b. Otha Ellas Bates (later known as Ellas McDaniel), 30 December 1928, McComb, Mississippi, USA. After beginning his career as a boxer, where he received the sobriquet 'Bo Diddley', the singer worked the blues clubs of Chicago with a repertoire influenced by Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. In late 1954, he teamed up with Billy Boy Arnold and recorded demos of'I'm A Man' and 'Bo Diddley'. Re-recorded at Chess Studios with a backing ensemble comprising Otis Spann (piano), Lester Davenport (harmonica), Frank Kirkland (drums) and Jerome Green (maracas), the a-side, 'Bo Diddley', became an R&B hit in 1955. Before long, Diddley's distorted, amplified, custom-made guitar, with its rectangular shape and pumping rhythm style became a familiar, much-imitated trademark, as did his self-referential songs with such titles as 'Bo Diddley's A Gunslinger', 'Diddley Daddy' and 'Bo's A Lumberjack'. His jive-talking routine with 'Say Man' (a US Top 20 hit in 1959) continued on 'Pretty Thing' and 'Hey Good Lookin", which reached the lower regions of the UK charts in 1963. By then, Diddley was regarded as something of an R&B legend and found a new lease of life courtesy of the UK beat boom. He regularly toured with 'Jerome' and the 'Dutchess' (Norma-Jean Richardson, b. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, d. 30 April 2005). The Pretty Things named themselves after one of his songs, while his work was covered by such artists as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Manfred Mann, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Downliners Sect and the Zephyrs. Diddley subsequently jammed on albums by Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters and appeared infrequently at rock festivals. His classic version of'Who Do You Love' became a staple cover for a new generation of US acts ranging from Quicksilver Messenger Service to the Doors, Tom Rush and Bob Seger, while the UK's Juicy Lucy took the song into the UK Top 20.
Like many of his generation, Diddley attempted to update his image and in the mid-70s released The Black Gladiator in the uncomfortable guise of an ageing funkster. Where It All Begins, produced by Johnny Otis (whose hit 'Willie And The Hand Jive' owed much to Diddley's style), was probably the most interesting of his post-60s albums. In 1979, Diddley toured with the Clash and in 1983 took a cameo role in the movie Trading Places. A familiar face on the revival circuit, his continued appeal to younger performers was emphasized by actor Craig McLachlan's hit recording of'Mona' in 1990. It was announced in 1995, after many years of relative recording inactivity, that Diddley had signed for Mike Vernon's Code Blue record label; the result was A Man Amongst Men. Even with the assistance of Richie Sambora, Jimmie Vaughan, Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Billy Boy Arnold, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and the Shirelles, the anticipation was greater than the result.
Diddley is rightly regarded as a seminal figure in the history of rock 'n' roll. His 'chunk-a-chunka-cha' rhythm retains an enormous influence on modern pop and rock, both consciously and unconsciously.
ALBUMS: Bo Diddley (Checker 1957), Go Bo Diddley (Checker 1958), Have Guitar Will Travel (Checker 1959) In The Spotlight (Checker 1960), Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger (Checker 1961), Bo Diddley Is A Lover (Checker 1961) Bo Diddley (Checker 1962), Bo Diddley Is A Twister (Checker 1962), Hey Bo Diddley (Checker 1963), Bo Diddley And Company (Checker 1963), Rides Again (Checker 1963), Bo Diddley's Beach Party (Checker 1963), Bo Diddley Goes Surfing aka Surfin' With Bo Diddley (Checker 1963), Hey Good Looking (Checker 1964), with Chuck Berry Two Great Guitars (Checker 1964), 500% More Man (Checker 1965), Let Me Pass (Checker 1965), The Originator (Checker 1966), Boss Man (Checker 1967), Superblues (Checker 1968), The Super Super Blues Band (Checker 1968), The Black Gladiator (Checker 1969), Another Dimension (Chess 1971), Where It All Begins (Chess 1972), The Bo Diddley London Sessions (Chess 1973), Big Bad Bo (Chess 1974), Got My Own Bag Of Tricks (Chess 1974), The 20th Anniversary Of Rock 'N' Roll (RCA Victor 1976), Bo's Blues (Ace 1993), A Man Amongst Men (Code Blue 1996), Eddy Mitchell Presente Les Rois Du Rock (Universal 2003).
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