Sunday, December 23, 2012

(New entry at my Greatest Rock And Roll Since Moses page)

Bo Diddley

He might be the one who influenced Rock and Roll the most while being known the least.
At the Crossroads Guitar Fest, 2004 - Rolling Stone
As can be heard in this collection at, many great musicians have simply taken his signature "Bo Diddley beat" and created a new song around it. Everyone from Dick Dale to Bruce Springsteen to The Smith's is represented in this 14-song collection, including Bo Diddley himself.

But also at is this astounding collection of 77 Bo Diddley tunes, which are of good quality, along with several other collections listed here. Remember that everything at is in the public domain, meaning the copyright has expired, and can be downloaded free.

Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates in 1928 in McComb, Mississippi, as his Wikipedia article points out, but moved to Chicago with his adoptive mother, an aunt, when he was six and learned music at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church (Wikipedia does get the name of the church wrong), where he studied violin and trombone. Incidentally, Ebenezer Missionary, where Thomas A Dorsey, the man considered the father of Black Gospel music, was a member and performed (not to be confused with big band leader Tommy Dorsey), along with other churches on Chicago's South Side, played key roles in the formation of Black Gospel music (see here), a music that, along with what we think of as Rhythm and Blues, was fundamental to Rock and Roll's formation.

Exposure to Chicago's rich Blues scene led Bo Diddley to take up the guitar for which he is famous and he began his career by performing on the streets of Chicago, including at the now defunct Maxwell Street street market. (Where my parents took us when I was young boy. I bought some socks from a nice Black lady who was standing beside a table full of them.)

The Bo Diddley beat has been used in countless songs

Bo Diddley died in 2008 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

A week or so ago I wrote about Bobby Fuller, one of the many artists influenced by Bo Diddley. You can hear the Bo Diddley beat in Phantom Dragster, a song in the Fuller collection I linked to. Mick Jagger credits Bo Diddley not just as an influence musically but as one who helped the Rolling Stones out when they were getting started.

You can hear the Bo Diddley influence in the way Jagger sings and in the way Dick Dale plays the guitar, but he remains most famous for the Bo Diddley beat. Next time you hear Elvis Presley doing Marie's The Name (Of His Latest Flame), or The Who's Magic Bus, give thanks to Bo Diddley.

With his signature guitar, made by himself


Bo was very active on stage. Here he scootches across the stage in a series of little hops while playing his guitar during a 1970 concert in San Francisco. I saw him do this when he opened for Creedence Clearwater Revival at Chicago's old International Ampitheater around the same time.


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