I am indebted to Maria for inspiring this blog post. Following the performance at Leighton House last Sunday, she was now looking for a new repertoire of songs for her choirs, and was gravitating towards the skiffle and trad of the late 1950s. This is music that I remember so well from my childhood … or, at least, I remember Chris Barber, Lonnie Donegan, Ottilie Patterson, Acker Bilk, Nancy Whiskey, Kenny Ball, George Chisholm, Ken Colyer, … and, ye gods, who could ever forgot Johnny Duncan’s Last Train to San Fernando?
So Maria decided that Steamboat Bill by Ottilie Patterson with the Chris Barber band would be part of the new repertoire for one of her choirs. And, by crikey, did that bring back memories! Ottilie Patterson (31st January 1932 – 20th June 2011) was one of the greatest female voices of the 1950s, a natural blues singer who with Chris Barber’s band recorded some of the most amazing popular music of that decade. (OK, so I was never a fan of Alma Cogan, I confess.)
But the original 1911 recording of Steamboat Bill, sung to the tune of Casey Jones, is by ‘King of the Ragtime Singers’ Arthur Collins (7th February 1864 – 3rd August 1933), who therefore features as the first of the two recordings below.