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Rock pioneer Bo Diddley dies at age 79


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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A spokeswoman says rock pioneer Bo Diddley has died. He was 79.

The spokeswoman says Diddley died of heart failure Monday. He had suffered a heart attack in August 2007, three months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa.

Doctors said the stroke affected his ability to speak, and he had returned to Florida to continue rehabilitation.

Diddley was known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat.

His first single, "Bo Diddley," introduced record buyers in 1955 to his signature rhythm: bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp, often summarized as "shave and a haircut, two bits." The B side, "I'm a Man," with its slightly humorous take on macho pride, also became a rock standard.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A spokeswoman says rock pioneer Bo Diddley has died. He was 79.

The spokeswoman says Diddley died of heart failure Monday. He had suffered a heart attack in August 2007, three months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa.

Doctors said the stroke affected his ability to speak, and he had returned to Florida to continue rehabilitation.

Diddley was known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat.

His first single, "Bo Diddley," introduced record buyers in 1955 to his signature rhythm: bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp, often summarized as "shave and a haircut, two bits." The B side, "I'm a Man," with its slightly humorous take on macho pride, also became a rock standard.

Just heard it on my local rock station. Seems like almost every day lately someone famous is passing away. Whether it be music or hollywood.

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Thank you, Bo Diddley for all of your wonderful music and for inspiring so many musicians who followed in your footsteps.

My husband and I were fortunate to have seen Bo Diddley perform live several times and he was always fantastic!

May he rest in peace and may his music live on.



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Can't be true. I won't believe it. Someone get a defribblator, or a time machine, or something!?!?!?


I dont mean to sound insensitive, but sometimes I think I get numb to all these passings. At least he lived to a decent age, unlike Bonzom, Lennon and Moony. I hope I go before Page and Plant, because if something happend to one of them, I would feel like I lost a member of my family.

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As sad as Bo Diddley's passing is, hearing his music again makes me smile and dance. The link to the article below has an excellent multimedia link (audio and photos) on the left of the screen:


June 3, 2008

Bo Diddley, Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer, Dies at 79



Bo Diddley, a singer 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, died Monday at his home in Archer, Fla . He was 79.

The cause was heart failure, a spokeswoman, Susan Clary, said. Mr. Diddley had a heart attack last August, only months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa.In the 1950s, Mr. Diddley — along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and a few others — helped reshape the sound of popular music worldwide, building it on the templates of blues, southern gospel and rhythm and blues. His original style of R&B influenced generations of musicians. And his Bo Diddley syncopated beat — three strokes/rest/two strokes — became a stock rhythm of rock ’n’ roll.

It can be found in Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” Johnny Otis’s “Willie and the Hand Jive,” Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” The Who’s “Magic Bus,” Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One” and U2’s “Desire,” among hundreds of other songs.

Yet the rhythm was only one element of his best records. In songs like “Bo Diddley,” “Who Do You Love,” “Mona,” “Crackin’ Up,” “Say, Man,” “Ride On Josephine” and “Road Runner,” his booming voice was loaded up with echo and his guitar work came with distortion and a novel bubbling tremelo. The songs were knowing, wisecracking and full of slang, mother-wit and sexual cockiness. They were both playful and radical.

So were his live performances: trancelike ruckuses instigated by a large man with a strange-looking guitar. It was square, and he designed it himself, long before custom guitar shapes became commonplace in rock.

Mr. Diddley was a wild performer, jumping, lurching, balancing on his toes and shaking his knees as he wrangled with his instrument, sometimes playing it above his head. Elvis Presley, it has long been supposed, borrowed from Mr. Diddley’s stage moves; Jimi Hendrix, too.

Still, for all his fame, Mr. Diddley felt that his standing as a father of rock ’n’roll was never properly acknowledged. It frustrated him that he could never earn royalties from the songs of others who had borrowed his beat.

“I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob,” he told The New York Times in 2003.

He was revered by those who had learned from him. He was a hero to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, and a generation later he became a model of originality to post-punk bands like the Clash and the Fall.

In 1979, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of the Clash asked that Mr. Diddley open for them on the band’s first American tour. “I can’t look at him without my mouth falling open,” Mr. Strummer, starstruck, told a journalist during the tour.

For his part, Mr. Diddley had no misgivings about facing a skeptical audience. “You cannot say what people are gonna like or not gonna like,” he explained later to the biographer George R. White. “You have to stick it out there and find out! If they taste it, and they like the way it tastes, you can bet they’ll eat some of it!”

Mr. Diddley was born Otha Ellas Bates in McComb, Miss., a small city about 15 miles from the Louisiana border. He was reared primarily by his mother’s first cousin, Gussie McDaniel, who had three children of her own. After the death of her husband, Ms. McDaniel took the family to Chicago, where young Otha’s name was changed to Ellas B. McDaniel. Gussie McDaniel became his legal guardian and sent him to school.

He was 6 when the family resettled on Chicago’s South Side. He described his youth as one of school, church, trouble with street toughs and playing the violin for both band and orchestra, under the tutelage of Prof. O.W. Frederick, a prominent music teacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Gussie McDaniel taught Sunday school there. Ellas studied classical violin from the age of 7 to 15 and started on guitar at 12, when his sister gave him an acoustic model.

He then enrolled at Foster Vocational School, where he built a guitar as well as a violin and an upright bass. But he dropped out before graduating. Instead, with guitar in hand, he began performing in a duo with his friend Roosevelt Jackson, who played the washtub bass. The group became a trio when they added another guitarist, Joseph Leon (Jody) Williams, and later a quartet when they added a harmonica player, Billy Boy Arnold.

The band — first called the Hipsters, then the Langley Avenue Jive Cats — started playing at an open-air market on Maxwell Street. They were sometimes joined by another friend, Samuel Daniel, who was known as Sandman because of the shuffling rhythms he made with his feet in sand sprinkled on a wooden board.

Playing with the Jive Cats was not enough to make a living in the early days, so Mr. Diddley found jobs where he could: at a grocery store, a picture-frame factory, a blacktop company. He worked as an elevator operator and a meat packer. He was also boxing, hoping to turn professional.

In 1954, Mr. Diddley made a demonstration recording with his band, which now had Jerome Green on maracas, approximating Sandman’s swishing sound. Phil and Leonard Chess, of Chess records, liked the demo, especially the tremelo on the guitar, a sound that seem to slosh around like water. They saw it as a promising novelty and encouraged the group to return.

By Billy Boy Arnold’s account, the next day, as the band and their soon-to-be producers were setting up for a rehearsal, they were idly casting about for a stage name for Ellas McDaniel when Mr. Arnold thought of Bo Diddley. The name, Mr. Arnold said, described a “bow-legged guy, a comical-looking guy.”

That may be all there is to tell about the name, except for the fact that a certain one-string guitar — native to the Mississippi Delta, often home-made, in which a length of wire is stretched between two nails in a door — is called a Diddley Bow (sometimes spelled Diddlie Bow). By his account, however, Mr. Diddley had never played one.

In any case, Otha Ellas McDaniel had a new name and the title of a new song, whose lyrics began, “Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring.” “Bo Diddley” became the A side of his first single, in 1955, on the Checker label, a subsidiary of Chess. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart.

Mr. Diddley said he had first heard the three-stroke/rest/two-stroke “Bo Diddley beat” in a church in Chicago. But variations of it were in the air. The children’s game “hambone” used a similar rhythm.

The beat is also related to the Afro-Cuban clave, which had been popularized at the time by the New Orleans mambo carnival song “Jockomo,” recorded by Sugar Boy Crawford in 1953.

Whatever the source, Mr. Diddley felt the beat’s power. In early songs like “Pretty Thing” and “Bo Diddley,” he arranged the rhythm for tom-toms, guitar, maracas and voice, with no cymbals and no bass. (Also arranged in his signature rhythm was the eerie “Mona,” a song of praise he wrote for a 45-year-old exotic dancer who worked at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit; this became the template for Holly’s “Not Fade Away.”)

Appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1955, Mr. Diddley was asked to play Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” Without telling Mr. Sullivan, he played “Bo Diddley” instead. Afterward, in an off-camera confrontation, Mr. Sullivan told him that he would never work in television again. Mr. Diddley did not play again on a network show for 10 years.

For decades, Mr. Diddley was bitter about his relationship with the Chess family, whom he accused of withholding money owed to him. In her book “Spinning Blues into Gold,” Nadine Cohodas quoted Marshall Chess as saying, “What’s missing from Bo’s version of events is all the gimmes.” Mr. Diddley would borrow so heavily against projected royalties, Mr. Chess said, that not much was left over in the final accounting.

Mr. Diddley’s watery tremolo effect, from 1955 onward, came from one of the first effects boxes to be manufactured for guitars: the DeArmond Model 60 Tremelo Control. But Mr. Diddley contended that he had already built something similar himself, with automobile parts and an alarm-clock spring.

His first trademark guitar was also handmade: he took the neck and the circuitry off a Gretsch guitar and connected it to a square body he had built. In 1958, he asked Gretsch to make him a better one to the same specifications. Gretsch made it as a limited-edition guitar called “Big B.”

On songs like “Who Do You Love,” his guitar style — bright, chicken-scratch rhythm patterns on a few strings at a time — was an extension of his early violin playing, he said.

“My technique comes from bowing the violin, that fast wrist action,” he told George White, explaining that his fingers were too big to move around easily. Rather than fingering the fretboard, Mr. Diddley said, he tuned the guitar to an open E and moved a single finger up and down to create chords.

As his fame rose, his personal life grew complicated. His first marriage, at the age of 18, to Louise Woolingham, lasted less than a year. His second marriage, in 1949, to Ethel “Tootsie” Smith, unraveled in the late 1950s. He then moved from Chicago to Washington, settling in the Mount Pleasant district, where he built a studio in his home.

Separated from his wife, he was performing in Birmingham, Ala., when, backstage, he met a young door-to-door magazine saleswoman named Kay Reynolds, a fan, who was 15 and white. They moved in together in short order and were soon married, in spite of Southern taboos and laws against racial intermarriage. During the late 1950s, Mr. Diddley’s band featured a female guitarist, Peggy Jones (stage-named Lady Bo), at a time when there were scarcely any women in rock. She was replaced by Norma Jean Wofford, whom Mr. Diddley called the Duchess. He pretended she was his sister, he said, to be in a better position to protect her on the road. The early 1960s were low times. Chess, searching for a hit, had Mr. Diddley make albums to capitalize on the dance craze “the twist,” as Chubby Checker had done, and on the “surf” music of the Beach Boys. But soon a foreign market for his earlier music began to grow, thanks in large part to the Rolling Stones, a newly popular band that was regularly playing at least seven of his songs in their concerts. It paved the way for Mr. Diddley’s successful tour of England in 1963.

But he wasn’t willing to move to Europe, and in America the picture worsened for him: the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan and the Byrds quickly made Bo Diddley sound quaint. When work all but dried up, he moved to New Mexico in the early 1970s and became a deputy sheriff in the town of Los Lunas. With his sound updated to resemble hard rock and soul, he continued to make albums for Chess until his contract with it expired in 1974. His recording career never picked up after that, despite flirtations with synthesizers, religious rock and hip-hop. But he continued apace as a performer and public figure, popping up in places both obvious, like rock ’n’ roll nostalgia revues, and not so obvious: a Nike advertisement, the film “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy, the 1979 tour with the Clash, and two presidential inaugurals, George H. W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s.

Since the early ’80s, Mr. Diddley lived in Archer, Fla., near Gainesville, owning 76 acres and a recording studio. His passions were fishing and old cars, including a 1969 purple Cadillac hearse. In 1992, he married Sylia R. Paiz, who became his fourth wife.

Mr. Diddley’s survivors also include his children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Tammi D. McDaniel and Terri Lynn McDaniel, as well as 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Mr. Diddley attributed his longevity to abstinence from drugs and drinking, but in recent years he had suffered from diabetes. After a concert in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on May 13, Mr. Diddley had a stroke and was taken to Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. Last Aug. 28, he suffered a heart attack in Gainesville and was hospitalized.

Mr. Diddley always believed that he and Chuck Berry had started rock ’n’ roll, and the fact that he couldn’t, financially, reap all that he had sowed made him a deeply suspicious man.

“I tell musicians, ‘Don’t trust nobody but your mama,’ ” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2005. “And even then, look at her real good.”

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This is sad news, but not too unexpected. We're going to be losing many of these pioneers in the next few years. Go out and see the ones that are still around while you can!

I'm seeing B.B. King next week for this very reason.

Chuck Berry

Jerry Lee Lewis

Little Richard all come to mind.

Chuck is too stubborn, Jerry Lee too mean and Little Richard just has too much damn energy to leave us right now.

But I agree with you.

If you get a chance to see any of them, do it.

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Bo Diddley was a regular visitor to Oz, so often he should have gotten permanent residency status.

I met Bo in my hometown in the mid 70's.

He was supposed to play at the Blacktown Civic Centre.

There were the usual posters put up around the town and a small ad in the local paper.

However, the local council decided to cancel the show without telling anyone about it.

They didn't like the idea of concerts being held in the town hall.

Anyway there was about 5 - 6 of us waiting outside the hall when he and his band pulled up in a couple of cars.

They got out and lo and behold the venue was closed tight.

One of the guys, an Oz saxaphone player named Wilbur Wilde said "let's break the fucking door in!"

We talked for about fifteen minutes about music etc. and I told him I had seen him the Saturday night before at the Coogee Bay Hotel on the coast.

It was an awesome show and Charlie Pride got up and jammed with him and they did Dobie Grey's Drift Away.

He was avery approachable bloke not playing the star thing and was genuinely upset that they couldn't play that night.

I remember him geeting back in the car with his trademark black stetson hat and him saying "see y'all later."

Well Bo you are a legend and I guess I'll see y'all later too.

Bonzo, Bon and Bo great company up there in heaven and the makings of a good rockin' band.

St. Peter there's a new Deputy in town.

RIP mate.

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