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Encyclopedia > Johnny Duncan
This article is about Johnny Duncan and the Blue Grass Boys. For the country singer see: Johnny Duncan (country music artist).

Johnny Duncan was born on September 7, 1932 in the Windrock coal mining camp overlooking the town of Oliver Springs, Tennessee and became a British skiffle music star in 1957 with the hit Last Train to San Fernando recorded with the help of his group the Bluegrass Boys He died on July 15, 2000 in Australia.


Brief biography

Johnny Duncan entered the United States Army and was sent to England where he met and married his wife Betty in 1952. After a short return to the USA he went back to England with Betty who needed a hosital operation.

Chris Barber's Jazz Band

On a visit to London Johnny Duncan went to hear Chris Barber’s Dixieland Band which had turned Lonnie Donegan into a star with his international skiffle hit recording of Rock Island Line. Barber signed Duncan to play with his band where he stayed for a year.

Big solo hit

His first unsuccessful solo recording was a cover of Hank Williams' Kaw-Liga, but in 1957 his recording of a Calypso song called Last Train To San Fernando became the seventeenth most popular recording of that year in Britain and its only rivals were Buddy Holly's That’ll Be The Day; True Love by Bing Crosby and especially Diana by Paul Anka.

As a result of his chart success he became a regular on 6.5 Special, the first teenage program on BBC television and his own program Tennessee Songbag on BBC radio.


Although Johnny Duncan continued to record for a period of time the skiffle fad faded and so did the success of Johnny Duncan. Following his divorce he emigrated to Australia, briefly returned to England and then back to Australia where he married for a second time. On occasion he did perform in Australia, but he had basically left show business after his return to Australia. In 1999 while his health was fading he did make new recordings in Australia just before he died in 2000.

  Results from FactBites:
johnny duncan story oliver springs (528 words)
Johnny Duncan was a pioneer in the field of "Skiffle" music that was the rage in Britain in the mid to late '50's.
The son of a coal miner, Johnny learned from an early age to sing the sweet harmonies of the gospel choirs and quartets in the rural Baptist church where his family worshipped.
Keith was a personal friend of Johnny Duncan during his adult years abroad, and when he began to write the Johnny Duncan Story for a CD he was producing he became curious about Johnny’s early years.
Johnny Duncan - Free Music Downloads, Videos, Lyrics, CDs, MP3s, Bio, Merchandise and Links (578 words)
Duncan claimed Tennessee as his place of birth, and gave his year of birth as Sept. 7, 1931, but none of this information could ever be verified.
Duncan decided to go solo that year, with a band comprised of bassist Jack Fallon, drummer Lennie Hastings, and guitarist Bryan Daly, who was later replaced by top-flight jazz player Denny Wright, a veteran of Donegan's band.
Duncan is said to have moved to Australia in the mid-1970s, and hasn't been seen or heard from since.
  More results at FactBites »



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