Whether it’s the Elvis Presley-like rockabilly swing favored by teen idol Tommy Steele in the ‘50s or Led Zeppelin’s muscular take on the blues, British rock acts have never been shy about showing their love for American music. In fact, the early British Invasion groups were famous for turning legions of teens in the States onto blues and soul artists that had been overlooked in their own country. What follows are 5 British Bands That Really Wanna Be American.
Incorporating elements of country and bluegrass into their acoustic-based songwriting approach, Mumford and Sons owe a huge debt to American roots music. Frontman Marcus Mumford even admitted to American Songwriter magazine that the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ soundtrack, heavy on vintage bluegrass and gospel, was a huge influence for the London-based quartet. Much like the Rolling Stones did with Chicago blues in the early ‘60s, the Mumfords took a distinctively American sound and created something all their own.
His musical career might have started with U.K. post-hardcore act Million Dead, but it’s his Americana-informed folk-punk solo work that made Frank Turner one of his generation’s most beloved singer-songwriters. Over the course of his five studio albums, Turner has crafted the kind of blue-collar sing-alongs made for union halls and the local pub.
Big Star might have never bothered the Billboard charts during their original run in the ‘70s, but the Memphis power-pop combo’s influence has been well documented. Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub have been championing Big Star – in sound and spirit – since they first became critical darlings in the early ‘90s. It all comes around full circle, since the Fanclub’s glorious vocal harmonies and chiming guitars also brings to mind the Beatles and Badfinger, British bands that obviously inspired Big Star.
Taking the socially conscious lyrical tradition of American folk masters like Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs and channeling it through the urgency of punk rock, English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has been one of the most important protest singers of the last two decades. Starting in 1998, the three-album ‘Mermaid Avenue’ series found Bragg teaming up with Wilco to perform music they wrote together to accompany previously unheard lyrics left behind by the late Woody Guthrie.
From his days as a member of Brinsley Schwarz, Rockpile and Little Village to his acclaimed solo work, Nick Lowe has always had a foot firmly placed in vintage American rock ‘n’ roll and country music. From 1979 to 1990, Lowe was married to singer Carlene Carter, daughter of country singers Carl Smith and June Carter Cash and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash. The “Man in Black” would go on to record several of Lowe’s songs.