Jimmy Page, aged 14, appeared on television playing guitar in a well-groomed schoolboy skiffle combo. ‘And are you going to continue to play skiffle when you leave school?’ asked the interviewer earnestly. ‘Er, no,’ replied Page politely, ‘I want to do biological research’ – which indeed he did, sort of.
He’s relatively little remembered outside of England, but Donegan shares an important professional attribute with Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Sex Pistols — he invented a style of music, skiffle, that completely altered the pop culture landscape and the youth around him, and for a time, completely ruled popular music through that new form. What’s more, his music, like that of Presley and Haley, was vital to the early musical careers and future histories of the Beatles, the Stones, and hundreds of other groups. And he did it in 1954, before Elvis was known anywhere outside of Memphis and before Bill Haley was perceived as anything but a Western swing novelty act.