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Bo Diddley (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008), is the stage name for Ellas Otha Bates, an American rock and roll vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. He was known as "The Originator" because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll, influencing a host of legendary acts including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs. Accordingly, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was known in particular for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar.

History

Early life and career

Born in McComb, Mississippimarker, as Ellas Otha Bates, he was adopted and raised by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Ellas McDaniel. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the largely black South Side area of Chicago, where the young man dropped the name Otha and became known as Ellas McDaniel, until his musical ambitions demanded that he take on a more catchy identity. In Chicago, he was an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Churchmarker, where he studied the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough on the latter for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18. He was more impressed, however, by the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal Church, as well as an interest in the guitar.

Inspired by a concert where he saw John Lee Hooker perform,, he supplemented his work as a carpenter and mechanic with a developing career busking on street corners with friends, including Jerome Green (c. 1934–1973), in a band called The Hipsters (later The Langley Avenue Jive Cats). During the summer of 1943–44, he played for tips at the Maxwell Street market in a band with Earl Hooker. By 1951 he was playing on the street with backing from Roosevelt Jackson (on washtub bass) and Jody Williams (whom he had taught to play the guitar). Williams later played lead guitar on "Who Do You Love?" (1956). In 1951 he landed a regular spot at the 708 Club on Chicago's South Sidemarker, with a repertoire influenced by Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters.

In late 1954, he teamed up with harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, drummer Clifton James and bass player Roosevelt Jackson, and recorded demos of "I'm A Man" and "Bo Diddley". They re-recorded the songs at Chess Studios with a backing ensemble comprising Otis Spann (piano), Lester Davenport (harmonica), Frank Kirkland (drums) and Jerome Green (maracas). The record was released in March 1955, and the A-side, "Bo Diddley", became a #1 R&B hit.

McDaniel adopted the stage name "Bo Diddley". The origin of the name is somewhat unclear, as several differing stories and claims exist. Bo Diddley himself has said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother was familiar with, while harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold once said in an interview that it was originally the name of a local comedian that Leonard Chess borrowed for the song title and artist name for Bo Diddley's first single.

Success in the 1950s and 1960s

On November 20, 1955, he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television variety show, where he infuriated the host. "I did two songs and he got mad," Bo Diddley later recalled. "Ed Sullivan said that I was one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him. Said that I wouldn't last six months". The show had requested that he sing the Merle Travis penned, Tennessee Ernie Ford hit "Sixteen Tons", but when he appeared on stage, he sang "Bo Diddley" instead. This substitution resulted in his being banned from further appearances.

The request came about because Sullivan's people heard Diddley casually singing "Sixteen Tons" in the dressing room. Diddley's accounts of the event have been inconsistent. Diddley has stated that he was the first black performer to appear on Sullivan's show, when in fact African Americans had been appearing on the show since 1949.

Chess 1960
Chess included Diddley's recording of "Sixteen Tons" on the album "Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger, which was originally released in 1960.

He continued to have hits through the late 1950s and the 1960s, including "Pretty Thing" (1956), "Say Man" (1959), and "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover" (1962). He released a string of albums whose titles, including Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger and Have Guitar, Will Travel, were bolstered his self-invented legend. Between 1958 and 1963, Checker Records released 11 full-length albums by Bo Diddley. Although he broke through as a crossover artist with white audiences (appearing at the Alan Freed concerts, for example), he rarely tailored his compositions to teenage concerns.

In 1963, he starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The Rolling Stones, still barely known outside London at that time, appeared as a supporting act on the same bill.

In addition to the many songs recorded by him, in 1956 he co-wrote, with Jody Williams, the pioneering pop song "Love Is Strange", a hit for Mickey & Sylvia in 1957.

Bo Diddley was one of the first American male musicians to include women in his band, including Peggy Jones aka "Lady Bo", Norma-Jean Wofford, Cornelia Redmond (aka Cookie) and Debby Hastings, who led his band for the final 25 years of his performing career. He also set up one of the first home recording studios.

Later years

Over the decades, Bo Diddley's venues have ranged from intimate clubs to stadiums. On March 25, 1972, he played with The Grateful Dead at the Academy of Music in New York City. The Grateful Dead released part of this concert as Volume 30 of the band's Dick's Picks concert album series. Also in the early 1970s, the soundtrack for the ground-breaking animated film Fritz The Cat contained his song "Bo Diddley", in which a crow idly finger-pops along to the track.

Bo Diddley spent many years in New Mexicomarker, living in Los Lunas, New Mexicomarker from 1971 to 1978 while continuing his musical career. He served for two and a half years as Deputy Sheriff in the Valencia Countymarker Citizens' Patrol; during that time he personally purchased and donated three highway patrol pursuit cars. In the late 1970s, Diddley left Los Lunas and moved to Hawthorne, Floridamarker where he lived on a large estate in a custom made log-cabin home, which he helped to build. For the remainder of his life he spent time between New Mexico and Florida, living the last 13 years of his life in Archer, Floridamarker, a small farming town near Gainesvillemarker.

He appeared as an opening act for The Clash in their 1979 US tour; in Legends of Guitar (filmed live in Spain, 1991) with B.B. King, Les Paul, Albert Collins, George Benson, among others, and joined The Rolling Stones as a guest on their 1994 concert broadcast of Voodoo Lounge, performing "Who Do You Love?" with the band. Sheryl Crow and Robert Cray also appeared on the pay-per-view special.

Bit acting parts

His pawnbroker character's offering Louis Winthorpe III "fifty bucks" created one of more quoted scenes in 1983's Trading Places. In the late 1980s, he teamed with Bo Jackson in Nike'smarker famous "Bo Knows" commercials, saying his one line: "Bo, you don't know Diddley!"

Accolades

Bo Diddley achieved numerous accolades in recognition of his significant role as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll.
  • 1986: inducted into the Washington Areamarker Music Association's Hall of Fame.
  • 1987: inducted the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
  • 1990: Lifetime Achievement Award from Guitar Player magazine.
  • 1998: Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
  • 1999: His 1955 recording of his song "Bo Diddley" inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance.
  • 2000: Inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and into the North Florida Music Association's Hall of Fame.
  • 2002: Pioneer in Entertainment Award from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, and an Icon Award from Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)
  • 2008: Although confirmed before his death in June, 2008, an honorary degree was conferred upon Bo by the University of Floridamarker in August 2008.
  • 2009: Florida's Secretary of State announces Bo's induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame (induction to occur during Florida Heritage Month, March 2010).


In 2003, U.S. Representative John Conyers paid tribute to Bo Diddley in the United States House of Representatives describing him as "one of the true pioneers of rock and roll, who has influenced generations".

In 2004, Mickey and Sylvia's 1956 recording of his song, "Love Is Strange," was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of qualitative or historical significance, and he was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #20 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

In 2005, Bo Diddley celebrated his 50th anniversary in music with successful tours of Australia and Europe, and with coast-to-coast shows across North America. He performed his song "Bo Diddley" with Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson and longtime bassist and musical director Debby Hastings at the Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker's 20th annual induction ceremony and in the UK, Uncut magazine included his 1958 debut album "Bo Diddley" in its listing of the '100 Music, Movie & TV Moments That Have Changed The World'.

In 2006, Bo Diddley participated as the headliner of a grassroots organized fundraiser concert, to benefit the town of Ocean Springs, Mississippimarker, which had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The "Florida Keys for Katrina Relief" had originally been set for October 23, 2005, when Hurricane Wilma barreled through the Florida Keysmarker on October 24, causing flooding and economic mayhem. In January 2006, the Florida Keys had recovered enough to host the fundraising concert to benefit the more hard-hit community of Ocean Springs. When asked about the fundraiser Bo Diddley stated, "This is the United States of America. We believe in helping one another.". In an interview with Holger Petersen, on Saturday Night Blues on CBC Radio in the fall of 2006 Bo Diddley commented about the racism that existed in the music industry establishment during the early part of his career that saw him deprived of his royalties from the most successful part of his career.

Bo Diddley performed a number of shows around the country in 2005 and 2006 with the fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Johnnie Johnson Band, featuring Johnson on keyboards, Richard Hunt on drums and Gus Thornton on bass. But from 1985 until he died, his touring band consisted of Debby Hastings (bass/musical director), Frank Daley (guitar), Yoshi Shimada or Sandy Gennaro (drums), and his personal manager, Margo Lewis (keyboards).

Illness

On May 13, 2007, Bo Diddley was admitted to intensive care in Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraskamarker, following a stroke after a concert in Council Bluffs, Iowamarker on May 12. Starting the show, he had complained that he didn't feel well. He referred to smoke from the wildfires that were ravaging South Georgia and blowing south to the area near his home in Archer, Florida. Nonetheless, he delivered an energetic performance to an enthusiastic crowd. The next day, as Bo Diddley was heading back home, he seemed dazed and confused at the airport. His manager, Margo Lewis, called 911 and airport security and Bo was immediately taken by ambulance to Creighton University Medical Center and admitted to the Intensive-care unit, where he stayed for several days. After numerous tests, it was confirmed that Bo Diddley had suffered a stroke. He had a history of hypertension and diabetes, and the stroke affected the left side of his brain, causing receptive and expressive aphasia (speech impairment). The stroke was followed by a heart attack, suffered in Gainesville, Florida, on August 28, 2007.

While recovering from the stroke and heart attack, Diddley came back to his home town of McComb, Mississippi, in early November 2007 for the unveiling of a plaque devoted to him on the National Blues Trail stating that he was "acclaimed as a founder of rock and roll." He was not supposed to perform, but as he listened to the music of local musician Jesse Robinson who sang a song written for this occasion, Robinson sensed that he wanted to perform and handed him a microphone. That was the first and last time that Bo Diddley performed publicly after suffering a stroke.

Death

Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008 of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida. Garry Mitchell, a grandson of Diddley and one of more than 35 family members at the musician's home when he died at 1:45 a.m. EDT (05:45 GMT), said his death was not unexpected. "There was a gospel song that was sung (at his bedside) and (when it was done) he said 'wow' with a thumbs up," Mitchell told Reuters, when asked to describe the scene at Diddley's deathbed. "The song was 'Walk Around Heaven' and in his last words he said 'I'm going to heaven.'"

His funeral, a four-hour "homecoming" service, took place on June 7, 2008, at Showers of Blessings Church in Gainesville, Florida and kept in tune with the vibrant spirit of Bo Diddley's life and career. The many in attendance chanted "Hey Bo Diddley" as a gospel band played the legend's music. A number of notable musicians sent flowers, including: George Thorogood, Tom Petty, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard, who had been asking his audiences to pray for Bo Diddley throughout his illness, had to fulfill concert commitments in Westbury and New York City the weekend of the funeral. He took time to remember Bo Diddley, his friend of a half-century, performing his namesake tune in his honor.

After the funeral service, a tribute concert was held at the Martin Luther King Center, also in Gainesville, and featured his touring band, The Debby Hastings Band, and guest artist Eric Burdon.

In the days following his death, tributes were paid to him by George W. Bush, the United States House of Representatives, and an uncounted number of musicians and performers, including Eric Burdon, Elvis Costello, Ronnie Hawkins, Mick Jagger, B. B. King, Tom Petty, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, George Thorogood. Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Ronnie Wood. He was posthumously awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the University of Floridamarker for his influence on American popular music and in its "People in America" radio series about influential people in American history, the Voice of America radio service paid tribute to him, describing how "his influence was so widespread that it is hard to imagine what rock and roll would have sounded like without him." Mick Jagger stated that "he was a wonderful, original musician who was an enormous force in music and was a big influence on The Rolling Stones. He was very generous to us in our early years and we learned a lot from him." Jagger also praised the late star as a one of a kind musician, adding, "We will never see his like again. As his bass player Debby Hastings said: he was the rock that the roll was built on."

His stage name is echoed in the name of Bo, chosen in April 2009 by United States President Barack Obama's family as the "first dog".

In November 2009 the guitar used by Diddley in his last-ever stage performance sold for $60,000 at auction.

The Bo Diddley beat and guitar

Bo Diddley touring Japan with Japanese band Bo Gumbos Photo: Masao Nakagami
Bo Diddley was well known for the "Bo Diddley beat," a rumba-like beat similar to "hambone", a style used by street performers who play out the beat by slapping and patting their arms, legs, chest, and cheeks while chanting rhymes. Somewhat resembling "shave and a haircut, two bits" beat, Diddley came across it while trying to play Gene Autry's "(I've Got Spurs That) Jingle, Jangle, Jingle". Three years before Bo's "Bo Diddley", a song that closely resembles it, "Hambone", was cut by Red Saunders' Orchestra with The Hambone Kids.

In its simplest form, the Bo Diddley beat can be counted out as a two-bar phrase:
"One and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and..."
The bolded counts are the clave rhythm. "Shave and a haircut, two bits", another clave derivative, also fits, as does the non-musician's count of "one-two-three one-two".

His songs (for example, "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love?") often have no chord changes; that is, the musicians play the same chord throughout the piece, so that the rhythms create the excitement, rather than having the excitement generated by harmonic tension and release. In his other recordings, Bo Diddley used a variety of rhythms, from straight back beat to pop ballad style to doo-wop, frequently with maracas by Jerome Green.

Also an influential guitar player, he developed many special effects and other innovations in tone and attack. Bo Diddley's trademark instrument was the rectangular-bodied Gretsch nicknamed "The Twang Machine" (referred to as "cigar-box shaped" by music promoter Dick Clark). Although he had other odd-shaped guitars custom-made for him by other manufacturers throughout the years, most notably the "Cadillac" design made by Tom Holmes (who also made guitars for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, among others), Diddley fashioned the square guitar himself around 1958 and wielded it in thousands of concerts over the years. In a 2005 interview on JJJ radio in Australia, Bo implied that the design sprang from an embarrassing moment. During an early gig, while jumping around on stage with a Gibson L5 guitar, he landed awkwardly hurting his groin.
He then went about designing a smaller, less restrictive guitar that allowed him to keep jumping around on stage while still playing his guitar. He also played the violin, which is featured on his mournful instrumental "The Clock Strikes Twelve", a 12-bar blues.


He often created lyrics as witty and humorous adaptations of folk music themes. The song "Bo Diddley" was based on the lullaby "Hush Little Baby." Likewise, "Hey Bo Diddley" is based on the folk song "Old MacDonald". The rap-style boasting of "Who Do You Love", a wordplay on hoodoo, used many striking lyrics from the African-American tradition of toasts and boasts. His "Say Man" and "Say Man, Back Again," both songs later cited as the progenerators of rap music, share a strong connection to the insult game known as "the dozens". For example: "You got the nerve to call somebody ugly, why you so ugly the stork that brought you into the world ought to be arrested".

The Bo Diddley beat used by other artists

The Bo Diddley beat has been used in compositions by many other artists, including:

A number of artists have also based hit records around the "I'm a Man" riff, including:



Notable cover versions

Bo Diddley's songs have frequently been covered by other artists. The early Rolling Stones covered numerous Bo Diddley numbers in concert and in BBC Radio broadcasts; they released "I Need You Baby " on the UK version of their first album (the US version featured the Diddley-inspired "Not Fade Away"). The Clash recorded "Mona" during the London Calling sessions. "The Story of Bo Diddley" was recorded by both The Animals and Bob Seger, the former including an Eric Burdon rap about meeting Bo, Jerome and the Duchess, and their reactions to the Animals using their material. The Who, The Remains and The Yardbirds covered "I'm a Man", and The Woolies, George Thorogood, Ronnie Hawkins and Juicy Lucy had hits with "Who Do You Love", Patti Smith and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and was a concert favorite of The Doors. Quicksilver Messenger Service covered both "Who Do You Love" and "Mona". Dr. Feelgood led off their second album, Malpractice (1975), with "I Can Tell." Chris Isaak covered "Diddley Daddy" on his third album, Heart Shaped World. Diddley's "Road Runner" was the opening track on The Pretty Things' eponymous first album in 1965, and was also frequently covered in concert by bands including Humble Pie and The Who, and on Aerosmith's album Honkin' on Bobo. Guru Guru—a Krautrock band—performed "Bo Diddley" on their live album Essen 1970, though the track cuts off rather abruptly at the twelve-minute mark. Both Eric Clapton and Creedence Clearwater Revival covered "Before You Accuse Me". Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker counts Diddley as one of her chief influences and covered "Bo Diddley" on her solo album, Life in Exile After Abdication. Tom Petty has played "I Need You Baby (Mona)" in concert, and performed it with Diddley himself in 1999. A short version of "Who Do You Love" appears as a bonus track on the CD reissue of the Grateful Dead's album Europe '72.

The B-side of Buddy Holly's 1958 hit "Oh Boy", namely "Not Fade Away" (co-written by Holly under his pen name Charles Hardin), featured the classic Bo Diddley beat and inspired The Rolling Stones' 1964 version. The song has also been covered numerous times by the Grateful Dead. In 1963, Holly's rendition of "Bo Diddley" provided Holly with a top-ten posthumous hit in the UK, peaking at No. 7 in the summer of that year.

Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" (originally "Manish Boy") was an adaptation of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" and also an answer song, the title being Muddy Waters' take on his younger rival. Tiny Letters recorded a song called "song to Jerome Green," about Bo's maraca player. "Say Man" was Bo Diddley's only Top 40 hit. David Lindley recorded a tribute song entitled "Pay Bo Diddley". The Jesus and Mary Chain covered "Who Do You Love" on their 12" "April Skies" in 1987 and in the same year recorded a tribute song "Bo Diddley is Jesus" on a 2x7". Elliott Murphy used both his name and beat in his song "Bilbao Bo Diddley". Ronnie Hawkins recorded and covered "Hey Bo Diddley", "Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love" during his many recording sessions, including those with his backing band of the time, The Hawks, who later became known as The Band. The Finnishmarker rock/blues band Max on the Rox also covered "Who Do You Love" in their second album, Rox II. Warren Zevon sang "Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger. The country singer Kenny Rogers is a big fan of Bo Diddley; he invited him to his TV show several times in the 1970s and sometimes sang "Bo Diddley" in concert.

Diddley was popular with proto-punk musicians and later in the punk scene. For example both the New York Dolls and The Lurkers recorded their own version of his song "Pills", and Diddley was the opening act on The Clash's first US tour.

Diddley's song "Who Do You Love" can be heard in the intro credits to the movie La Bamba. He appeared on a 2003 episode of the sitcom According to Jim entitled "Bo Diddley", had a small role as a pawnbroker in the 1983 film Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, and appeared in George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone" video. The song "Bad to the Bone" itself is a re-work of Diddley's "I'm a Man." Eric Clapton's 1989 Journeyman and 1992 Unplugged included electric and acoustic covers of Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me".

Historic marker and other dedications

Bo Diddley was honored by the Mississippi Blues Commission with a Mississippi Blues Trail historic marker placed in McComb, his birthplace, in recognition of his enormous contribution to the development of the blues in Mississippi.

On June 5, 2009 the city of Gainesville, Florida officially renamed and dedicated its downtown plaza the "Bo Diddley Community Plaza." The plaza was the site of many benefit concerts at which Bo Diddley performed during his lifetime to raise money for local charities, including the Red Cross.

Discography

  • Bo Diddley (1958)
  • Go Bo Diddley (1959)
  • Have Guitar Will Travel (1960)
  • Bo Diddley in the Spotlight (1960)
  • Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger (1960)
  • Bo Diddley Is a Lover (1961)
  • Bo Diddley's a Twister (1962)
  • Bo Diddley (1962)
  • Bo Diddley & Company (1962)
  • Surfin' with Bo Diddley (1963)
  • Bo Diddley's Beach Party (1963)
  • Bo Diddley's 16 All-Time Greatest Hits (1964)
  • Two Great Guitars (with Chuck Berry) (1964)
  • Hey Good Lookin' (1965)
  • 500% More Man (1965)
  • The Originator (1966)
  • Super Blues (with Muddy Waters & Little Walter) (1967)
  • Super Super Blues Band (with Muddy Waters & Howlin' Wolf) (1967)
  • The Black Gladiator (1970)
  • Another Dimension (1971)
  • Where It All Began (1972)
  • Got My Own Bag of Tricks (1972)
  • The London Bo Diddley Sessions (1973)
  • Big Bad Bo (1974)
  • 20th Anniversary of Rock & Roll (1976)
  • I'm a Man (1977)
  • Ain't It Good To Be Free (1983)
  • Bo Diddley & Co - Live (1985)
  • Hey...Bo Diddley in Concert (1986)
  • Breakin' Through the BS (1989)
  • Living Legend (1989)
  • Rare & Well Done (1991)
  • Live at the Ritz (with Ronnie Wood) (1992)
  • This Should Not Be (1993)
  • Promises (1994)
  • A Man Amongst Men (1996)
  • Moochas Gracias (with Anna Moo) (2002)
  • Dick's Picks #30 (1972 5-song Live Session with The Grateful Dead) (2003)


References

External links




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