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Skiffle band Peepel play for holidaymakers on a beach in Millport 26th July 1957 PIC: SMG Newspapers Ltd

Billy Bragg’s Essential Skiffle Reading List

June 9, 2017 | by Hannah Marshall

Tags: Reading List, billy bragg, roots radicals and rockers, skiffle

If Roots, Radicals and Rockers has given you the Skiffle bug then these five titles – recommended by the book’s author, and our guest editor, Billy Bragg – should be added to your reading list.  


The Restless Generation by Pete Frame (Rogan House, 2007)

The Restless Generations book cover imageFrame is the definitive chronicler of British rock music. He began compiling hand-drawn, notated charts of the evolving membership of his favourite rock bands for Zigzag magazine in 1971 and since then has produced hundreds of these ‘family trees’. He brings this obsessive eye for detail to his magnum opus, The Restless Generation, which illuminates the Dark Ages of British popular music. When I told anyone with a grasp of 1950s culture that I was writing a book on skiffle, they invariably suggested I read this book.



Goin’ Home: The Uncompromising Life And Music Of Ken Colyer by Mike Pointon and Ray Smith (Ken Colyer Trust, 2010)

Goin' Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken ColyerFollowing the death of Ken Colyer in 1988, a trust was set up in his name with the purpose of printing his autobiography When Dreams Are In The Dust. However, like the man himself, the book proved to be somewhat hard work. Colyer’s legacy was much better served in 2010 when the Trust produced this fabulous coffee-table book full of great anecdotes and featuring large photographs on almost every double page. Accessible, engaging, this oral history tells the story of this great unsung hero of British pop culture and challenges all who would dismiss trad jazz, whether out of ignorance, prejudice or snobbery.



A Trumpet Around The Corner by Samuel Charters (University Press of Mississippi, 2008)

A Trumpet Around the Corner book cover imageFor someone like myself, with little previous knowledge of the trad jazz revival, this book was invaluable. Charters began writing about New Orleans jazz in the 1950s, interviewing at first hand men who were playing jazz at the turn of the century. This depth of material allows him to draw together the contributions made by African American, Creole and European immigrant musicians in the formative years of jazz. I came away believing that British pop music owed a greater debt to New Orleans than to any other American city.



Skiffle: The Definitive Inside Story by Chas McDevitt (Robson Books, 1997)

Chas was the first to write a history of skiffle and his status as one of its most successful proponents gave Skiffle - The Definitive Inside Storyhim a front row seat as the sub-genre emerged from the trad jazz clubs to inspire a generation of British kids to pick up guitars.





Forty Miles of Bad Road: SCIF and the Notting Hill Riots by Rick Blackman (Redwords Publications, 2017)

Forty Years of Bad Road front coverThe story of the Stars Campaign for Inter-Racial Friendship, a forerunner of Rock Against Racism that came together in response to the race riots that occurred in west London in August 1958. Rick Blackman does a great job in shining a light on a forgotten episode in British pop culture, when black and white artists took it upon themselves to speak out against prejudice and violence.



Roots Radicals Rockers cover image

Roots, Radicals and Rockers

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals & Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World is the first book to explore this phenomenon in depth – a meticulously researched and joyous account that explains how skiffle…