‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ was a song recorded by Lonnie Donegan in 1960 – it reached number one in the UK charts, remaining at the top position for four weeks.
Anthony James Donegan was born in Glasgow, in 1931. He moved to London as a young lad, where he became interested in the new trad jazz movement. After learning to play the banjo and the guitar, he formed his own jazz band, changing his name to Lonnie, after Lonnie Johnson the American blues guitarist.
Lonnie later teamed up with a few pals to form the Ken Colymer Jazzmen, and it was from this that the music genre, skiffle, came about. Skiffle is a style of music fusing jazz and country blues, played using simple, improvised instruments such as the washtub bass, kazoo, harmonica or jug.
After the group split, Donegan went on to form the Chris Barber Jazz Band, and the first release ‘Rock Island Line’ proved a surprising hit – it reached number eight in the UK charts and was the first debut record to go gold in the UK. It was this song that launched Lonnie Donegan’s career, and he fast became the godfather of British pop music, heavily influencing and inspiring other musicians.
Donegan branched out on his own and signed a recording contract with Pye Records. He released a string of songs that became instant hits, such as ‘Lost John’, ‘Cumberland Gap’, and ‘Grand Coolie Dam’. Focusing on skiffle music and traditional British music-hall styles, he also became a popular entertainer and comedian, releasing comedy songs such as ‘Putting On the Style’ and ‘Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour On The Bedpost Overnight’, the latter of which reached number three in the UK charts, selling over a million copies.
His next novelty song ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman’ also sold more than a million copies. This catchy ditty was said to be a revamped version of a Liverpool folk tune and World War I marching song, ‘My Father Was a Fireman’ – it had been updated with cockney jokes and lyrics. As well as reaching number one in the UK in 1960, it got to the top of the charts in Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The hit was also said to have been inspired by a playground song from 1956, with the first line, ‘My old man’s a dustman’, although there are no other lyrical similarities. Stravinsky’s Petrushaka melody is used in the hit single.
Other versions of the song were later released, including a Dutch version by Toby Rix in 1960, and a parody version by the Howard Morrison Quartet in New Zealand in 1963, entitled ‘My Old Man’s an All-Black’. Other parody versions followed and an Irish version, ‘My Old Man’s a Provo’, became one of the most popular rebel folk songs of that time. Lonnie’s song was even used as a theme tune to a computer game.
Donegan continued to enjoy off and on success over the following years, culminating with 31 UK top 30 hit singles and three number ones. In 1997, he received an Ivor Novello lifetime achievement award and was made an MBE in 2000.
Whether your old man is a dustman or not, if you’re in need of wheeled bins or recycling boxes, you get a wide selection of high quality options from Driveline. What’s more, Driveline can also organise van hire if you need to move items from one place to another.