The Story: Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley4He walk 47 miles of barbed wire and use a cobra-snake for a necktie. Has a brand new house made from rattlesnake hide and a chimney made out of a human skull. He’s the first, the last, the best, and the most. He’s a young woman’s wish and an old woman’s dream, 500% more man, and can thread more pipe than a plumber can.

He has no problem repeatedly referring to himself in the third person.

He titled his fifth album Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger. And there’s no doubt he’s that. I mean, how many people in music have their own rhythm named after them?

Only one.

He wasn’t the first in recorded history to use the “shave and a haircut” pattern, but he added his own twist and it’s borne his name ever since. Thousands have copied it, from Buddy Holly to The Rolling Stones to U2, but nobody does Diddley like Bo does Diddley.

Bo Diddley and His BandEllas McDaniel was born in Mississippi, but grew up in Chicago. He began on trombone and violin—and was good enough to make it into the church orchestra—but the electric blues turned his head (and his ears) when he heard John Lee Hooker. Picking up a guitar and a new name, the man now known as Bo Diddley had his aural signature down cold from his first single in 1955, the brilliantly titled—purely from a marketing aspect anyway—“Bo Diddley.” With that distinctive beat, his buddy Jerome shaking the quad maracas, and Diddley’s shimmering, tremelo-laden guitar tone—like a silver jet slicing through storm clouds—it rocked like nothing else on the jukebox.

Diddley brought hardcore blues to rock & roll, but not the “woke up this morning, feel so bad, shot the best woman I ever had” kind of blues. He’s more like the Muhammad Ali of the blues, with lots of boasting, a little exaggeration, and a few snappy insults. But Bo’s a natural-born lover, not a fighter, and he’s more than happy to tell you all about it. Women here, women there, women, women, women everywhere. Bo’s a busy dude.

So listen to my heart go bumpity-bump. Here’s the least you need to know:

Bo DiddleyThe Definitive Collection for a single-disc compilation, or Gold for a double-disc compilation. Diddley rarely hit the heights of the pop and R&B charts, but he arguably had more influence on the music of the 60s and 70s than anyone aside from Elvis and Chuck Berry. UK bands, in particular, copied his beat, his songs, his aggressive guitar playing, his production, and his attitude — bands like The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Zombies and virtually every other group during the British R&B and blues boom of the mid-60s. The following decade saw artists such as David Bowie, the New York Dolls, and The Clash drawing from Diddley. Classic blues and rock & roll. Fun, raw, and guaranteed to satisfy. Check: Pretty Thing & Who Do You Love

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