

78 – Topic TRC 100 – 1956

(Topic was the label in Great Britain backed by the Communist Party)

The Ramblers – April, 1956

  • Peggy Seeger (banjo)
  • Jim Bray (stand-up bass)
  • Sandy Brown (clarinet)
  • Alan Lomax (guitar)
  • Bryan Daley (guitar)
  • Shirley Collins (vocals)
  • Ewan MacColl (vocals)

The Vipers – June, 1956

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First performed as an amateur group at the Breadbasket – a coffee shop located in Soho

  • Johnny Booker (guitar)
  • Jean Van den Bosch (guitar)
  • Wally Whyton (piano)
  • John Pilgrim (washboard)
  • Freddy Lloyd (guitar) – replaced Bosch
  • Tony Tolhurst (stand-up bass)Later members all later of The Shadows
  • Hank Marvin
  • Jet Harris
  • Tony Meehan

Visit The Vipers Skiffle-Era Selected Discography 1956 thru 1958 by Clicking Here

Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group – September, 1956

(This is the band Lonnie formed upon his return from the United States tour – having departed the Chris Barber Jazz Band earlier)

  • Lonnie Donegan (guitar)
  • Mickey Ashman (bass)
  • Nick Nicholls (drums)
  • Johnny Booker (guitar)
  • Denny Wright (guitar) filling in for Booker at the first recording session

Visit the Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle-Era Selected Discography thru 1958 by clicking here

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Ray Bush & the Avon Cities Skiffle – 1956

  • Ray Bush (guitar)
  • Wayne Chandler (guitar)
  • Mike Hitchins (mandolin)
  • Geoff Nicholls (bass)
  • Basil Wright (washboard)
  • Jan Ridd (piano)
  • Malcolm Wright (bass)

In 1960 they became the Avon Cities Jazz Band

45 EP – Tempo EXA 40 – 1956

45 – Tempo A 146 – September, 1956

45 – Tempo A 151 – December, 1956

45 EP – Tempo EXA 50 – December, 1956

45 – Tempo A 157 – 1957

Beryl Bryden’s Back Room Skiffle – December, 1956

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  • Beryl Bryden
  • Alex Korner
  • Cyril Davies

78/45 – Decca F 10823 – December, 1956

The Barnstormers Spasm Band – 1956

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  • John Gunn, vocals and kazoo
  • James Robinson, guitar
  • John Denning, banjo
  • Peter Wadley, double bass
  • John Wadley, harmonica and vocals
  • Brian Rust, drums
  • John R T Davies, washboard and percussion

45 – Parlophone R 4416 – March, 1958

The Monty Sunshine Band – 1957

DickieBishopMonty Sunshine

  • Rod Mason (trumpet)
  • Dickie Bishop (guitar)
  • Monty Sunshine (clarinet) – Was with Crane River Jazz Band and Chris Barber Jazz Band
  • Nick Nicholls (drums)
  • Geoff Sowden (trombone)
  • Johnny Parker (piano)
  • Gerry Salisbury (bass)
  • Eddie Smith (bass)

Monty Sunshine Skiffle Era Selected Discography

45 – Pye Nixa 7NJ.2020 – November, 1957 – B Side is Chris Barber’s Jazz Band

45 – Pye Nixa NJE.1050 – April, 1958

The City Ramblers Skiffle Group – 1957

Waterloo U.K.

  • Hylda Sims (guitar)
  • John Pilgrim (washboard)
  • John Lapthorne (tub bass)
  • Russell Quay (guitar)

Additional Members

  • Jimmie MacGregor (guitar)
  • Bobby Taylor (blue blower)
  • Victor Pitt (bass)
  • Eric Bunyan (fiddle)
  • Shirley Bland (washboard)
  • Chris Bateson (blue blower)
  • Pete Maynard (tub bass)

The City Ramblers Skiffle Era Selected Discography

45 EP – Tempo EXA 59 – 1956

Contents:  I Want a Girl/2:29 Blues/Mama Don’t Allow/900 Miles

45 – Tempo A 161 – August, 1957

45 EP – Temp 572/3 – August, 1957

45 – Tempo A/165 – October, 1957

Alexis Korner Skiffle Group

  • Alexis Korner (guitar)
  • Cyril Davies (guitar) (misspelled on EP)
  • Mike Collins (washboard)
  • Chris Capoon (bass)
  • Dave Stevens (piano)

EP – Tempo EXA 76 – December, 1957

45 – Temp A 166 – May, 1958

Peggy Seeger (and others) – 1957

Peggy Seeger was born in 1935 in the U.S. – a family member of the musical Seegers which included father Charles, song composer and mother Ruth Crawford Seeger, brother Mike Seeger and half-brother Pete Seeger.  She made her way to the U.K. via Europe landing in the Skiffle movement.

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Peggy Seeger Skiffle Era Selected Discography (U.K.)


  • Isla Cameron
  • Penny Seeger
  • Barbara Seeger
  • Guy Carawan

45 EP – Pye Jazz NJE 1043 – November, 1957

45 EP – Topic 7T18 – 1958

(Topic Records was a record company headed up by the Communist Party in Great Britain – usually providing their recordings via mail order)

45 EP – Topic TOP 38 – 1958

LP – Prestige International INT 13029 – 1958 (U.S. Pressing)

The Bob Cort Skiffle Group – January, 1957

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  • Bob Cort (guitar)
  • Liz Winters (vocals)
  • Ken Sykora (guitar)
  • Bill Coyler (washboard)

Visit The Bob Cort Skiffle Group Skiffle-Era Selected Discography 1956 thru 1958 by Clicking Here

The Ghouls – Early 1957

The Ghouls started playing skiffle at the London coffee house “Orlando’s” and at an establishment called “The Heaven and Hell”.  The group did not release any recordings.  Faith Maitland was the leader and other members not known

The Eddie Clayton Skiffle Band – 1957

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First named the “Eddie Miles Band” and then “Eddie Clayton and the Clayton Squares” this Skiffle band included the future FAB Four drummer Ringo!  In 1959 Ringo joined “Al Caldwell’s Texans” another Skiffle group.

  • Ringo Starr (drums/box)
  • Roy Trafford (guitar)
  • Eddie Miles (guitar)

Guy Carawan – 1957

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45 EP – 77 Records EP/7 – 1957

45 – Pye Nixa 7N 15132 – March, 1958 (with the Dave Lee Players and Singers)

Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys – 1957

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Duncan purposely named the group to put a bit of distance between himself and Skiffle – but Skiffle they did!

  • Johnny Duncan (guitar) earlier with the Chris Barber Jazz Band
  • Bryan Davy (guitar)
  • Jack Fallon (bass)
  • Danny Levan (violin)
  • Sandy Brown (clarinet)
  • Roy Young (piano)
  • Lennie Hastings (drums)

Visit the Johnny Duncan & His Blue Grass Boys Skiffle-Era Selected Discography – thru 1958 – Click Here

Les Hobeaux Skiffle Group – 1957

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  • Les Bennetts (guitar)
  • Keith Lardner (vocals)

45 EP – His Master’s Voice 7EG 8297 – 1957

45 – His Master’s Voice POP 377 – 1957

45 – His Master’s Voice POP 403 – 1957

45 – His Master’s Voice POP 444 – 1958

The Station Skiffle Group – 1957

Became “Jimmy Miller and the Barbeques”

  • Mike Hodge (accordion)
  • Peter Hions (washboard)
  • Mike Jarvie (banjo)
  • Jim Miller (guitar)
  • Johnnie Reid (one string bass)

45 EP – Esquire EP 161 – 1957

The Eden Street Skiffle Group – 1957

Image result for the eden street skiffle groupTHE EDEN STREET SKIFFLE GROUP POPULAR SKIFFLE ALBUM No 1 1957 10 78rpm FLEXIS

They recorded a series of flex discs for the Headquarter and General Supplies Ltd. company

  • Brian Jackman (guitar)
  • Ron Lawrence (guitar)
  • Hamisch Maxwell (guitar)
  • Micky Hopkins (mandolin)
  • John Williard (bass)
  • Bob Jones (washboard)

Dickie Bishop & His Sidekicks – Spring, 1957

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Bishop had performed with Chris Barber in his side group or “breakdown” skiffle group and then joined Lonnie Donegan’s band before forming the Sidekicks in 1957.

  • Dickie Bishop (guitar)
  • Bob Watson (guitar)

Bishop was with Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Band and Monty Sunshine’s Skiffle Band earlier on.

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45 EP – Pye Jazz Nixa 1025 – 1956

This EP is from Bishop’s time with Chris Barber along with Johnny Duncan.  Bishop took Lonnie Donegan’s place in the Barber group taking vocals.

78/45 – Decca F 10869 – March, 1957

45 – Decca F 10959 – November, 1957

45 – Decca RSX 1094 – 1958

45 – Decca F 10981 – 1958

Jimmy Jackson – 1957

45 EP – Columbia SEG 7750 – 1957

45 – Columbia DB 3957 – June, 1957

45 – Columbia DB 3937 – May, 1957

45 – Columbia DB 3957 – June, 1957

Betty Smith’s Skiffle – Summer, 1957

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  • Betty Smith (sax)
  • Brian Lemon (piano)
  • Stan Bourke (drums)
  • Jack Peabody (bass)
  • Barry Phillips (guitar)
  • Terry Walsh (guitar)

45 – Tempo A 162 – August, 1957

The Frog Island Skiffle Group – 1957

(Musicians unknown)

45 EP – 77 Records EP/4 – 1957

Dick James – 1957

By no means a main stream skiffle musician – but here is his 1957 entry – We don’t know who the “Skiffle Group” is here.

45 – Parlophone R 4375 – December, 1957

The 2.19 Skiffle Group – 1957

The 2.19 Skiffle Group from Gillingham Kent had a rather revolving line-up fronted by Mik Lauder and Mike Wallace.  They were named after a Louis Armstrong composition “2.19 Blues” from 1941.

  • Mike Wallace (guitar)
  • Len Harris (bass)
  • Mik Lauder (guitar)
  • Idle Bill Smith (washboard)
  • Jack McCormack (bass)
  • Davey Chandler (washboard)
  • Fred Cogger (bass)
  • Vic Pitt (bass)

45 EP – Esquire EP 126 – 1957

45 EP – Esquire EP 146 – 1957

45 EP – Esquire EP 176 – 1957

45 EP – Esquire EP 196 – 1958

The Delta Skiffle Group – 1958

45 EP – Esquire EP 162 – 1958

The Hallelujah Skiffle Group – Spring, 1958

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Fronted by singer Ian George Stopford Harrison out of Salford Lanchashire he would become Clinton Ford in “The Blackwood Skiffle Group” prior to coming on with “The Hallelujah Skiffle Group”.  Post skiffle he would move on as a solo performer.

45 – Oriole 1429 – March, 1958

Al Caldwell’s Texans – March, 1958

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Rory Storm & Hurricanes

This group was formed by Alan Ernest Caldwell who would later become known as Rory Storm.  His group was first called “Dracula and the Werewolves” –  Emerging into the rock scene Caldwell’s group became “Al Storm and the Hurricanes”, then “Jett Storm and the Hurricanes” before settling on “Rory Storm and the Hurricanes” where the drummer Richard Starkey would join up.

  • Alan Caldwell (guitar)
  • Paul Murphy (guitar)
  • Johnny Byrne (guitar)
  • Reg Hale (washboard)
  • Jeff Truman (tea-chest bass)


The Coffee Bar Skifflers – Spring, 1958

Speculation that this was Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey

45 EP – Embassy WEP 1008 – May, 1958


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