Along with Lonnie Donegan, Chas McDevitt was one of the only original British skiffle acts to break into the American charts in the 1950s and is also in that select list of artists who were still playing on, the same style of music, over fifty years later. His most famous hit was the archetypal skiffle track, Freight Train which reached no.5 in the charts at the height of the craze in the summer of 1957.
He was born Charles James McDevitt in Glasgow on the 4th December 1934 and the family moved south to London at the start of the Second World War. During a prolonged bout of illness in 1950, he learned to play the banjo and developed an interest in jazz and blues during this period, eventually joining the local Dixieland band while at college, The High Curley Stompers. At this time in the mid 1950s the music was known as barrelhouse rather than skiffle and his band featured a piano, bass, banjo and a washboard keeping the rhythm instead of drums. By 1955, he had become the banjo player with The Crane River Jazz Band along with Ken Colyer, Sonny Morris and Marc Sharratt playing the washboard. He would also play impromptu street gigs with Redd Sullivan, a powerful blues singer and the band would set up quickly and play a couple of numbers in shop doorways before being moved along by the law. Later that year, Chas McDevitt became a featured artist at the Cy Laurie Jazz Club during the intervals as a trio with Marc Sharratt still on washboard and Pete Timlett on piano although they were joined eventually by regular guitarists Dennis Carter and Alex Whitehouse. Other gigs included the usual jazz haunts, pubs and coffee bars including the famous