Rock Island Line was played by Eamonn Andrews on his Pied Piper radio show and interest snowballed.
It ended up selling 350,000 copies in the UK (double that in America) and Donegan was soon sent on a tour of the United States, playing with Harry Belafonte and sharing a TV spot with a bemused Ronald Reagan, who asked: "What is a Lonnie Donegan?
It’s a major thing when you’re growing something with a woman, but they convinced us that it would never work out and would ruin our lives. You go to the doctor and they put the needle in her belly and they squeeze the stuff in and you watch. I prefer to be in a couple than not be (yes, I can admit that!), and I reckon I'd follow Hermione's train of thought; it's so much easier than meeting people the 'normal' way, especially when you've been round the block so many times that the pavement shows the grooves of your tread. It wasn't the alcohol consumption that bothered me, it was the casual revelation that he'd come out without taking his anti-psychotic medication. I exchanged a few letters with a guy who said people often mistook him for Mark Knopfler. All he had in common with the Dire Straits front man was the receeding hairline. In those days, your only choice was Dateline (remember those adverts in magazines? the 'friendship column' in the local paper.(Talking of Dateline, wasn't it fun to fill in the form in the name of someone you didn't like, and send it off so that they'd receive their Dateline ideal partner suggestions through the post, preferably when they were having breakfast with their husband/wife? I answered a couple of ads; you actually communicated via a PO box number. Alas, the other side made Quasimodo look like actor Josh Holloway. The next one was a nutter, and sent me long pleading missives when I said I didn't want to see him again, apologising for getting so drunk on our first date. Another friend suggested I might find a better class of lonely saddo in The Guardian.The list of musicians inspired by his work is prodigious and impressive.Van Morrison, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler, Paul Mc Cartney, Bill Wyman, Brian May and Richard Thompson pay fulsome tribute in Lonnie Donegan and the Birth of British Rock & Roll, and Patrick Humphries's extensive and well-researched book is ultimately sympathetic to its subject.I'd say it's a good idea as long as you have realistic expectations; you are unlikely to find romance with a capital R.But you might find someone nice to do stuff with, if fun outings are a bit thin on the ground.But musicians who worked with Donegan tell of a dismally mean-spirited man.Jazz singer George Melly said that even before Donegan had his hits with Leadbelly's Rock Island Line, and Dustman, Donegan was "incredibly big-headed, conceited, arrogant and patronising".