David Bowie’s first documented rock performance was at summer camp

David Bowie’s first documented rock performance was at a scout camp on the Isle of Wight in August 1958.

The legendary English rocker who lost his battle with cancer on Sunday was only 11 at the time of the performance for his fellow Bromley Scouts. He and school friend George Underwood played a set that included “Cumberland Gap,” “Gamblin’ Man,” “Putting On The Style,” “Tom Dooley,” “16 Tons” and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” according to the 2011 book The Complete David Bowie.

George sang and played bass while David Jones, as he was known by then, accompanied him on ukelele.

“We put a washboard bass in the back of the van, and David’s ukelele, and between us we managed to conjure up a couple of songs around the campfire,” Underwood was quoted saying about the performance in the 2011 book David Bowie: Starman. “And that was our first public performance. Neither of us had any claim to virtuosity–but we wanted to sing.”

Bowie isn’t the only famous British musician who spent time at scout camp in the 1950s. Beatle Paul McCartney attended camp at Hathersage in Derbyshire in July 1957.


Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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