Dec 03

LONNIE DONEGAN – “Putting On The Style”/”Gamblin Man”

Popular12 comments • 3,643 views

#61, 28th June 1957

A double A-Side. “Style” is less obviously radical than “Cumberland Gap”; “Gamblin Man” if anything more so. Recorded in front of a whooping audience, “Gamblin’ Man” is sheer frenzy, a primitive hoedown which speeds up and up and up while Lonnie’s voice accelerates into a howl. Then comes the instrumental break and things get even wilder.

When I was 8 or 9 a friend and I formed a ‘band’ called The Guntzheads. The idea was that we would turn the tape on, repeat a phrase or two slow, then bash or strum whatever came to hand and howl it again and again until we got bored. With its biscuit tin drums, lightning guitars and urgent hollers, “Gamblin Man”‘s last minute sounds like that. Except tighter, of course – these are touring pros, jazz band veterans. But that’s what makes it so good – the audible, extreme fun these guys are having just letting go and pushing the song until it blurs.

“Puttin On The Style” isn’t remotely as exciting but that doesn’t make it bad (or even worse). It’s a cute variety show song rocked up a bit, Donegan’s performance an awkward but captivating mix of music hall trickery – comic voices, the whole funny-old-world perspective – and live-wire rockisms. As with “Cumberland Gap”, it’s the spit-and-sellotape arrangement that makes it so immediate, plus Donegan’s clear conviction that laughing and rocking were not exclusive. 8



  1. 1
    rosie on 23 Jul 2008 #

    You know, I think this may be the first pop song I was aware of at the time (though not that it was number one, or that there was such a thing as a chart). My dad used to sing it. I don’t think I knew what the words meant (they are a bit complicated for a three-year-old) but we used to go for family walks on Sunday afternoons which involved crossing something called a ‘stile’, so I thought that ‘putting on the stile’ had something to do with that.

  2. 2
    wichita lineman on 25 Jul 2008 #

    This almost seems like a repudiation of rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve never quite got who Putting On The Style is aimed at or for. It sounds snidey, either way, and a confusing disappointment after Cumberland Gap’s anarchy. Gamblin’ Man seems to have been a double-A in the vein of Connie Francis’ Carolina Moon, meaning that no one remembers it being a double-A. Never heard it but, quite clearly, I really should!

  3. 3
    Matthew on 11 Jan 2009 #

    Is it just me or is the Kinks’ “Plastic Man” pretty much a straight crib of “Puttin’ On The Style”? It’s like Elastica/Wire, 30 years earlier. I love the Kinks though so *I* am glad that Donegan was doing stuff like this that obviously inspired them hugely.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 20 Apr 2009 #

    Light entertainment watch 2: Here are some of Lonnie’s TV performances that don’t survive;

    AFTER HOURS: with Lonnie Donegan, Joan Greenwood, Cleo Laine (1959)

    AFTER HOURS: with Lonnie Donegan, John Surtees, Janet Waters (1959)

    DEE TIME: with Lonnie Donegan, Donovan, Jackie Trent (1967)

    THE DES O’CONNOR SHOW: with Lonnie Donegan, Jack Douglas, Pamela Manson, Jeanne Moody, Jean Aubrey, Tina Darnell, Valerie Stanton, Connal Miles, Sylvia Ellis, John McDonald (1967)

    THE DES O’CONNOR SHOW: with Lonnie Donegan, Mrs Mills, Jack Parnell and his Orchestra, The Mike Sammes Singers (1968)

    DRUMBEAT: with The Barry Sisters, The Kingpins, Lonnie Donegan, The King Brothers (1959)

    FROST ON SUNDAY: with Ronnie Corbett, Ronnie Barker, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity, Michael Palin, Vikki Carr, Lonnie Donegan (1968)

    IT’S LULU: with Lonnie Donegan, Aretha Franklin, Mike Newman, Pickettywitch (1970)

    THE LONDON PALLADIUM SHOW: with Jimmy Tarbuck (Compere), Nina and Frederick, Lonnie Donegan, Topo Gigio (1966)

    THE LONDON PALLADIUM SHOW: with Jack Parnell and his Orchestra, The Palladium Dancers, The Mike Sammes Singers, The Seekers, Bob Monkhouse, Lonnie Donegan, Mike Yarwood, Johnny Hart (1967)

    THE MELODIES LINGER ON: with Nick Curtis, Lonnie Donegan, Miki and Griff (1971)

    OH BOY!: with Tony Hall, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Mike Preston, Cherry Wainer, Bill Forbes, The Hewitt Sisters, The Dallas Boys, Lord Rockingham’s XI, The Vernons Girls, Red Price (1959)

    OH BOY!: with Tony Hall, The Inkspots, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Cherry Wainer, The Vernons Girls, The Dallas Boys, Neville Taylor and the Cutters, Lorie Mann, Dickie Pride, Pierce Rodgers (1959)

    THE SATURDAY CROWD: with Leslie Crowther, Anita Harris, Lonnie Donegan, Peter Gordeno, Susan Maughan, Sheila Bernette (1969)

    SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MILL: with Lonnie Donegan, Leslie Phillips, June Whitfield (1979)

    SATURDAY VARIETY: with Lonnie Donegan, Keith Harris, Lily Yokoi, Lionel Blair (1972)

    SCOTCH CORNER: with Jimmy Blue And His Scottish Country Dance Band, The Bruce McClure Dancers, Lonnie Donegan (1974)

    THE SHOW BAND SHOW: with Lonnie Donegan, The Stargazers, Shirley Wilson, Tony Martin (1956)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Terry Dene, The King Brothers, Lita Roza, Freddie Mills, Max Geldray, Stephane Grappelly with The Dill Jones Trio, Don Lang and his Frantic Five (1957)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Tommy Steele and his Steelmen, Jill Day, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Humphrey Lyttelton and His Band (1957)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Lonnie Donegan, Jill Day, Mike and Bernie Winters, Ronnie Carroll, Russ Conway, The Eric Delaney Band, Dill Jones Trio, Don Lang and his Frantic Five (1958)

    SIX-FIVE SPECIAL: with Lonnie Donegan, Lita Roza, The Five Dallas Boys, Ken Mackintosh and his Band, Basil Kirchin and his Band (1958)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, Sunday Night At The Prince Of Wales Theatre, Torti Horvath, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Shani Wallis, Harry Worth (1956)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, The Daily Mirror Disc Festival, Winifred Atwell, Eddie Calvert, Alma Cogan, Lonnie Donegan With His Skiffle Group, Ted Heath, Ronnie Hilton, Ruby Murray, Anne Shelton (1956)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Jerry Lester, Alan and Blanche Lund (1957)

    SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALLADIUM (VAL PARNELL’S …..): with Bruce Forsyth, Pearl Bailey, Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, Beryl Reid (1957)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Lonnie Donegan, Gary Miller, The Springfields, Susan Terry, Gary Edwards Combo, Danny Davis, Tony Rocco, Paul Hollingdale (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Lonnie Donegan, Petula Clark, Roy Orbison, The Eric Delaney Band, Eden Kane, The Fourmost, Jeannie and the Big Guys, Janice Nicholls, Al Bennett (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Lonnie Donegan, Susan Maughan, The Karl Denver Trio, Eden Kane, Kenny Lynch, Duffy Porter, Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, The Four Seasons, Barry O’Dee (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Dave Clark Five, Lonnie Donegan, The Statler Brothers, Marty Wilde (1966)

    THIS IS… TOM JONES: with The Mike Sammes Singers, The Norman Maen Dancers, Sue & Sonny, Ace Trucking Company, Lonnie Donegan, Don Ho, Dusty Springfield (1970)

    THE VAL DOONICAN SHOW: with Sheila Hancock, Lonnie Donegan, Freddy Davies (1966)

  5. 5
    wichita lineman on 10 Oct 2010 #

    Melody Maker’s chart listed these two separately: Gamblin’ Man reached 9 (though it charted first), Putting On The Style stopped at 2.

  6. 6
    wichita lineman on 17 Nov 2010 #

    Pure noise. One chord wonder. Imagine the shock of this coming out of tv sets in 1957:


    Check some of the ‘shocked and stunned’ comments underneath.

  7. 7
    flahr on 17 Nov 2010 #

    The last bit of that drum solo is astonishing. I also love the way Lonnie raises his eyebrows at the start – ‘yeah, yeah, it’s weedy now, but just you wait…’

    If ‘Putting On The Style’ had been as wild as well he’d probably have been arrested.

  8. 8
    Mutley on 17 Nov 2010 #

    By this time Lonnie’s records were becoming formulaic – start slowly and get frantic. I much prefer Rock Island Line when the formula was fresher. Lonnie was certainly highly talented, but for me Gamblin’ Man is not much more than an exercise in vocal dexterity. It’s an exercise that has to be admired, but I never feel he really means it. Somewhat like Tommy Steele, he slid comfortably into “music hall”. In performance Lonnie lacked the menace and attitude of the more frantic end of rock’n’roll – Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis – who were at their peak around this time.

  9. 9
    thefatgit on 17 Nov 2010 #

    It’s hard to fathom how incendiary skiffle was at the time, but it must have been for so many of rock’s illuminati to refer to it as a massive 1nfLu3nc3 on their own careers. No doubting the energy.

  10. 10
    Mutley on 17 Nov 2010 #

    Skiffle was mainly an influence in that anyone could do it (or at least attempt it) with very little expenditure. Every kid who wanted to could get hold of a washboard or make a tea-chest bass for next to nothing. Shopkeepers would give you a tea chest for nothing, and then all you needed was a broom handle and a piece of string. I was 13-14 at the time and, like many other kids, made my own tea-chest bass, unfortunately without any subsequent musical success. However, I think that most of rock’s illuminati were musically influenced mainly by rock’n’rollers such as Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry etc. rather than skiffle players. Skiffle was by far the easiest option if you actually wanted to play music as you didn’t need expensive electric guitars, saxophones, pianos etc.

  11. 11
    crag on 13 Apr 2011 #


    Paddy Moloney,Founder of the Chieftans,(1999) (Putting on the Style).

  12. 12
    Gareth Parker on 9 Jun 2021 #

    Can’t take to Lonnie’s voice at all. 4/10 I’m afraid.

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