Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Artist Profile: Bo Diddley

Born Ellas Otha Bates, our hero changed his name to Ellas McDaniel after being adopted. However, we know him today as Bo Diddley, the creator, actually the populizer (is that a word, um, no) of the "Bo Diddley Beat" and heavy influence on the direction and sound of rock 'n' roll. Despite his popularity initially in the United States, the other side of the Atlantic is where Diddley's influence would really be felt. Much like Buddy Holly, the British took an special liking to him and his influence would appear in the massive number covers to come out out Britain during the British Invasion. The Pretty Things, Rolling Stones and Animals, for example, based many of their early lives as a band on Bo Diddley songs. Yet I turn on my radio to my local oldies station and never hear one of his songs. Unlike many of the early rock 'n' roll pioneers, particularly Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis (ugh) and Little Richard, still receive at least some airplay (less and less though, as "oldies" radio has increasingly mutated into some horrible monstrosity, similar to Godzilla, of "classic hits" which includes disco and other non-oldies from the 70's; that's another story). Oh yeah. Being banned by Ed Sullivan from the Ed Sullivan Show did not help Mr. Diddley with promoting himself. Not at all.

Once upon a time Bo Diddley had girls screaming for him and everything! Like the Jonas Brothers! Obviously we're talking about THE SAME LEVEL OF ABSOLUTE COOLNESS HERE. Also, notice the woman in playing guitar. During the 50's, that was pretty revolutionary. Even today it is not really common. Diddley featured various women in his band, including "the Dutchess" Norma-Jean Wofford. (If only Hillary Clinton was black and had been made Secretary of State, I think I could have made a pretty good political joke or something)

Then the kids got all stupid and boring and didn't have the same reaction to him anymore, even though he was still as cool.

Of course, people still liked him despite weaker record sales. And his shows remained...well, here. Dig the footwork and dancing moves. That is a rock 'n' roll showman right there!

On top of introducing a new beat to rock 'n' roll, Diddley designed his own guitars beginning with actually creating his original one. The sound of his guitar was also unique. Eventually the twangy sound would be used by other bands, notably surf bands years later. His lyrics created a strange alternate universe where Bo Diddley was legendary in pretty much any field he wished to be. Most of those songs were not only danceable, but also funny.

At the amazing and popular blog ChrisGoesRock you can find many of the early Diddley albums.


  1. Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger is the reason I picked music over Christianity

  2. Good job, good blog!