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Live Ledge #299: Skiffle

Last year, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry put out a charming album of covers called “Shine a Light”. To record this record, they boarded a train in Chicago and headed to L.A. On the way they recorded a bunch of train songs at various stops on the trip. Sometimes in train station waiting rooms. Sometimes at trackside. A song or two was even recorded in the very same hotel room that Robert Johnson recorded his legendary tunes.
One of the songs they recorded - “Rock Island Line”, one of the most important songs in British music history. A few weeks ago, a new book by Bragg called Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World tells the story of “Rock Island Line” and everything that resulted from its release.

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We’ve always been led to believe that British R&R began with the Beatles, Stones, etc, and they were influenced by Chuck Berry and American blues. Those influences aren’t entirely wrong, but the Big Bang actually happened a few years earlier with Skiffle. Charlie Watts, …

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