|An Elvis Guitar From
"The YMCA on Penn Road was one
place you could go in those days and hear local skiffle
groups play. It was quite a competitive thing with each
of the groups trying to come up with a new American folk
song or something which no-one had heard before."
Donegan had a style of his own that's certainly true. I
used to buy all of his records. I've still got original
versions of things like Cumberland Gap, Puttin' On The
Style. Battle Of New Orleans etc. Most of the local
skiffle groups would make attempts at such numbers. I
remember the Black Diamonds doing Rock Island Line. It
was somewhere like the Milk Bar in Market Street where I
think I first heard them. It's the Flaming Turk now."
the intellectual's rock 'n' roll, or at least that's
what we used to think at the time. If you liked skiffle
it meant that you also liked jazz, blues and folk. You
were some kind of beatnik. The Milano Coffee Bar in
Darlington Street was the main place to go if you
fancied yourself as a beatnik."
one skiffle group around at the time called the
Gamblers. They came from the Central Boys' Club. If I
remember right they used to wear a big G on their
jerseys or their shirts. It was a bit like the American
high school style."
"The thing I
liked most about skiffle music was the way you felt that
you could have a go yourself. It was quite possible to
make one of those tea chest basses or play a washboard,
as long as you had a thimble to wear on your fingers."
spending some time during one of the school holidays
making a skiffle tea chest bass. All you needed to do
was take a piece of strong string, put a hole in the lid
of the tea chest and tie the string through the hole
with a knot on the end and run it tightly over the broom
which formed the handle of the bass. It gave you one
string which you could strum away to your heart's
content. It only gave you one note but that was one more
than you had before. We thought it was great, especially
as one of my mates also got hold of an old drum."
"I lived on
Warstones Estate and in the 50s there were loads of kids
of my age around and one holiday we began a skiffle
group. I must have been about 12 or so. Anyway by the
end of the holidays we had a set of instruments made
from every spare biscuit tin, tea chest, washboard, comb
etc. we must have made the most ungodly racket. Still,
it was real fun."
"Barrington's, the tea merchants, had a big place in
Wulfruna Street and one of our neighbours on Underhill
Estate worked there. I remember going around to his
house and asking very coyly for a tea chest. I was about
12 at the time. He brought one back and brought it
around to our house while I was out. My mom thought he'd
made a mistake and sent him away. Anyway, I got that tea
chest and made a bass with it, not a very good one
While 1956 was
important for many British teenagers in terms of them
first considering making their own popular music via
skiffle groups, it was globally important because it
also saw the emergence of Elvis Presley as the
'spokesperson' of his age. As Marlon Brando and James
Dean were the celluloid anti-heroes symbolising an age,
so Elvis Aaron Presley was the symbol on record. There
is little doubt that Bill Haley and other rockers,
Lonnie Donegan and other skifflers, were very
influential but their influence pales into virtual
insignificance when compared to the effects which Elvis
had on a whole generation.
first year of recording, Elvis had six records in the
British charts, selling something in the region of ten
million records world-wide and starring in his first
feature film, Love Me Tender. For many young
Wulfrunians, like virtually the whole teenage population
of the Western World, the arrival of Elvis confirmed
their love of Rock 'n' Roll and provided them, both male
and female, with a performer who was a member of their
own generation and therefore someone with whom they
could readily identify:
what most of us had been waiting for. He was young, good
looking and performed in a manner which we all loved and
which most of the older generation loathed."
records were not necessarily that much better than those
of other rock singers but he was just the sort of image
that we all wanted. He was not middle aged like Bill
Haley, he was young and full of life."
was a teenager in the late 50 s could escape from Elvis.
I do not honestly believe that any British teenager was
not influenced in some way by him. His hair style, his
clothes, his walk, his look, his voice, we all had
something with which we associated."
the first time I heard Heartbreak Hotel. It was the echo
effect, it was so haunting. It stopped me in my tracks.
From that moment on I was hooked on Elvis. I still am."
heard Elvis on AFN. My father used to play the station
because he liked the jazz music which it played. He
called me into the front room and told me to listen to
the voice on the wireless. I bet I was one of the only
teenagers to be introduced to the voice of Elvis by a
"We used to
listen to every Presley record that came out and try to
learn every word and every inflection in the voice. We
would then sit around and try to sneer with our upper
lip, just like Elvis."
spend ages in front of the dressing table mirror trying
to look like Elvis. I would comb my hair over and over
again just to get it to fall over my forehead like
wife was an absolute Elvis fanatic. We went to see Love
Me Tender at the Odeon or maybe it was the Gaumont and I
remember her crying her eyes out because he died at the
end of the film."
single I would try and buy on the day of release if
possible. I even had each one ordered at the Voltic in
the Queen's Arcade so that I was certain of getting it
as soon as possible."
not have been many people dafter than me. I probably
bought about thirty records, including all of the first
HMV releases by Elvis, before we actually had a record
player at home."
smashed two Elvis records. He smashed Hound Dog and he
smashed Blue Suede Shoes. It s a pity because they might
have been worth a bob or two nowadays. I started buying
other Elvis records secretly and keeping them around my
mate Dave's because his parents were a bit more
one of those performers, possibly the first, who used to
split the population down the middle. You were either
madly in favour or madly against. I was a member of the
first group but my sister was a member of the second."
remember sitting on our front garden wall late at night
and chanting Elvis while another group of kids across
the road were chanting for Tommy Steele. That was
probably in early 1957 I suppose. We lived on Underhill
Estate and one of the neighbours came out and chased us
off down the street because we were keeping him awake.
My dad was not amused when he got to know about it the
"Of all the
artists ever, and that includes the Beatles, I don't
think anyone has had more influence on a generation than
Elvis. We started to dress like him, to walk like him
and look like him. He was the first to really have
merchandise attached to his name and have thousands of
kids buying anything if it was labelled 'Elvis '."
guitar was an Elvis guitar from Woolworth's. I don't
know how much it cost and it wasn't very good but it was
the name on the side of it which I wanted. 1 would stand
in front of the mirror and pretend to be him. I may not
have a guitar anymore but I still stand in front of a
mirror and try to be him when I play one of his