Diddley, Bo

Diddley, Bo, 1928–2008, African-American singer, guitarist, and songwriter who was one of the founders of rock and roll, b. near McComb, Miss., as Otha Ellas Bates. He and his cousin, Gussie McDaniel, who raised him and whose last name he adopted, moved to Chicago when he was five. He studied violin, received his first guitar in 1940, and acquired the nickname “Bo Diddley.” Within a decade he was performing in South Side clubs, often playing the rectangular electric guitar he designed. Diddley became known for his pounding signature beat (bom ba-bom bom, bom bom; later an essential component of rock music) and for his guitar effects, jive talk, and strutting stage style. He reached a wider audience with the release (1955) of his first record, containing “Bo Diddley” and “I'm a Man.” He had a number of other hits, but is perhaps most important for his powerful influence on generations of rockers, e.g., Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen.

See G. R. White, Bo Diddley: Living Legend (1998).

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