June 2nd, 2008
02:42 PM ET

Bo Diddley, 1928-2008

There was something elemental about it.

The Bo Diddley Beat announced itself from the first “bump.” Coupled with the lyrics to Diddley songs - “I’m a man/I spell M-A-N,” “I walked 47 miles of barbed wire/Used a cobra snake for a necktie” - you knew you were in touch with a primal spirit, a rhythm that suggested swagger, energy, danger.

And yes, sex. (Of course, sex.)

Bo Diddley never got the recognition his contemporaries did. Chuck Berry wrote poetry about American life and joined it to his own distinctive riffs. Fats Domino had those rollicking piano triplets and that smooth voice. Buddy Holly could do rockabilly and romance. They were all mainstays in the Top Ten.

Bo Diddley? Though his early songs topped the R&B charts, his highest-charting pop hit was 1959’s “Say Man,” which peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100, according to Allmusic.com.

But Bo had the Beat.

And, thank God, he gave it to the rest of us.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: Music

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soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Rob Rooster

    I had the privaledge of shaking 'Mr. McDaniels' hand. I have played support a couple of times ,all I ever heard him talk about was his bad back or girls! If BoDiddly did NOT have an influence on anyone who is a player, then you ain't got any idea of what Rock'n'Roll is all about (sad!)
    I would like to adress a comment above made by Todd Leopold relating to Chuck Berry.( who I have also played support to) The 'TRADEMARK' riff used by Chuck was in use long before he did !Check out a Lois Jordan track 'Ain't that Just Like a Woman' I think it was from about 1948 but I could be wrong, but not to the extent that it did not pre-date Berry significantly.
    Bo Don't you Know Diddly,? well yes, I DID !

    April 8, 2009 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
  2. T. Webb

    I saw Bo at "Be Here Now" in Asheville, NC several years ago. He nearly always traveled alone and picked up a local band. This time the local band was The King Bees from Boone, NC. This was a wonderful show and even though I liked him very much before I gained a whole new appreciation of him from this show. He didn't put up with any foolishness or drunkenness from audience members (called them down if they got out of hand), but gave everything he had of himself and his music so that all could enjoy the show. The King Bees were a great backup band as well.
    I make some stone jewelry and took some bola ties along to this show with me to let Bo take his pick. He chose a green Malachite stone with a green cord. I hope he wore it several times as it seemed to be a good fit for him. The stone came from Africa and was a very beautiful example of Malachite.
    Bo also said at this show that he didn't see 'color', just people. We should all feel this way.
    I will miss this good and talented man who was under-appreciated by his contemporary musicians and the public as well. Perhaps those who didn't give him credit for his accomplishments or for ideas they 'borrowed' from him could in some way make it up to his family, monetarily or otherwise.
    Rest in peace Bo and I hope to see you again one day!
    Your friend,
    T. Webb

    June 22, 2008 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shannon

    I was fortunate enough to meet Bo Diddley one night at the old Fillmore, before there was a Fillmore East. My girfriend was dating Albert King, and we three stood waiting for Mr. Diddley to come off stage. He had us rocking right there - I can't even remember the other bands that played that night - and when he came down off the stage and those hot lights, Albert said something to hm, but he was looking at me, this huge, happy, sweat-soaked man, and he picked me up and said: "Ain't you the cutest li'l thing!" and gave me a big bear hug. Then set me down, and I was also soaking wet. It's one of the best memories I have of all time. There was no one like him, ever.

    June 21, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cindy Ward

    I got to see Bo Diddley when I was a young woman of 21 in Houston. He was the epitome' of soul/R&B and a wonder to watch and listen to. For a white girl of a young age, I so enjoyed him.

    June 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Reggie

    I am a graduate of Cardozo High School in Washington, D.C. Class of 1968. The same High School that graduated Marvin Gaye. Marvin and his pre Motown Doowop group used to visit and was mentored by Bo when he lived lived on Rhode Island Ave. in D.C. in the early sixties.

    As a young child, I recall seeing Bo on the Ed. Sulliven Show. What a show that one was. After dancing my little buns off, my parents had the hardest time getting me to go to sleep that night. Those Damn
    Diddly rythems would just not leave my head for the longest time.

    I finnaly saw Bo in Concert at the Warner Theater in D.C. on the the same bill with Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry some thirty years later. Boy, talk about Rock N Roll Heaven, this was it. Unfortunetly, it appeared that Mr. Lewis had had a few too many drinks when he appeared for his set. It was not his best performance and the crowd was sort of upset about it. When Bo took the stage he turned a hositle audiance around and convinced them to respect Jerry for his past contributions to Rock Music. How many performers do you know today who would be so kind and generous to a preceeding artist who was having a bad night? Of course, after that, he launched into one of his legendary performances. Hopefully, he and Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Greg Allman, and Rory Gallagher are Rocking those Pearl Gates right now.

    God Bless you Bo and God Bless Rock N Roll.

    June 14, 2008 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chocolate Lightning



    June 12, 2008 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Fernando Vega

    Bo didley bo diddley copied all the time

    None of these folks ever gave him a dime


    Send his family some money of that money

    June 9, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. delbro

    I was at work when I heard the news, saw it on the tube in the breakroom on CNN, hung my head and walked out of the room, held back the lump- was stunned like I was slapped with a ton of bricks.

    Was thinking about all these greats, that made it possible for people to rock , Link Wray for example- these guys Bo, Link, Dick Dale, Chuck Berry paved the road many travel on and made the guitar way too cool and ANY band should cut them a check EVERY time they perform!

    I went to a guitar store saw a godsend a old Guild shaped Jupiter Thundebird guitar clone a Dearmond Jet Star and knew I had to have it -it is the Bo guitar, Muddy waters played one as well, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was given a guit like it that Bo designed called a Billy Bo
    google it

    I fired the amp up grabbed a E chord and wrung it out for all it was worth doing that Bo beat for hours on end, made me feel good,

    thanks Bo- I will never forget you
    sending love to the family & friends of Bo- a man I never knew , but was connected to kenetic, soulful

    June 7, 2008 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. dupruis

    I was in my teens when Bo was BIG, now I teach guitar, When I teach Bo's unique "jungle beat" some ain't just gettin' it... when some say, whats the big deal, sounds like him, I say "if you don't strum it like bo, you don't know diddley"

    June 5, 2008 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wolfman Fran

    A friend and I saw Bo in Atlantic City a year or two ago. It was a fun time, but he seemed tired in front of the dismal audience. He played what I could only call 'Space Music' during "I'm A Man" and yelled at my friend and I during a rap about drunk driving, because we were not dancing.

    It was a pretty crazy show and definately good enough to go see again, but I won't get the chance. Truely an icon on his instrument – he should be held in reverence with such names as Les Paul and Dick Dale.

    Rest well, Bo. you will not be forgotten

    June 5, 2008 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. David Crewdson

    In the winter of 1974-75 friends of mine booked Bo Diddley for a couple of shows in Anchorage Alaska. Bo came up alone and was backed by the local band Freddy Fleet and His Fast Feet. I was hired to help with the set-up and breakdown. My main respnsibility was Bo's guitar and amp. We didn't have a lot of time with Bo, but he put everyone at ease and said we should all relax and have a good time and the show would be great. It was. He was so sweet and nice to all of us and it was great to spend a couple days with him. He could have been full of himself but he wasn't. This is one of my cherished memories. God speed Bo and thanks for everything.

    June 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kraig Rasool

    Bo Diddley was one of the artists who could turn a crowd....His music
    certainly crossed generations and thru time..Mind you there many blues singers who were on the same bus as he, but it was the emotion and pure determination of truth in his songs that made his songs stick in your mind....When i hear his music instantly i think of a smoke filled dive with dark-shade glasses and half a glass of whiskey on the table..... He will be soooo missed in the music world, but his spirit will still be here.

    June 4, 2008 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. brad kennedy(musician)-Australia

    Bo Diddley R.I.P
    It was stomp music,blues marrying rock, but it was the bo diddley sound. he was the first to do what he did and thats that.
    "i'm a man" , its only now in his passing that the whole world may just realise what he stood for,and apart from his family,friends and his fans, you can still tune in but for the worst part of it, WORLD, YOU MISSED OUT. live on foreva now Mr. Bo Diddley. we will miss you.

    June 3, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael Davis

    Some people play Rock n Roll. Some people ARE Rock n Roll. Bo was a force of nature but a very humble and unassuming man.

    He was playful on stage and loved interacting with the audience but he clearly felt the sting of not receiving his just financial due over the years. What a shame that a man who defined Rock n Roll itself and who gave some many memories to so many people had to go through life feeling he got screwed.

    I think in the end it didn't matter though since the money wasn't what Bo was after. It was the music man. The music.

    The world is a better place for having Mr Bo in it and it is a sadder place today for our collective loss.

    RIP Brother. You deserve it. Rock on!

    June 3, 2008 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bret

    Bo may not know diddley but Bo sure knew diddley. Bring it to Jerome indeed.

    June 3, 2008 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
  16. David Richard Burt

    Bo's "beat" called up something instinctive in so many of us . . .
    something in common that puled us together at a certain point in
    our lives . . . something that transcended race, sex, economic
    status, political beliefs . . . And, it felt good! Thanks, Bo.

    June 3, 2008 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  17. Suma

    I'm a big Rythm & Blues Groupie-not the stuff they put out today!
    Going back to the 1950's when I heard Hunter Hancock play Bo
    on his radio program in California L.A. He was and still is one of the Greats. They are all playing up there-we have lost so many. Hunter,
    Huggy Boy, Ruth Brown, Howling Wolf etc and on and on. In our hearts forever, it made us dance and listen to busy to get involved with drugs. It was part of our Heart & Soul.
    Class of 1955 and stil dancing and listening
    White Chick orginally from East L.A.
    Class of 1955

    June 2, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Marc in San Francisco

    Rather.....RNRIP.......Rock n Roll in Peace!

    June 2, 2008 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  19. R in Gainesville

    Bo Diddley was a very nice man. Back in 2000 we were doing fundraising for the Children's Miracle Network and our theme was the "Blues Brothers". Everyone dressed the part and I'll never forget Bo coming in and cranking out some awesome tunes. There was one little girl in the crowd that was dancing to Bo's beat and Bo leaned over to her mother and told her mother to make sure that she got some music lessons for her child. He said when they have the beat start them out young.
    All throughout the evening Bo played, his grandson played and he was the most cordial person you'd ever meet.
    My heart goes out to his family.

    June 2, 2008 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Marc in San Francisco

    Interesting. Guy above mentioned a 20-something who didn't know who Bo Diddley was. As rediculous as that is, one thing is for certain...

    EVERYBODY knows that beat.


    RIP Mr. Diddley. Thank you SO MUCH for Rock n Roll...

    June 2, 2008 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Aaron Stroud

    God Bless you Bo. Thank you for the sound, thank you for the memories, and most of all thank you for picking up that guitar so long ago. Anyone who knows rock knows that you started it all. We will never forget.

    June 2, 2008 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  22. M in Denver

    I'm sad to hear of Bo's passing, though I figured his time was limited after he suffered a stroke. He definitely doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Chuck Berry gets more credit for delivering rock 'n' roll but Bo's claim is just as valid. Like John Lee Hooker, Bo's legacy is built on rhythm alone, but WHAT a rhythm it is.

    What I love about his music is how much of it is tied to his personality. Half of his songs seem to be about Bo Diddley. But when you're Bo Diddley, what else is there to sing about?? In old footage you can see him strut on stage as if the sheer weight of his greatness will tear the building down, and he can't wait to see it happen.

    Who else would come up with a rock trio consisting of guitar, drums and maracas?? And who else could have pulled it off? I'm not an expert, but I bet 1960's "Road Runner" is the first record featuring the effect of sliding a pick up the guitar neck to mimic the sound of a jet engine, which became an arena rock staple.

    So farewell to one of the greatest innovators and most deserving braggarts in rock history. He's probably in heaven right now trying to convince Buddy Holly to pay royalties for "Not Fade Away"!

    June 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  23. bob

    Bo is a true legend and founder of rock and roll, though a very underrated one. I saw him many time, last being at B.B. King's in NYC for his 75th birthday party. The guy was 75 and still jamming (and rapping!!!). God Bless Bo Diddley – "cool as permafrost".

    June 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  24. susan morrison-vega

    It was Bo Diddley's hard-driving guitar and high-flying style that defined our South Bend (IN) Central High School Friday night post-game dances. His 45 rpm record led our call-and repeat "Go, Bo Diddley" sounds as we moved to his beat. That first generation of black and white kids dancing under one roof and, more often that not, together, with our cacophonous salutes to Bo's "I'm a Man. M-A-N" and our own glorious youth and freedom.

    When I hear the sound-track of my teenage years, I hear Bo. Indeed, Bo Diddley was one fine gun-slinger!

    Susan Morrison-Vega
    Sacramento, CA
    Class of 1962

    June 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Gerry

    "Bo Didddley, Bo Diddley , have you heard."
    When I heard of this I truly had the proverbial tear and lump. I was at lunch with a 20 something and mentioned his passing. He did not recognize the name except from the "Bo" Jackson commercial. I wondered to meyself how many times he ad really heard the Bo Diddley riff and never knew it. There are many like him. They appreciate the contribution but have no knowledge of the source. I am not one. I know, as many of my generation do, the name and the legacy.
    Safe passage brother.

    June 2, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Spellbox

    Bo was our neighbor and best friend for several years in Gainesville. We use to go over to his house and bring him sugarfree ice cream and a Smirinoff triple black at night and record with him. He'd tell us stories and show us licks late into the night. He was in one of our videos and even came to Mysti Mayhem's birthday party where he told jokes and sat and played songs for hours. He gave us a lot of his foot pedals and a banjo that we still use in our live shows today. He was the sweetest guy EVER. We even took our mother's to his house so they could meet and hang out with him. He was our friend and mentor. We will miss him greatly. The world is a little less shiney today. We love and miss you Bo. You were indeed the greatest. Your friends, Mandocello & Mysti Mayhem from Spellbox.

    June 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  27. darryl

    bo diddley's music will live on forever.a true musical legend!

    June 2, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Mike Foster

    1st time I saw Bo Diddley was on a Dick Clark Package show at Aerie Crown in Chicago in 1965. He opened. Byrds [the original 5] followed & began with their Bo tribute/theft “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe,” which was kinda neat. Paul Revere & Raiders were next, also at their prime, and the poor hapless We Five topped that bill. Tough acts to follow.

    Saw him at Summerfest in Milwaukee in early 1970s. Not long before his stroke he played in Peoria, but he was not at his best; a pitiful & raucous crowd bumbering fewer than 700 shower

    Amusing but good obit in New York Times: they had the same problem I did when trying to introduce to him backstage in the July swelter of the Heart of Illinois Fair in 1978. But I couldn’t bring myself to say “Mr. Diddley.”

    June 2, 2008 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Hugh

    One of the best – and loudest – shows I ever saw was Bo Diddley warming up for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at the Fillmore. That man ROCKED. Coolest part was, during Petty's show, I'm standing there, and who appears right next to me but...Bo Diddley! I talked with him for a minute; he was super nice and humble. Did I mention how freaking hard he rocked?

    I bet the afterlife just got a lot more fun. R.I.P.

    June 2, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Ryan Wise

    Theres not a guitar player anywhere,regardless of playing ability , that hasn't played the "Bo Diddley" riff. You can't play it or hear it without taping your feet and smiling. I had a chance to meet Bo backstage in Cleveland 30 years ago, he was as cordial and accomidating a man as I have ever met. He will be missed.

    June 2, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |

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