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Bo Diddley! (Original Chess Artist and Rock Pioneer)
Gary: “In a discussion with Russ, the movie “Cadillac Records” came up and this made me think of the first time I ever purchased a record on the Chess Label: Bo Diddley…
Bo Diddley (Ellas McDaniel)
Born December 30, 1928/Died June 2, 2008
He was born Otha Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi and later took the name Ellas McDaniel, after his adoptive mother, Gussie McDaniel.
He adopted the stage name Bo Diddley, which is probably a southern black slang phrase meaning “nothing at all,” as in “he ain’t Bo Diddley. ” Another source says it was his nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer. The nickname is also linked to the diddley bow, a one stringed instrument used in the south by mainly black musicians in the fields.
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. Now, if Bo had not sung his song a lot of people would never have heard of him; Ed had that much power.
Diddley is best known for the “Bo Diddley beat,” a rumba-based beat also influenced by what is known as “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. The Bo Diddley beat is often illustrated with the phrase: “shave ‘n’ a haircut – two bits.”
This beat has been used by many other artists, notably Johnny Otis on “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which is more about hambone than it is a direct copy of Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One,” U2’s “Desire,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Rolling Stones’ “Mona” as well as more obscure numbers such as “Callin’ All Cows” by The Blues Rockers.
He did not have an enormous number of hits, but his music influenced many musicians to come. I will include the songs that I grew up with and remember.
I’m A Man (Checker #814) 1955
Who Do You Love (Checker #842) 1956
Say Man (Checker #931) 1959 #20
Gun Slinger (BoKay) 1960 – Private Pressing
You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover
(Checker #1019) 1962 #48
You Don’t Love Me