Bo Diddley had most of his success in the music business on the R&B charts in the 50's and early 60's. He had a very strong influence on others who followed.
His name at his birth in 1928 in McComb, Mississippi was Otha Ellas Bates McDaniel; he had been adopted by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, and a man named Bates. The family moved to Chicago when young Ellas was five years old. As a child he studied violin.
He taught himself how to play a guitar and played it in a band he joined while in school. He also played the trombone in his church choir. Ellas began a five-year stint as the leader of a three-man washboard band when he was seventeen.
He started to record for the Checker and Chess labels in 1955, an association that lasted for 21 years. Most of his hit songs were on the R&B charts: Diddley Daddy, his two-sided hit Bo Diddley/I'm A Man, You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, Say Man, and Road Runner. His only song to crossover into the pop charts and make the top forty there was Say Man in 1959, a number twenty entry. His popularity as an R&B performer continued strongly until 1962, after which some of his record sales slacked off until he came back with Ooh Baby in 1967.
Some of his best work can be found in his more obscure songs from albums that he made in the 50's. Some of these albums had titles such as Bo Diddley and Go Bo Diddley. Included in this group are such songs as Who Do You Love?, Bring It To Jerome, and Diddey Wah Diddey.
In addition to singing and performing, he also did some songwriting. His hambone beat [shave-and-a-hair-cut, two bits] was his trademark, and was often copied by others in their music. Although he had few hit songs in the pop vein, his powerful delivery, somewhat intimidating songs, and the pounding rhythm of his guitar caused him to be a performer in demand. He toured with Dick Clark's road shows, and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Bo Diddley took his name from a one-stringed African guitar, and usually played a guitar with a rectangular box shape. He managed to work his name into some of his songs. He took his place in the Rock-and-Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.
After months of poor helath, Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida on June 2, 2008.
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