Often referred to as “The Originator” because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll, The late great Ellas Otha Bates A.K.A American Rhythm & Blues Legend Bo Diddley was born on this day 30 December, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi.
He lived in Mississippi Until 1934, when he and his family moved to Chicago. whilst In Chicago, he became 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, as well as an interest in the guitar.
Inspired by a concert where he saw John Lee Hooker perform he played music on street corners with friends, including Jerome Green in a band called The Hipsters (later The Langley Avenue Jive Cats). During the summer of 1943–44, he played for tips at the Maxwell Street market in a band with Earl Hooker, and By 1951 he was playing on the street with backing from Roosevelt Jackson (on washtub bass) and Jody Williams (whom he had taught to play the guitar). Williams later played lead guitar on “Who Do You Love?” (1956). In 1951 he landed a regular spot at the 708 Club on Chicago’s South Side, with a repertoire influenced by Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters, and later adopted the stage name “Bo Diddley”.
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 #1 R&B hit.
He enjoyed continuing success during the 1950’s and 60’s and had many hit records, including “Pretty Thing” (1956), “Say Man” (1959), and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (1962). He released a string of albums whose titles, including Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger and Have Guitar, Will Travel, bolstered by his self-invented legend. Between 1958 and 1963, Checker Records released 11 full-length albums by Bo Diddley. Although he broke through as a crossover artist with white audiences (appearing at the Alan Freed concerts, for example), he rarely tailored his compositions to teenage concerns.
Over the decades, Bo Diddley’s venues ranged from intimate clubs to stadiums. On March 25, 1972, he played with The Grateful Dead at the Academy of Music in New York City. The Grateful Dead released part of this concert as Volume 30 of the band’s Dick’s Picks concert album series. Also in the early 1970s, the soundtrack for the ground-breaking animated film Fritz The Cat contained his song “Bo Diddley”, in which a crow idly finger-pops along to the track.
He was responsible for introducing a more insistent, driving rhythm and hard-edged guitar sound to a wide-ranging catalog of songs, and was also known for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar.
Later in his career He appeared as an opening act for The Clash in their 1979 US tour; in Legends of Guitar (filmed live in Spain, 1991) with B.B. King, Les Paul, Albert Collins, George Benson, among others, and joined The Rolling Stones as a guest on their 1994 concert broadcast of Voodoo Lounge, performing “Who Do You Love?” with the band. He sadly died on June 2nd 2008, and was posthumously awarded a Doctor of Fine Arts degree by the University of Florida for his influence on American popular music and in its “People in America” radio series about influential people in American history, he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
He was a one of a kind musician and Bo Diddley’s influence was so widespread that it is hard to imagine what rock and roll would have sounded like without him. He influenced a host of other artists including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Clash, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton and was also a big influence on The Rolling Stones, he is also sometimes referred to as the rock that the roll was built on.