Bo Diddley

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Bo Diddley at the Long Beach Blues Festival (1997)

Bo Diddley (actually Ellas Otha Bates , born December 30, 1928 in McComb , Mississippi , † June 2, 2008 in Archer , Florida ) was an American rock 'n' roll and blues musician . Diddley is considered a rock 'n' roll pioneer.


Childhood and youth

Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates (according to other sources, Otha Ellas) on a small farm near the town of McComb , Mississippi. Since his underage mother could not raise him, her cousin Gussie McDaniel adopted him, whose last name he adopted. When Diddley was seven, the family moved to Chicago because of the Great Depression .

First Diddley learned to play the violin. At the age of twelve, he convinced his stepsister Lucille to give him a simple Gibson guitar to practice on. Towards the end of his school days he formed the band The Hipsters with two friends and played with them on the streets. After finishing school, he first worked as a carpenter and mechanic.


Diddley's band, The Hipsters, grew in popularity over time. At the age of 19 he got an engagement at the 708 Club in Chicago. He attracted considerable attention thanks to his powerful amplifier, his unique style and his unusual guitar, which he had enhanced with a tremolo device made from an old clock and auto parts . 1954 Jackson and Jody Williams left the band and were replaced by James Bradford and "Buttercup". Then there were Billy Boy Arnold , Clifton James and Jerome Green.

Bo Diddley in Prague , 2005

Through Billy Boy Arnold Bo Diddley tried to get into various record companies. He finally made it with his two tracks Bo Diddley and I'm a Man on Chess Records . Willie Dixon and Otis Spann also starred on this single . Due to the success, he played a few concerts nationwide, including at the Apollo Theater in New York City , where he broke the audience record held by Sammy Davis Junior up to that point . In the following years he could be heard repeatedly in the charts and developed into a versatile musician.

Bo Diddley in Wolfsburg , 2004

In 1958 he made an electric guitar with a rectangular body for himself . He hired the neck of a Gretsch -Guitar including headstock and fretboard and the electrics, bridge and tailpiece and installed these components on a flat square of Bakelite ; this unconventionally designed instrument became his trademark. It was based on the cigar box guitar , a version of the guitar originally developed out of poverty and not uncommon in the blues, in which the body was made from a wooden or cigar box. Diddley preferred the rectangular shape because the body horns of other electric guitars are said to have bothered him when jumping on stage.

From 1959 Bo Diddley also played with Peggy Jones alias "Lady Bo", a graduate of the New York Music School. With her he expanded the spectrum of his songs again. In 1960 he moved to Washington, DC From then on he was allowed to produce his own music - a musical freedom that was unusual for a colored musician at that time and that otherwise only James Brown enjoyed. In 1962 Bo Diddley had his last hit for the time being with the song You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover (Dixon). Under his real name Ellas McDaniel, he also wrote songs like Mona , which was recorded by the Troggs , Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones . A certain rhythm is predominant, which is referred to as the “Bo Diddley Beat” or also as “salesman's knock” (because the traveling traders used to knock on the front door in this way). Examples of this syncopated rhythm (stroke / stroke / stroke / rest / stroke / stroke) are Diddley compositions like Bo Diddley , but also Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf , Magic Bus by The Who and Not fade away , a song by Buddy Holly der best known through the early Rolling Stones .

From the end of the 1960s, like many other blues musicians, he got a little off the beaten track. Even so, he continued to release albums. These were created together with well-known colleagues such as Little Walter , Muddy Waters and Howlin 'Wolf . At the Toronto Peace Festival 1969 he appeared alongside John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. In 1972 he was one of the top acts on the London Rock and Roll Show at the famous Wembley Stadium . Bo Diddley's influence remained constant throughout the 1970s. Numerous musicians from the punk and new wave scene made use of his pieces.

In 1989 Diddley appeared in the Nike commercial, Bo knows, with baseball and American football player Bo Jackson.

In 1987 Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and 2004 into the Blues Hall of Fame . Occasionally he took on supporting roles in films, such as the pawnbroker in 1983 in Die Glücksritter . In the film Blues Brothers 2000 he appeared as a musician; In 2003 he had a guest appearance on the US sitcom Jim Again and again .

Sickness and death

On May 13, 2007, Bo Diddley suffered a stroke after a concert in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which severely affected his language center. On August 29, 2007, he suffered a heart attack and had to be hospitalized again. On June 2, 2008, Diddley died of heart failure at his Florida home, aged 79.



year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
Studio albums
1958 Bo Diddley - -
1959 Go Bo Diddley - -
1960 Have Guitar Will Travel - -
titled after the western series Have Gun - Will Travel
Bo Diddley in the Spotlight - -
featuring Road Runner
Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger - UK20 (1 week)
1961 Bo Diddley Is a Lover - -
1962 Bo Diddley's a Twister - -
named after the twist fever of that time
Bo Diddley - UK11 (8 weeks)
1963 Bo Diddley & Company - -
first album with The Duchess
Surfin 'with Bo Diddley - -
1964 Two great guitars - -
1965 Hey Good lookin ' - -
500% More Man - -
1966 The Originator - -
1967 Great blues - -
1968 The Super Super Blues Band - -
1970 The Black Gladiator - -
1971 Another dimension - -
1972 Where It All Began - -
1973 The London Bo Diddley Sessions - -
1974 Big Bad Bo - -
1976 20th Anniversary of Rock & Roll - -
1983 Ain't It Good to Be Free - -
Limited edition, taken in Hawthorne , Florida ; first home studio album since Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger
1989 Breakin 'through the BS - -
Home studio album recorded in Archer , Florida
Living legend - -
Home studio album recorded in Archer, Florida
1992 This Should Not Be - -
Home studio album recorded in Albuquerque , New Mexico
1996 A Man Amongst Men - -
Number 8 in the US Blues Albums Charts
1963 Hey Bo Diddley - -
Released in UK only
Bo Diddley Rides Again - UK19 (1 week)
Released in UK only
1964 Bo Diddley's 16 All-Time Greatest Hits - -
1971 Got My Own Bag of Tricks - -
1982 Chess Masters, Volume One - -
Chess Masters, Volume Two - -
1984 His Greatest Sides, Volume One - -
His Greatest Sides, Volume Two - -
1990 The Chess Box - -
1991 Rare & Well Done - -
1995 Bo Knows Bo - -
1997 His best - -
2000 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection:
The Best of Bo Diddley
- -
2003 Eddy Mitchell Presente Les Rois Du Rock - Bo Diddley - -
2005 Classic Bo Diddley: The Universal Masters Collection - -
2006 The Story of Bo Diddley: The Very Best of Bo Diddley - -
2007 The Definitive Collection - -
Number 2 in the US blues album charts
I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958 - -
2008 Rock 'N' Roll Legends - -
Road Runner: The Chess Masters, 1959-1960 - -
gold - -
2009 Ride On: The Chess Masters, 1960-1961 - -
Live albums
1963 Bo Diddley's Beach Party - UK13 (6 weeks)
1977 I'm a man - -
1985 Bo Diddley & Co. - Live - -
1986 Hey ... Bo Diddley: In concert - -
1988 Live at the Ritz - -
1994 live - -


year Title
Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, album , rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1955 Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-side: I'm a Man (no album)
Diddley Daddy
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-side: She's Fine, She's Mine (without album)
Pretty Thing
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - UK34 (6 weeks)
B-side: Bring It to Jerome
1956 Diddy Wah Diddy
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-Side: I Am Looking for a Woman (Album: Bo Diddley's a Twister )
Who Do You Love?
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-side: I'm Bad (no album)
Cops and Robbers
Have Guitar, Will Travel
- - -
B-side: Down Home Special (without album)
1957 Hey Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-Side: Mona (Album: Got My Own Bag of Tricks )
Say! Boss Man
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-side: Before You Accuse Me
1958 Hush Your Mouth
Bo Diddley (1958)
- - -
B-side: Dearest Darling
Willie and Lillie
Go Bo Diddley
- - -
B-side: Bo Meets the Monster (without album)
1959 I'm Sorry
Go Bo Diddley
- R&B17 (5 weeks)
B-side: Oh yeah
Crackin Up
Go Bo Diddley
US62 (5 weeks)
R&B14 (5 weeks)
B-side: The Great Grandfather
Say Man
Go Bo Diddley
US20 (12 weeks)
R&B3 (15 weeks)
B-side: The Clock Strikes Twelve
Say Man, Back Again
Have Guitar, Will Travel
- R&B23 (1 week)
B-side: She's alright
1960 Road Runner
In the Spotlight
US75 (6 weeks)
R&B20 (2 weeks)
B-side: My Story (without album)
Walkin 'and Talkin'
In the Spotlight
- - -
In the Spotlight
- - -
Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger
- - -
B-Side: Signifying Blues (Album: In the Spotlight )
1961 Not Guilty
Bo Diddley Is a ... Lover
- - -
B-side: Aztec
The Originator
- - -
B-side: Call Me (without album)
1962 You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover
Bo Diddley (1962)
US48 (10 weeks)
R&B21 (9 weeks)
B-side: I Can Tell
1963 The Greatest Lover in the World
- - -
B-Side: Surfer's Love Call (Album: Surfin 'with Bo Diddley )
1964 Memphis
Bo Diddley's Beach Party
- - -
B-side: Monkey Diddle (without album)
The Originator
- - -
B-Side: Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (no album)
Chuck's Beat (with Chuck Berry )
Two Great Guitars
- - -
B-side: Bo's beat
1965 Hey, good lookin '
hey! Good lookin '
- - UK39 (4 weeks)
B-Side: You Ain't Bad (Album: The Originator )
500% More Man
500% More Man
- - -
B-side: Let the Kids Dance
1966 We're gonna get married
- - -
B-side: Do the Frog
Ooh baby
US88 (7 weeks)
R&B17 (9 weeks)
B-side: Back to School
1967 Wrecking My Love Life
- - -
B-side: Boo-Ga-Loo Before You Go
1968 I'm high again
- - -
B-side: Another Sugar Daddy
1969 Bo Diddley 1969
- - -
B-side: Soul Train
1971 The Shape I'm In
Another Dimension
- - -
B-side: Pollution
I Said Shut Up Woman
Another Dimension
- - -
B-side: I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
1972 Infatuation
Where It All Began
- - -
B-side: Bo Diddley-Itis
The London Bo Diddley Sessions
- - -
B-side: Husband In Law
1973 Don't Want No Lyin 'Woman
The London Bo Diddley Sessions
- - -
B-side: Make A Hit Record
1976 Drag On
The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'N' Roll
- - -
B-side: Not Fade Away
1996 Bo Diddley Is Crazy
A Man Amongst Men
- - -
also as Can I Walk You Home , maxi CD
2005 Bo Diddley
- - UK99 (1 week)
B-side: I'm A Man


  • George R. White: Bo Diddley: Living Legend , Castle Communications, Chessington, Surrey 1995, 248 pp., ISBN 978-1-86074-130-2 .


  • Bo Diddley tells of his life in the autobiographical song The Story of Bo Diddley , which was also covered by the English rock band The Animals . A live version of the track “Bo Diddley” can be heard, for example, on the Animal LP “In The Beginning” (1970) (A-side, track 3 [of 7]) (length: 7:53).
  • The Spanish band Fito y Fitipaldis released the song Yo no soy Bo Diddley ("I'm not Bo Diddley") on the album Por la boca vive el pez (2008) Diddley.
  • In the animated film Fritz the Cat , the title Bo Diddley is played as a soundtrack for almost 2 minutes .
  • The ghosts from various Super Mario games called Buu Huu were called Boo Diddleys in the English version of Super Mario Bros. 3
  • The Rolling Stone listed Bo Diddley as 20th of the 100 greatest musicians and 27th of the 100 best guitarists of all time .

Web links

Commons : Bo Diddley  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Neil Strauss: The Indestructible Beat of Bo Diddley. Fifty years ago, he helped pioneer rock & roll, and he's never stopped. Inside the mind of rock's greatest inventor. In: Rolling Stone . August 25, 2005, accessed March 16, 2018 .
  2. Kay, H .: Rock'n'Roll Souvenirs, p. 15. ISBN 3-89441-179-1
  3. ^ "" Wow "was his last word" , Die Zeit , June 3, 2008
  4. Die Klampfmaschinen - Legendary Electric Guitars , one day , October 24, 2011
  5. Bi Diddley - The 50ies Collection (click on the arrow symbol)
  6. Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf (click on the arrow symbol)
  7. Magic Bus - The Who (click on the arrow symbol)
  8. Not fade away - The Rolling Stones (click on the arrow symbol)
  9. Imdb entry
  10. "Diddley suffered a stroke" , , May 18, 2007
  11. a b chart sources:
  12. The Story of Bo Diddley at
  13. ^ Entry by Animals on with reference to their interpretation of The Story of Bo Diddley
  14. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .
  15. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Rolling Stone , December 18, 2015, accessed August 8, 2017 .