My Old Man's a Dustman

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"My Old Man's a Dustman"
Sleeve for the Scandinavian pressing on Metronome Records
Single by Lonnie Donegan
Released 16 March 1960
Format 45, 78
Recorded 20 February 1960, Gaumont Cinema, Doncaster
Genre Folk, music hall
Length 3:21
Label PYE Records
Writer(s) Lonnie Donegan, Peter Buchanan, Beverly Thorn
Producer(s) Unknown
Lonnie Donegan singles chronology
"San Miguel"
(1959)
"My Old Man's a Dustman"
(1960)
"I Wanna Go Home"
(1960)

"My Old Man's a Dustman" is a song first recorded by the British skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan. It reached number one in the British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand singles charts in 1960.

Composition[edit]

The song was written by Lonnie Donegan, Peter Buchanan (Donegan's manager between 1956 and 1962[1]), and Beverly Thorn. Thorn was not credited on the original release.

It probably has its origins in "My Father Was a Fireman", a song sung by British World War I troops. The two songs share a lyrical similarity in their reference to "gorblimey trousers".[2] A song beginning with the line "My old man's a dustman", but otherwise sharing no lyrics with Donegan's, is recorded as a playground song in a 1956 novel. This song tells of the exploits of the protagonist at the Battle of Mons.[3] A version concerning a football game and beginning "My old man's a scaffie [dustman or street-sweeper, from scavenger][4]/He wears a scaffie's hat" (echoing the first two lines of Donegan's song) is recorded as a Scottish playground song during the 1950s.[5] A very similar song, beginning "My old man's a baker", is recorded in Chester-le-Street in 1967.[6] All of these songs share the same metric structure.

The song represented a change in style for Donegan, away from American folk and towards British music hall.[7]

Single release[edit]

On 16 March 1960, through Pye Records in the UK, Donegan released a version of the song recorded live at the Gaumont cinema in Doncaster just a few weeks earlier, on 20 February.[8] The B-side was a version of the English folk song "The Golden Vanity". The single reached number one in the UK Singles Chart on 31 March and maintained that position for four weeks.[9] It also reached number one in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and on the Canadian CHUM Chart, selling over a million copies in total.[10][11]

Cover versions[edit]

In 1960, a Dutch version was released by Toby Rix. The song was performed by the Bee Gees on the Australian TV show Brian Henderson's Bandstand in 1963. Also in 1963, a parody version, "My Old Man's An All-Black", was released in New Zealand by the Howard Morrison Quartet[12] and, in the US, the Smothers Brothers included a parody based on the song on their LP Think Ethnic. In 1966, The Irish Rovers included a version of the song on their LP The First of the Irish Rovers.

A version titled "My Old Man's a Provo" became one of the most popular Irish republican rebel folk songs in the latter part of the twentieth century.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Death of Norfolk man who penned My Old Man's A Dustman. Dereham Times 25 August 2010.
  2. ^ He wears a gorlblimey hat. The Telegraph 8 August 2009.
  3. ^ Wolf Mankowitz (1956) My Old Man's a Dustman. London: André Deutsch. p. 49
  4. ^ Robinson, Mairi, ed. (1987). The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen University Press. p. 583. ISBN 0080284922. 
  5. ^ James T. R. Ritchie (1964) The Singing Street. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 127.
  6. ^ Frank Rutherford (1971) All the Way to Pennywell. Durham, UK: University of Durham Institute of Education. p. 96.
  7. ^ Lonnie Donegan obituary. The Telegraph 5 November 2002
  8. ^ Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. pp. 49–50. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  9. ^ Results for "Lonnie Donegan". The Official Chart Company.
  10. ^ British Newsnotes. Billboard 5 September 1960.
  11. ^ CHUM Chart number one hits 1960-1965. CHUM memorial blog.
  12. ^ Controversial is hit route. Billboard 5 October 1963.
  13. ^ Mark Boyle (2011) Routes to Roots. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing. p. 163.
Preceded by
"Running Bear" by Johnny Preston
UK number one single
31 March 1960 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Do You Mind?" by Anthony Newley
Preceded by
"Stuck On You" by Elvis Presley
Australian number one single
28 May 1960 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" by Rolf Harris
Preceded by
"Paper Roses" by Anita Bryant
Canadian CHUM Chart number one single
6 June 1960 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Everybody's Somebody's Fool" by Connie Francis