Bo Diddley Profile:
Born: December 30, 1928 in McComb MS
Died: June 2, 2008 in Archer FL
Much like his Chess Records labelmate Chuck Berry, the legendary Bo Diddley is better known as a rock & roll or R&B artist rather than as a bluesman. Diddley's musical roots are firmly based in blues music, however, and his best-known material is not only blues-based, but was mostly recorded with blues musicians. Diddley's sound appealed to young rockers, however, and his rhythmic, beat-driven percussive guitar and songwriting style served as a template for a raft of British blues-rock bands during the 1960s.
Street Corner Talkin'
Born Otha Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi, Diddley was later adopted by his mother's cousin and became known as Ellis McDaniels. He moved to Chicago at the age of five with his family, and became interested in both boxing and music. McDaniels sang in church and took violin lessons, but discovered the guitar and blues music in the form of John Lee Hooker in his early teens.
Taking his childhood nickname of "Bo Diddley" as his professional name, he began playing Chicago street corners in the late-1940s. Diddley put together his first band, the Hipsters, with percussionist Jerome Green, and began playing the clubs. Harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold joined the band, which by then had changed its name to the Langley Avenue Jive Cats.
The Chess Years
Diddley signed with Chess Records in 1955, releasing his first single, the double-sided smash hit "Bo Diddley" b/w "I'm A Man." The song featured what became known as the "Bo Diddley Beat," a rhythmic device that became a standard for many boogie, blues, and rock bands. A string of hits followed, songs like "Who Do You Love," "Hey Bo Diddley," and "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover." By the mid-1960s, however, Diddley's commercial fortunes had declined as the artist chased trends with albums like Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger and Surfin' With Bo Diddley.
Often paid a flat fee for his recordings, Diddley never received royalties on his hits, and he long claimed that he was underpaid on performances as well. As such, Diddley continued touring until suffering a stroke in early-2007. Diddley's place in pop culture history was cemented when he appeared in a Nike sneakers TV commercial during the late-1980s with athlete Bo Jackson.
Recommended Albums: The Millennium Collection offers up a dozen of Diddley's hottest tracks, including all of the artist's 1950s-era hits.