Personalities | Bo Diddley | Roots of Rock

(Guitar, vocals, 1928–2008)

Born Ellas Bates in McComb, Mississippi, Bo Diddley developed his guitar skills and stage persona in Chicago. He had his first guitar by the age of 10. By 1951, at 23, he was a regular in clubs on Chicago’s South Side. By 1955 he was signed to Checker, a spinoff of Chess Records. His debut single was a two-sided gem that featured his compositions ‘Bo Diddley’ and ‘I’m A Man’.

The single gave the world the ‘Bo Diddley beat’, a staccato rhythm that was picked up and used in hits by Buddy Holly (‘Not Fade Away’) and The Who (‘Magic Bus’), among others. Diddley was also known for his ‘cigar box’ guitar, which he first designed and built in 1945 while in school. Diddley’s songs, like ‘You Don’t Love Me’, ‘Pretty Thing’, ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, ‘Who Do You Love?’ and ‘Mona’, reflect the energy and drive of early rock’n’roll.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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