Skiffle Music

As Fandango says, ‘Same difference’, so instead of ‘Up Around the Corner’, I have ‘Down on the Corner’, where Willy and the Poorboys enjoy playing on street corners to cheer people up and they ask for nickels in return for their entertainment.  Years ago in rural America social gatherings would often take place on the courthouse steps and it would be natural to see four kids on the corner trying to bring you up, or lift up your spirits with their music.  Around the same time that The Beatles took the role of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Creedence became Willy And The Poorboys.

You can match the fictional musicians in this song to the Creedence musicians, where Willy is John Fogerty and he plays the harp, Poorboy is Tom Fogerty and he plays a low budget Kalamazoo instrument that could be a flat top or lap steel guitar, a banjo or a mandolin, Blinky is Stu Cook playing gut bass, Rooster is Doug Clifford playing the washboard, however I am not sure who Gersta or Lucas are.  A jug band employs a jug player (someone that blows into a bottle or a jug) along with a mix of conventional and homemade instruments.  These homemade instruments are ordinary objects adapted to or modified for making sound, like the washtub bass, washboard, spoons, bones, stovepipe, and comb and tissue paper (kazoo).  The term jug band is loosely used when referring to ensembles that also incorporate homemade instruments but that are more accurately called skiffle bands because they do not include a jug player.  CCR often played Skiffle music before the time when they became successful.

Skiffle is a style of music played on rudimentary instruments, first popularized in the United States in the 1920s but revived by British musicians in the mid-1950s.  The term was originally applied to music played by jug bands (in addition to jugs, these bands featured guitars, banjos, harmonicas, kazoos, tin flutes, woodblocks, and slide whistles), first in Louisville, Kentucky, as early as 1905 and then more prominently in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1920s and ’30s.  It is also used to describe mixtures of blues, boogie woogie, and other popular black music.  In the Britain of the impoverished post-World War II years, young musicians were delighted to discover a style that could be played on a cheap guitar, a washboard scraped with thimbles and it remained popular until the style was replaced by rock & roll at the end of the decade.  One of the pivotal performances in Skiffle music was done by Lonnie Donegan in his 1954 cover of Lead Belly’s “Rock Island Line”, which Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin later described as a song that changed his life.  The entire genre of Skiffle music was transformative in that it opened the door for The Beatles, Van Morrison and other Brit rock bands that followed.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down on the Corner (Ed Sullivan Show Live 1969)

Early in the evening, just about supper time
Over by the courthouse, they’re starting to unwind
Four kids on the corner, trying to bring you up
Willy picks a tune out, and he blows it on the harp.
CHORUS:
Down on the corner, out in the street
Willy and the Poorboys are playing
Bring a nickel, tap your feet.
Rooster hits the washboard and people just got to smile
Blink thumps the gut bass and solos for awhile
Poorboy twangs the rhythm out on his kalamazoo
And Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo.
(CHORUS)
You don’t need a penny just to hang around
But if you got a nickel, won’t you lay your money down
Over on the corner, there’s a happy noise
People come from all around, to watch the magic boy.
(CHORUS)
Early in the evenin’ just about supper time
Over by the courthouse, they’re startin’ to unwind.
Poor kids on the corner try to bring you up.
Willy picks a tune out and he blows it on the hum.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
Gersta hits the white bow. People just gotta smile.
Lucas thumbs a gut-bass, yeah, solos for a while.
Poor boy brings the rhythm out on his kalamazoo
And Willy goes into a dance; doubles on his lou.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
You don’t need a penny just to hang around,
But if you got a nickel, won’t ya lay your money down?
Over on the corner there’s a happy noise.
People come from all around to watch the magic boy.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
Down on the corner, out in the street,
Willy and the poor boys are playin’;
Bring a nickel. Tap your feet.
Down on the corner, out in the street

Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday Writing Prompt – Select a Heading

9 thoughts on “Skiffle Music

    1. The band split up at the end of 1972 and Tom Fogerty died in 1990. John Fogerty refused to perform with the two other surviving members Cook and Clifford at CCR’s 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, Jim that was a trip down memory lane. I grew up listening to Lonnie Donnigan’s My Old Man’s a Dustman and the first album I bought was a CCR one. Thanks for the great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael, I am glad that you enjoyed my post. You must be a tad bit older than I thought you were as this was way before my time. I actually never heard of Lonnie Donegan before I started writing this. I just listened to My Old Man’s a Dustman and I found it very entertaining.

      Liked by 1 person

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