Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley put the rock in rock and roll. He toured almost non-stop until he died (June 2008) at age 79. He normally traveled alone and "picked up" a band wherever he played. (Chuck Berry did the same thing). So his shows would vary alot depending on who was backing him up. I've seen him five times in the last ten years (four times in OKC, once in Tulsa). Always well worth seeing. He usually takes over the drum throne for a song or two, demonstrating some strong rhythms and sometimes upstaging the drummer. He is known as the originator of the "Bo Diddley beat", sometimes referred to as "shave and a haircut, two bits". There's a double CD collection on Chess called the Bo Diddley Box which is excellent. A much cheaper way to get the bulk of his main stuff would be the 2-On-One CD containing the entirety of his first two records, Bo Diddley (1955) and Go Bo Diddley (1958).

There is a video called That Was Rock, which is just lots of early rock and roll and R&B performances from the TAMI Show and the TNT Show in 1964 and 1965. The 5 or 6 minutes of Bo Diddley and his band (including two dancers and "The Dutchess" on guitar) performing 2 songs is some of the most awesome video footage of any kind I've ever seen. This video is out of print. If you want it, you might have to hunt for it on eBay. Also, it probably gets shown on TV. Note - in 2009, I discovered that the clip of these two songs is on Youtube. There has also been a DVD issued of the TNT show, which these songs are from. The VHS tape I have combines the TNT show with the TAMI show.

I will transcribe here the article from the OKC paper (The Oklahoman) which appeared on June 3, 2008, following Bo Diddley's death (June 2):

Guitarist Bo Diddley Dies, Legacy Lives On

by George Lang, Assistant Entertainment Editor (Contributing: The Associated Press)

Bo Diddley, an original architect of rock'n'roll, whose signature rhythm provided the foundation for countless rock songs, died of heart failure on Monday in his Archer, Fla. home. He was 79.

Diddley, whose real names was Ellas McDaniel, suffered a heart attack last year following a stroke. He was undergoing rehabilitation for several months.

He was known for not just his raw bluesy guitar style, his square homemade guitar, and signature sunglasses and hat - he created a rhumba-based beat first featured on his 1955 debut single, aptly named "Bo Diddley". The "bomp, da-bomp bomp, bomp bomp" rhythm, often described as "shave and a haircut, two bits" could be heard on later songs such as Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive", George Michael's "Faith" and U2's "Desire".

Born in McComb, Mississippi, Diddley moved with his parents to Chicago at age 5. There he discovered blues masters such as Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf. But, as he told The Oklahoman's Gene Triplett in 1984, his playing just could not fit the 12-bar blues template.

"I tried and it didn't work," he said. "I was playin' rhythm and blues. It was rhythm and blues before it was rock'n'roll. See there's a reason for the rock'n'roll name.

"Blues was the first thing," Diddley said."And then I came along and put what 'cha call rhythm into it. And since the Caucasians started pickin' up on the rhythm and blues, and because we had the black and white thing that sort of plagued America for a while, there was black and white music.

"So the white boys that was doin' it had to name it somethin' else so that it wouldn't be connected (to black music) but it would be the same song. And so they started callin' it rock 'n' roll. Which is really brainwashing to a lot of people."

Diddley spent much of his life insisting on credit for creating rock'n'roll. While many credit Chuck Berry as the first rock'n'roller, Diddley would have none of it. Berry was a friend, he told The Oklahoman in 1984, but he was not the creator of the style.

"He was one of the first", Diddley said. "But I was the first."

Bo Diddley Links:

Bo Diddley -The Originator

Back to Music Page      Back to Slade's Home Page      This page revised 01/23/09.