What was the number one song in the UK on 12th April 1957?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

British skiffle singer, Lonnie Donegan was number one with Cumberland Gap for 5 weeks.

It was interesting to hear this version of Cumberland Gap as the only version I was previously familiar with, was the Wedding Present’s for the NME album Ruby Trax (which was a cover album of UK number ones, so lots of songs that will appear on these here pages feature on this album). So, on to Lonnie’s version…I didn’t realise crack cocaine was so widely available in the 50s. I mean, this can be the only explanation for Lonnie’s speed, velocity and enthusiasm that he sings this song with. It’s quite admirable, but it’s also happens to be equally exhausting. There’s not much more to this song than really fast singing and saying Cumberland Gap over and over again. I think more than one listen of this song, would be nothing but irritating.

Wikipedia

“Cumberland Gap” is an Appalachian folk song that likely dates to the latter half of the 19th century and was first recorded in 1924. The song is typically played on banjo or fiddle, and well-known versions of the song include instrumental versions as well as versions with lyrics. A version of the song appeared in the 1934 book, American Ballads and Folk Songs, by folk song collector John Lomax. Woody Guthrie recorded a version of the song at his Folkways sessions in the mid-1940s, and the song saw a resurgence in popularity with the rise of bluegrass and the American folk music revival in the 1950s. In 1957, the British musician Lonnie Donegan had a No. 1 UK hit with a skiffle version of “Cumberland Gap”.

The song’s title refers to the Cumberland Gap, a mountain pass in the Appalachian Mountains at the juncture of the states of Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. The gap was used in the latter half of the 18th century by westward-bound migrants travelling from the original 13 American colonies to the Trans-Appalachian frontier. During the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865), Union and Confederate armies engaged in a year-long back-and-forth struggle for control of the gap.

Lyrics

“Well, the Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
The Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well, the Cumberland gap ain’t nowhere
Fifteen miles from Middlesborough
Cumberland gap ain’t nowhere
Fifteen miles from Middlesborough

Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well, I got a girl six feet tall
Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall

Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well, two old ladies sitting in the sand
Each one wishing that the other was a man

Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well, the Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well a dollar is a dollar
And a dime is a dime
And I love you baby most all the time

Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap

Well, the Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Cumberland gap, Cumberland gap
Fifteen miles on the Cumberland gap”

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