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



Great Performance on the Tami Show 1964/

Bo and Chuck together in 1973/


1955 / Ed Sullivan / Bo Diddley /
1965 / Shindig / Road Runner /
Tom Petty & Bo Diddley live at the Filmore / Mona /
1989 / Washington Convention Centre / Presidential Inauguration /
Bo Diddley & Ron Wood / Who do you Love /
Shindig 65/66 / You Can’t Judge a Book by it’s cover /
1991 / I’m a Man /
1999 / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Music Masters Annual / (He would have been 71) /

Bo Diddley (Checker #814) 1955

“Bo” 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.

Now, the first time I ever saw Bo was on the Ed Sullivan show, where he sang Bo Diddley.  As usual, Ed screwed up the introduction because he knew nothing about Rhythm & Blues or Rock and Roll and he fumbled the words.  I found out later what really happened…

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.”

Photograph by Albert Watson

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

Pretty Thing

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



(Checker #814) 1955

6 responses to “Bo Diddley! (Original Chess Artist and Rock Pioneer)

  1. A great, great artist and musical pioneer. I opened up for him 30+ years ago in New Haven. Bo also designed his own guitar electronics by trial and error!

  2. Pingback: Bo Diddley | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  3. Really enjoyed this! Remember dancing at the old Edison on Yonge Street to Bo Diddley when he appeared there in the 50’s….the good ol’ days! Thanks for the memories…………..


    You 2 know DIDLEY. Great information.
    Being a Disc Jockey you could not do a TEENAGE DANCE without playing his song “LET THE CHILDREN DANCE” on the CHECKER Label..
    He has played at numerous dance hall in my area of Pittsburgh, Pa. in the 1960 and PORKY CHEDWICK had him for his 50 years PORKSTOCK ALL STAR SALUTE at THREE RIVERS STADIUM.
    Happy New Years and all that good stuff.




    My mistake Gary and Russ the song we played at dances was “LET THE KIDS DANCE” not “LET THE CHILDREN Dance” ALSO BOBBY BLAND “LET THE LITTLE GIRL DANCE”.

  6. Pingback: Marvin Gaye | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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