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Lonnie Donegan

Release Date: 01/17/02
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 12 - Jan. 2002
000-28LDB (Lonnie Donegan) Brazilian
000-28LD (Lonnie Donegan)

Martin Honors The Late Lonnie Donnegan, "King Of Skiffle," With Two Signature Editions

Lonnie Donegan, a British musical force for over 50 years, and a major influence on such performers as Cliff Richard, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Graham Nash, Brian May, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler and legions of others, passed away after a performance in Nottingham, England on November 3, 2002. He was 71.

Ironically, Nottingham was the first city he played after he hit the big time in 1957.

Before his untimely death, due to a heart attack while mid-way through a UK tour, Donegan had collaborated with Martin on the design of two 000-28 Lonnie Donegan signature edition guitars.

"He was delighted with the prototypes, and was even going to assist our UK distributor in promoting the guitars," says Dick Boak, Martin's Artist Relations Manager. "And we, of course, were delighted to be working with such a legendary artist and a very nice man, as well."

Called the "King of Skiffle," Lonnie Donegan was known for the driving, accessible amalgam of folk, blues, jazz and country he created in the early 1950s that resulted in 34 "Top 30" hits in Britain between 1958 and 1962. But more importantly, his earthy, guitar-based brand of popular music inspired new generations of British musicians.

Lonnie Donegan forged his musical career in the heat of live performance. Born Anthony Donegan in Glasgow, Scotland in 1931, he discovered American jazz and swing music while in his early teens, but he soon immersed himself in country, folk and blues. After learning to play guitar, Donegan was coaxed on stage by jazz musician Chris Barber, in whose various bands he played for several years. At one concert, the announcer mixed up American bluesman Lonnie Johnson's and Donegan's first names, and the result stuck: Lonnie Donegan.

By 1954, Donegan was playing Dixieland jazz with the Chris Barber Jazz Band and performing his own version of American blues, country and folk between sets, backed by an upright bass, drums and sometimes a washboard. Billed as "skiffle," these two or three song interludes became a popular element of the act. When the Chris Barber Jazz Band recorded an album that year, a couple of Donegan's skiffle performances were included. When "Rock Island Line" was released as a single, the song took England by storm, selling three million copies in six months.

Donegan soon became a solo act, recording a string of hits, including "Cumberland Gap," "Lost John" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on The Bedpost Overnight," touring constantly and appearing in several movies. By the late 1950s, the skiffle rage in England had launched hundreds of skiffle groups and Donegan was the undisputed king.

Ironically, the success of many young musicians who began in skiffle, such as the Beatles and Van Morrison, caused its decline in the 1960s. Donegan himself moved from the microphone to the producer's chair, made a brief comeback in 1977, and then was laid low by heart trouble. However, his "Mule Skinner Blues" album in 1999, "The Skiffle Sessions, Live in Belfast" recording with Van Morrison in 2000, and recent live performances proved that he was still the King of Skiffle. In his last years years, Lonnie lived in Malaga, Spain.

Martin guitars had been Lonnie Donegan's instrument of choice for much of his career, both on stage and on record. In recognition of his musical achievements and long loyalty to its guitars, C.F. Martin honors the King of Skiffle with two models as unique and colorful as the man himself: the 000-28LDB and 000-28LD Lonnie Donegan Signature Editions.

By using Donegan's own 1967 000-28 as a starting point and incorporating his personal preferences in these Signature Editions, Martin has created two great sounding and looking instruments. Both guitars feature superb solid tonewoods throughout. The 00028LDB is crafted with back, sides, and headstock overlay of beautiful, rare C.I.T.E.S. certified Brazilian rosewood, while the 000-28LD showcases fine East Indian rosewood. The tops on both models combine Sitka spruce and hand-scalloped 5/16" X-bracing for rich, balanced tone. The low profile neck with diamond volute is carved from genuine mahogany. Both the fingerboard and belly bridge are black African ebony. For optimum tone, genuine bone is utilized for both the nut and compensated saddle.

As superb as these guitars sound, they look even better, with appointments that make both models positively stunning. A brilliantly colored blue paua shell inlaid Style 45 rosette, and black-and-white Style 28 purfling, accent the elegant 1935 style sunburst top. The fingerboard, which measures 1 11/16" at the nut, provides a contrasting background for some truly unique position marker inlays - a crown representing Donegan's MBE status on the 3rd fret, "SKIFFLE" spelled out in pearl at the 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, and 17th frets, and Lonnie Donegan's name in stylized letters between the 18th and 20th frets.

The headstock is fitted with Grover gold enclosed tuners. The headstock overlay combines the "C. F. Martin" gold foil logo with the "Water Rat" logo and the letters "G.O.W.R." in pearl that honor the "Grand Order of Water Rats." The GOWR is a long established Brotherhood of members of the entertainment profession including musicians, comedians, magicians, and actors. The membership includes such world famous musicians as Rick Wakeman, Gordon Giltrap, Brian May and Johnny Dankworth. The Water Rats carry out a lot of charity work, mainly to aid members of the entertainment profession who have fallen on hard times. Toward that end, the Water Rats will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each Lonnie Donegan Signature guitar.

Each instrument is finished entirely in polished gloss lacquer with a dark 1935 sunburst finish top, and comes equipped with Martin's Gold Plus Natural II pickup for exceptional amplified sound.

Packed in a Geib Style™ hardshell case, each Martin 000-28LDB and 000-28LD Lonnie Donegan Signature Edition bears an interior label personally signed by Lonnie Donegan, and Chairman and CEO C. F. Martin IV. Each guitar is numbered in sequence with the edition total.

Details of these two exciting models, including detailed views and participating dealer list, are posted on the Martin website at:

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