A rock ‘n’ roll legend and founding father, Bo Diddley will be forever remembered for his signature beat and classic early hits, which fused rhythm and blues with rock ‘n’ roll in an infectious sound and style that influenced generations of guitarists and songwriters.
Born Ellas Bates McDaniel in McComb, Miss., on Dec. 30, 1928, Diddley played violin as a child. His family moved to Chicago when Diddley was 7 years old; he is said to have started playing guitar after hearing 1949 John Lee Hooker R&B hit “Boogie Chillen.”
He recorded demos in 1954 of eponymous single “Bo Diddley” and his immortal “I’m A Man,” the former of which featured the distinctive rumba-like rhythm that came to be known as “the Bo Diddley beat.” Diddley re-recorded both songs at Chess Records; the record was released in March 1955 and became a number-one hit. Subsequent hit singles included “Who Do You Love?” (1956), “Pretty Thing” (1956), “Hey Bo Diddley” (1957), “Say Man” (1959) and “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover” (1962). He also penned 1956 Mickey and Sylvia hit “Love Is Strange.” From 1958 to 1963, Chess subsidiary Checker Records released 11 Bo Diddley albums.
Diddley continued to perform and tour throughout the ensuing decades, revered by generations of rock and R&B artists and receiving numerous awards and accolades. In 2004, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame and ranked at number 20 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1987.
Did You Know?
Gretsch guitars introduced its distinctively rectangular Bo Diddley signature model guitar in 1999 and the “Billy-Bo” Jupiter Thunderbird guitar in 2005.
“Diddley was “the artiste,” said ZZ Top guitarist Billy F Gibbons. “The man who constructed the sound we all grew to revolve around and a vision of simplicity delivered through effortless expression and sense of humor.”