Famous Like Me > Singer > D > Bo Diddley
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Profile of Bo Diddley
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||30th December 1928
|Place of Birth:
||McComb, Mississippi, USA
Bo Diddley (born December 30, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi), "The Originator", is an influential American rock and roll singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He is often cited as a key figure in the transition of blues into rock and roll, by introducing more insistent, driving rhythms and a harder-edged guitar sound.
He was born Ellas Bates 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.
He was given a guitar by his sister as a youth, but also took violin lessons. He was inspired to become a musician by seeing John Lee Hooker.
He recorded for Chicago's Chess Records subsidiary label Checker.
He is best known for the "Bo Diddley beat", a rhumba-based beat (see clave) 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".
The 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, U2's "Desire", and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" as well as more obscure numbers such as "Callin' All Cows" by the Blues Rockers.
Bo Diddley used a variety of rhythms, however, from straight back beat to pop ballad style, frequently with maracas by Jerome Green. He was also an influential guitar player, with many special effects and other innovations in tone and attack. He also plays the violin, which is featured on his mournful instrumental "The Clock Strikes Twelve".
Rhythm is so important in Bo Diddley's music that harmony is often reduced to a bare minimum. His songs (for example "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love?") often have no chord changes; that is, they are not written in a musical key, and the musicians play and sing in the same chord throughout the piece.
His own songs have been frequently covered. The Animals recorded "The Story of Bo Diddley", The Yardbirds covered "I'm a Man", their guitarist Eric Clapton later covered "Hey Hey", and both the Woolies and George Thorogood had hits with "Who Do You Love", also a concert favorite of The Doors. His "Road Runner" was also frequently covered. It shall be noted that Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" was an adaptation of Diddley's "I'm a Man". ("Say Man" was his only Top 40 hit.) The Jesus and Mary Chain also recorded a tribute song "Bo Diddley is Jesus".
On November 20, 1955, Bo Diddley was the first African-American to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show , only to infuriate him ("I did two songs and he got mad." Diddley later recalls, "Ed Sullivan said that I was one of the first colored boy to ever double-cross him. Said that I wouldn't last six months."). Diddley was asked to to sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit Sixteen Tons. But when he appeared on stage, he sang his #1 hit Bo Diddley. He was banned from performing on Sullivan's show. [He wasn't the last performer to cross The Great Stoneface. In fact, two more performers crossed Sullivan: comedian Jackie Mason (when he allegedly gave the finger to Sullivan around 1962, 1964 or 1969) and the rock group The Doors (when Jim Morrison sang the word "higher" when asked not to) on September 17, 1967]
Although Bo Diddley was a breakthrough crossover artist with white audiences, appearing on the Alan Freed concerts, for instance, he rarely tailored his compositions to teenaged concerns. The most notable exception is probably his album Surfin' With Bo Diddley, which featured "Surfer's Love Call", and while Bo may never have hung ten in his baggies to catch the big wave, he was definitely an influence on surf guitar players.
His lyrics are often witty and humorous adaptations of folk music themes. His first hit, "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" have been connected with rap, but actually feature the insults known as the Dirty Dozens: "You look like you been in a hatchet fight and everybody had a hatchet except you."
In addition to the many songs identified with him, he wrote the pioneering pop tune "Love Is Strange" for Mickey and Sylvia under a pseudonym.
His trademark instrument is the square-bodied guitar that he developed and wielded in thousands of concerts over the years--from sweaty Chicago clubs to rock and roll oldies tours and even as an opening act for The Clash and a guest for the Rolling Stones.
In recent years, Bo Diddley has received numerous accolades in recognition of his role as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. In 1986, he was inducted into the Washington Area Music Association's Hall of Fame. The following year saw his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1996, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. The following years saw his 1955 recording of his song "Bo Diddley" inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of lasting qualitative or historical significance and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards Ceremony.
The start of the new millennium saw Bo Diddley inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and into the North Florida Music Association's Hall of Fame. In 2002, he received a Pioneer in Entertainment Award from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and a Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) Icon Award in recognition of his many contributions to contemporary music.
In 2003, tribute was paid to Bo Diddley in the United States House of Representatives by Hon. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, who described 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. Rolling Stone magazine named him as one of its Immortals - The 50 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 and Robbie Robertson at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame'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.
- 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)
- Rolling Stone's List of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
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