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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



Early Blues Interview
Peter Donegan, guitar/keyboard/vocals,
with The Lonnie Donegan Band


I had the pleasure of seeing Peter Donegan with the original Lonnie Donegan Band at Poklington Arts Centre, Poklington, York on Saturday, 6th March 2010.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  Thanks for your time Peter.  First of all, what are your first musical memories?

Peter:  I guess itís sitting on the side of the stage almost in a pram watching my Dad play with the band who are with us now.

Alan:  Did you always want to become a musician?

Peter:  Yes I did. The question was what type of musician I wanted to become, but I always knew Iíd be one

Alan:  How did your father help you get started in music?

Peter: I had many influences but obviously my Dad was the major one.  Heíd coach me along and push me in the right direction for what he thought I could do.  I donít really know where it began but you always idolise your father anyway.  After that, I guess it was picking up records, picking them out on the piano.  Iíd listen to Fats Waller and stuff like that. 

Alan:  When you were 18 you joined the Lonnie Donegan Band.  Tell me about that experience at that age.

Peter:  It was frightening really!   It was surreal in a way.  Iíd sat idolising these guys all my life and then suddenly I was on stage with them.  It was a big jump.   At home Iíd play along with my Dad Ė heíd play the guitar and Iíd play the piano but then suddenly to be put on stage.  But the whole band was great with me and they were a great learning curve for me.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  Iíve got a quote here, ďBritainís most successful and influential recording artist before the Beatles.  Lonnie Donegan has always been immensely respected.Ē  Could you tell me a little about your musical memories of your father and his associations with such a vast array of recording stars?

Peter:  Well, I wasnít really around for most of it, being only 26 now. But itís something you donít really realise when you grow up with somebody.  He wasnít a Superstar, he was Dad.  I was proud of his achievements once I realise them, but at the same time he was still Dad.

Alan:  Which are your favourites of Lonnieís songs?

Peter:  It depends what mood Iím in really.  I appreciate Rock Island Line for the influence it had and because it was the first hit record for my Dad, plus itís an endless song which I love.  I also like my Dadís version of Somewhere over the Rainbow, I love Seven Golden Daffodils and I like some of the stuff he did in the late 70s with the guest artists on the two albums, Putting on the Style and Sundown, which were produced by Adam Faith.  Sounds like Cajun Stripper Queen Ė I love that which is why we do it in our sets.  I love things like Drop Down Baby and the version of Lost John on the Style Album.   And the version of Rock Island Line on that album is the ultimate version for me.

Alan:  Tell me about the tribute which was at the Royal Albert Hall which you put together.

Peter:  Well, my mother put it together really although I helped a little.  It was a great experience and just nice that all these people came together to commemorate my Dad.  There was Chris Barber, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Chas and Dave, Joe Brown, Mark Knopfler, Roger Daltrey, it was lovely.  I really like the version of Seven Golden Daffodils Rick Wakeman did with Chrissie Hammond.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  You had the Peter Donegan Band a while ago.  Tell me how that got together.

Peter: We had a friend up the north-east, Ray Laidlow, the drummer from Lindisfarne.  Iíd done Lonnie D the musical and I just wanted to try something on my own, so he set me up with some musicians and it was different as we had a violin and an accordion player as well.  Ray had a different style of drummer and we had a great base player and guitarist.  But it ran itís course and at the end of it, I canít get away from Lonnie Donegan and at the end of the day I donít really want to either. I had a hankering for going back with the guys Iíd known all my life

Alan: So how did you get back with the Lonnie Donegan Band?

Peter:  Just missed them, so rang them up!

Alan:  Tell me about the making of your new album, 'Here We Go Again'.

Peter:  We didnít want anything that had been on an album beforehand.  I loved Vigilante Man which is a lovely number by Woody Guthrie and also done by Ry Cooder, and I was sitting at home and just found a different riff for it, so that was on there.  I had a couple of things Iíd penned myself which I thought were at least half-worthy, and thereís a couple of my Dadís numbers like Rocks in my Bed which I wanted to include.  And numbers like Wreck of the old í97 are on there because they are good songs and I know that people will look and think, ďOh, I like thatĒ and thereby appreciate our own songs too.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  Of the songs youíve written, which are your favourites?

Peter: I donít know really, itís difficult.  Once youíve written a song, you analyse it and re-analyse it and re-write it and then you perform it, and rehearse it and you go over and over it....   But I suppose if I was to pick one, I like the Travellersí Song which is the title track of Here We Go Again, and I like doing it live.  I like Angel of the Night too but thatís a personal and sentimental thing.

Alan:  I read a review of one of your gigs which said, ďHis talent shines through, especially when you listen to him sing the bluesĒ.  What first attracted you to the blues?

Peter: Probably my Dad and the albums he had sitting in the house like Elmore James.  I love the sound of the slide blues and Iíve had a hankering for the blues ever since.  Listening to things like Rory Gallagher, Muddy Waters, The Band Ė great stuff.

Alan   You mentioned tonight about Lonnie Johnson and Lonnie Donegan and the story of how your Dad adopted his name?

Peter: Yes, it was at the Royal Festival Halls in Croydon and my Dadís hero was Lonnie Johnson with regard to the blues and the guitar style he tried to copy.  They were on the same bill and the compere got all flustered and he confused the names.  My Dad was going around as the Tony Donegan Jazz band at the time, but the compere introduced Lonnie Donegan and Tony Johnson. The rest is history.

Alan:  You play acoustic guitar, banjo, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica. Which is your favourite?

Peter: Again, it depends what day it is.  Certain songs sound better on certain instruments so if I want to play something like 'Here We Go Again' which has a moderate reggae feel to it then itís nice to do that kind of thing on the mandolin.  Banjo has a certain style and harmonica is more of a lead instrument.

Alan:  What are your future plans?

Peter:  Whatever comes along really.  Touring is obviously good. I like to get the feedback off the audience and to test new material.  I guess the aim of my job is to get out on stage and make people forget about problems and have a nice time.  As long as I can do that, my job is done.

Alan:  Thanks very much Peter.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

Album available from Peter's website:


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