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Bo Diddley


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Bo Diddley (December 30, 1928 - June 2, 2008) “The Originator,” was an influential American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He is often cited as a key figure in the transition of into rock and roll, by introducing more insistent, driving rhythms and a harder-edged guitar sound.

He was born Otha Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi and later took the name Ellas McDaniel, after his adoptive mother, Gussie McDaniel. He adopted the stage name Bo Diddley, which is probably a southern black slang phrase meaning “nothing at all,” as in “he ain’t bo diddley. ” Another source says it was his nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer. The nickname is also linked to the diddley bow, a one stringed instrument used in the south by mainly black musicians in the fields.

He is best known for the “Bo Diddley beat,” a rhumba-based beat (see clave) also influenced by what is known as “hambone,” a style used by street performers who play out the beat by slapping and patting their arms, legs, chest, and cheeks while chanting rhymes. The Bo Diddley beat is often illustrated with the phrase: “shave ‘n’ a haircut - two bits.”

The beat has been used by many other artists, notably Johnny Otis on “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which is more about hambone than it is a direct copy of Bo Diddley, Bruce Springsteen’s “She’s the One,” U2’s “Desire,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Rolling Stones’ “Mona” as well as more obscure numbers such as “Callin’ All Cows” by The Blues Rockers.


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