Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Bo Diddley (real name Ellas Otha Bates McDaniel) passed away Monday, June 2, 2008 at his home in Archer, Florida. The singer, songwriter and guitarist who invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ‘n’ roll itself was 79 young. The cause of death was ruled heart failure.
Bo Diddley got his start in music studying classical violin, but that was abandoned when he heard legendary bluesman Johnny Lee Hooker. Bo began playing guitar at the age of 12. In the early 1950s he helped form a number of groups including the Hipsters and the Langley Avenue Jive Cats.
Along the way Bo Diddley and his longtime partner/maraca player Jerome Green created what is now known as the “Bo Diddley Beat”. (Which everyone from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones has copied.) That “beat” got Bo signed to Chess Records in the mid-1950s. His first Chess single was the double-sided smash “Bo Diddley/I’m A Man”. Other hits on Chess Records included “Who Do You Love”, “Mona”, “Road Runner” and “You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover”.
Bo Diddley was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and in 1998 he was inducted to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame as a musician of lasting historical importance.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Bo Diddley a few years ago backstage at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, PA. He invited my friend, stand-up comedian Randy Riggle, and I into his dressing room and talked to us for several minutes. I have heard some say that Bo could be arrogant and uppity, but he could not have been nicer to Randy and I.