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Bo Diddley - The Originator
The Early Years
Using his musical talent, his famous Bo Diddley beat, and his songwriting skills. Bo Diddley will be remembered for his contribution as one of the fathers of Rock and Roll music.
Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi on December 30, 1928. He was raised by a cousin Gussie McDaniel. The family moved to Chicago in 1934 when he was very young; it was during this time his name was changed from Ellas Bates to Ellas McDaniel. From early on Ellas McDaniel showed an interest in music; while attend the local Baptist Church, he learned to play the trombone and violin; after learning to play the violin he joined the church orchestra. But McDaniel had something else in mind. Although he played in the church orchestra till he was eighteen, McDaniel became interested in the electric guitar after attending a church service at a local Pentecostal Church. Also, after seeing a performance by John Lee Hooker, young Ellas McDaniel was inspired even more to learn the guitar; thus McDaniel's interest in boxing and the violin begun to be secondary. While he was still in high school, Ellas formed his first band called the "Hipsters"; Also, in 1951 Ellas McDaniel managed to get a regular job playing at a local club on the south side of Chicago. In the latter part of 1954, he and a few friend recorded a demo of "I'm a Man" and "Bo Diddley". Later, at Chess Records the songs were re-recorded and in 1955 "Bo Diddley" was an Rhythm and Blues hit. It was at this time Ellas McDaniiel adopted the stage "Bo Diddley". One other important milestone reached by Bo Diddley in 1955 was his debut on national TV on the Ed Sullivan show. His singing/songwriting career was off to a good start; though out the 1950s and the 60s he continued to have a string of hits including "Pretty Thing" and "Say Man" ( both released in the 50's), In addition, "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover" was released in in early 1960's; there were other albums released including "Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger" and "Have Guitar, Will Travel".
The Twang Machine
It was at this time in 1958 Bo Diddley's trademark instrument was made with his own hands.The rectangular-bodied "Twang Machine" was fashioned after Bo Diddley had an embarrassing moment during a concert. While jumping around on stage during a concert and holding a Gibson L5, he struck himself in the groan. After this happened he decided to make a guitar that was less restrictive. Although he had other guitars custom made by others he preferred to use the one he fashioned himself.
As the years go by
Later in 1963, and still somewhat unknown, he appeared as a supporting act at a concert with Little Richard, The Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers; in 1964 "Two Great Guitars" was released it was a jam session between him and Chuck Berry. Around this time he was a regular at the Apollo Theatre and somtimes traveled with the Rock and Roll performers of the day In 1966 the album "The Originator" was released. In 1972 he played a concert with the Grateful Dead. From 1971 to 1978 he lived in New Mexico; during this time he continued to perform, but he also served as a deputy sheriff (on the citizen patrol). He left New Mexico and moved to Florida. He would spend the rest of his life in New Mexico or Florida. In the late 70's he appeared as the opening performance for group called "The Clash"; In 1991 he shared the stage with BB King, Les Paul and, Albert Collins and others during the Legends of Guitar concert. In 1994 he joined the Rolling Stones as a special guess on their Voodoo Lounge tour and in April 1996 " A Man Among Men" is released; his first album in many years. In the late 90's he had a couple of brief parts in two movies Trading places and Blues Brothers 2000.
Bo Diddley received various awards in recognition of his contribution as one of the founding fathers of rock and roll. some awards he received were as follows:
- 1986: inducted into the Washington area Music Hall of Fame.
- 1987 inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame
- 1987 inducted into the Rockabilly hall of fame
- 1990 Lifetime Achievement Award from Guitar Player Magazine
- 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
- Honorary degree given by University of Flordia in August 2008 (was confirmed before his death in June 2008)
In 2005, Bo Diddley celebrated 50 years in the music business with tours of Australia and Europe; in North America he performed in many major cities with Eric Clapton and Robbie Robertson. In 2006 Bo Diddley participated in a grassroots fundraiser concert to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.
On May 12, 2007 prior to a concert in Council Bluffs, Iowa Bo Diddley said he didn't feel well. Never-the-less he performed to an enthusiastic
audience anyways. The next day, as he was heading home, he seemed confused and disoriented; while he was still in the airport, his manager called 911
and Bo Diddley was taken to
Creighton University Medical Center. He was there for several days in Intensive Care Unit while various test were done on him. When the test results came in, it was found he had a stroke. The stroke affected the side of the brain controlling speech. Later in August 2007 Bo Diddley had a heart attack while in Gainsville, Florida. While recovering from the heart attack and stroke he had suffered earlier in the year, Diddley went to his home town of McComb, Mississippi in November 2007, for an unveiling of a plaque honoring him as a founder of Rock and Roll. Although he was not suppose to perform, he did anyways this was the last public performance of Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley passed away on June 2, 2008 at his Florida home; He died with family around him. In his final hours Gospel music was sung to him; the name of the song was "Walk around Heaven" and Bo Diddley's last words were 'I'm going to heaven" In the days after his death he was honored by George W. Bush, The U.S. House of Representatives, BB King, Tom Petty, Bonnie Ratt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mick Jagger (the Rolling Stones) and many other musicians and friends. Although he is gone, he will always be remembered as one of the founders of Rock and Roll who influenced so many musical artist.