Golden Age Of Donegan Vol 1 and Vol 2, 1962/3, released on Pye Golden Guinea Label, value £20 each and rising rapidly

AT THIS precise moment in time, sales of vinyl records have reached an unprecedented level, writes MICHAEL BROOKS. Record labels are rushing to release not just new releases but also reissues of old recordings. Some are being delayed due to a temporary shortage of plastic vinyl that I am sure will be rectified soon. The current trend in the vinyl world is for box collections, mainly of older material. Just about every artists back catalogue is out on vinyl apart from these two classic albums. A year or two ago, one might have come across these albums by Lonnie Donegan in a charity shop going for a £1 or so; they are now rocketing in value.

Lonnie Donegan (1931-2002) was arguably Britain's first rock star. He began his musical career as a banjo player in traditional jazz bands in the early fifties. He established himself in the Chris Barber Jazz Band as a guitarist and began singing American folk tunes. His version of the song Rock Island Line first featured on Barber's 1954 album New Orleans Jazz. It was issued the following year under his own name and became a top ten hit in both the UK and USA making him the first British singer to appear in the American music charts. This song became the foundation of what became known as the skiffle craze; teenagers, desperate to break away from the musical conventions of their parents were looking for something different, and skiffle gave them a voice of their own. Skiffle evolved from a trad-jazz environment, the main difference was the music was improvised. This became music that anybody could play: a tea chest with a broom handle and a piece of string became a double bass, a washboard was played with thimbles over the fingers (borrowed from mum's sewing kit). But it was the prominence of the guitar that drew attention. It was rough, amateurish at first, but easy to play, you just learned three chords and you were away. The skiffle craze spread like wildfire as young people projected themselves through their own music. Sales of guitars went from 5,000 in a year to 250,000 in a very short time as skiffle laid the foundations of the great rock music of the 1960s and 70s.

Lonnie became known as the King Of Skiffle. Between 1956-62 he had 34 chart hits, including three number one hits. Putting On The Style sold more than a million. His impact on popular music cannot be under estimated as he virtually kick-started the British rock industry.