Bo Diddley: December 30, 1928-June 2, 2008

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Getintothis profiles the legendary bluesman who died this week.


He wasn’t a man for the daylight. In fact you wondered if behind the cool shades, or the down-tilting brim of his hat, those dark eyes had ever seen the sun.
But he sure was the real thing, the authentic black bluesman, whose music had the aristocrats of British rock a-knocking’ on his door and trying to imitate his style.
Eric Burden, the passionate and gravel-voiced singer with the Animals, understood the absurdity of this in his mocking composition, the Story of Bo Diddley.
References are made to the long-haired Rolling Stones from Richmond, Surrey – “way down in the Deep Southâ€? and four young guys with “mop haircutsâ€? from Liverpool.
The song climaxes when the man himself, Bo Diddley and his “gorgeous sister, the Duchess, and his maraca man, Jerome Green, unexpectedly walk into Newcastle’s Club A-Go-Go.
The Stones were playing there with the Merseybeats and Diddley asks Green, “What do you think of these guys doing our material?â€?
Finally after some witty exchanges, Diddley says with half-closed eyes and a smile, “That sure is the biggest load of rubbish I ever heard in my life.â€?
The respect in Burden’s voice is immense for the man born Otha Ellas Bates into a poor farming family in Magnolia, Mississippi.
His father died when he was a baby and he was adopted by his 16-year-old mother’s first cousin, Gussie McDaniel, a sharecropper, who encouraged his interest in playing the violin and guitar.
The family had moved to Chicago’s South Side. His influences came from a Baptist church where he played the violin, before switching to the hotter gospel of the Pentecostal church.
Fast and strong, McDaniel was a promising teenage boxer and it was about this time that the neighbourhood kids, started calling him Bo Diddley, a slang appreciation of his fighting, manners and music.
Although he played R&B in the bars and clubs with legendary performers, it was not until 1955 that the man with the square guitar and rasping harmonica secured a contract with Chess Records, scoring successes with his own compositions, I’m a Man, You Don’t Love Me, Bo Diddley, Crackin’ Up (later recorded by Paul McCartney) and You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover. He was four times married and had at least five children.
Bo Diddley, musician, born December 30, 1928; died June 2, 2008.


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