Bo Diddley, Vocalist and Guitarist, Died at 79

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Dead, Bo Diddley on June 2, 2008 at the age of 79, he was an American R&B and Chicago Blues vocalist and guitarist.

Born in McComb, Mississippi on December 30, 1928, as Ellas Otha Bates, he was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed.

In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the largely black South Side area of Chicago, where the young Ellas dropped the name Otha and became simply Ellas McDaniel.

In Chicago, he was an active member of the local Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he studied the trombone and the violin, becoming proficient enough on the violin for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18.

Inspired by a John Lee Hooker performance, he supplemented his work as a carpenter and mechanic by playing on street corners with friends, including Jerome Green (c. 1934–1973), in the Hipsters band, later renamed the Langley Avenue Jive Cats.

Green would become a near-constant member of McDaniel’s backing band, the two often trading joking insults with each other during live shows. During the summer of 1943–1944, he played at the Maxwell Street market in a band with Earl Hooker.

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.

On November 20, 1955, Bo Diddley appeared on the hugely popular Ed Sullivan TV show.

The show asked him to sing “Sixteen Tons”, but instead he sang “Bo Diddley”.

Ed Sullivan was infuriated and banned Bo Diddley from his show.

He also said that Bo Diddley wouldn’t last six months.

The request came about because the show’s staff heard Bo Diddley casually singing “Sixteen Tons” in the dressing room. Bo Diddley was a great storyteller but the slant tended to vary.

He said that when he saw “Bo Diddley” on the cue-card, he thought he was to perform two songs: “Bo Diddley” and “Sixteen Tons”.

Chess included Diddley’s “Sixteen Tons” on the 1960 album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger.

Appearing on television, touring, and recording new material, Diddley remained popular until the mid-1960s.

As rock and roll tastes changed, he started producing few albums, which weren’t met with the same enthusiasm as earlier efforts.

Still he remained a powerful live performer who toured heavily.

A 1979 tour with the punk rock group, The Clash, introduced Diddley to new audiences.

In 1987, Diddley was recognized for his role as a pioneering force in music by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

More recently, he won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards in 1996.

That same year, he released his last studio album, Man

Amongst Men, which was warmly received by critics.

The musician the world knows as BO DIDDLEY has, over the past five decades, indelibly stamped his mark on rhythm ‘n’ blues, rock ‘n’ roll and popular music.

His innovative trademark rhythm, his electric custom-built guitars, his use of female musicians, his psychedelic guitar sounds, his wild stage shows, and his on-record and on-stage rapping, pre-date all others.

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