'Bo Diddley' -1955 - 2:40
'You Cant Judge a Book' - 3:08
More Bo Diddley Tracks after the text
Meanwhile, back at Chess Records ... In 1928 Mississippi produced another son, Ellas Otha Bates; you probably know him as Bo Diddley. Born in McComb, Mississippi, he was adopted and raised by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Ellas McDaniel. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the largely black South Side area of Chicago, where the young man dropped the name Otha and became known as Ellas McDaniel, until his musical ambitions demanded that he take on a more catchy identity. In Chicago, he was an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he studied the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough on the latter for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18. He was more impressed, however, by the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal Church, and he also became interested in the guitar. Inspired by a concert where he saw John Lee Hooker perform, he supplemented his work as a carpenter and mechanic with a developing career playing on street corners with friends. In late 1954, he teamed up with harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, drummer Clifton James and bass player Roosevelt Jackson, and recorded demos of "I'm A Man" and "Bo Diddley". They re-recorded the songs at Chess Studios with a backing ensemble comprising Otis Spann (piano), Lester Davenport (harmonica), Frank Kirkland (drums), and Jerome Green (maracas). The record was released in March 1955, and the A-side, "Bo Diddley", became a number one R & B hit. So where did the name Bo Diddley come from? The origin of the name is somewhat unclear, as several differing stories and claims exist. Bo Diddley himself said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother was familiar with, while harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold once said in an interview that it was originally the name of a local comedian that Leonard Chess borrowed for the song title, and artist name, for Diddley's first single. Guitar craftsman Ed Roman reported that another (unspecified) source says it was his nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer. A "diddley bow" is a typically homemade American string instrument of African origin, probably influenced by instruments found on the coast of West Africa. The American slang phrase bo diddly meaning "absolutely nothing" goes back possibly to the early 20th century or earlier. Diddly is a truncation of diddly-squat, retaining the same meaning of "nothing" and bo is an intensifier. He had a string of hits through the fifties and sixties. Bo was a consummate performer and showman, he long included women in his band: "The Duchess" Norma-Jean Wofford, Gloria Jolivet, Peggy Jones (a.k.a. "Lady Bo," a rare, for the time, female lead guitarist), Cornelia Redmond (a.k.a. Cookie) and Debby Hastings, who led his band for the final 25 years of his performing career. After moving from his home in Chicago to Washington, D.C., he set up one of the first home recording studios where he not only recorded the album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger but he produced and recorded his valet, Marvin Gaye. The Diddley-penned, "Wyatt Earp" was Gaye's first single released on Okeh Records, since the Chess brothers did not want to release the record. He was also known as the Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll, and rock, influencing a host of acts, including the Animals, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Parliament Funkadelic, the Velvet Underground, the Who, the Yardbirds, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, among others. He died in 2008 with accolades from President Bush on down (or up).