Arts, Culture & Media

Billy Bragg explains how the roots of Americana music lead back to Britain

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Credit: Shannon Stapleton/ Reuters
Billy Bragg

British musician Billy Bragg was recently invited to participate in a big music industry event held in Nashville last week: the Americana Music Festival.

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Seems funny that a Brit would be asked as a representative of Americana.

Well, it's not quite that strange according to Bragg. He spoke with anchor, Marco Werman about a blog post he recently wrote for The Guardian explaining how the British were actually integral in developing Americana music after World War II.

"If Americana is music inspired by American roots music then I think we Brits (are) maybe, sort of, the first adapters of Americana. In the late 1950's there was a craze of music in the UK called skiffle," Bragg said.

Skiffle was a form of music inspired by American blues and folk music brought across the pond according to Bragg, by the British jazz trumpeter Ken Colyer.  Colyer was obsessed with the sounds of American blues and folk music.  He was so obsessed in fact, that he joined the British Merchant Navy in hopes of being sent to New Orleans. He ended up making it all the way to Mobile, Alabama where he jumped ship and took off for New Orleans to play with jazz musicians in the Crescent City.

He brought that new sound, "skiffle," back home to the UK where it took off.

"A guy named Lonnie Donegan was having hits in the charts in the UK with songs that were originally taken from the repertoire of artists such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, the American folk tradition, and it took off like lightening among kids as young as 13, 14 and 15. And that was the age of Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison when they first started playing guitar, they played skiffle," said Bragg.

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