becoming proficient enough on the latter for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18. He was more impressed, however, by the pulsating, rhythmic music he heard at a local Pentecostal Church, as well as an interest in the guitar.
Inspired by a concert where he saw John Lee Hooker perform,, he supplemented his work as a carpenter and mechanic with a developing career busking on street corners with friends, including Jerome Green (c. 1934–1973), in a band called The Hipsters (later The Langley Avenue Jive Cats). During the summer of 1943–44, he played for tips at the Maxwell Street market in a band with Earl Hooker. By 1951 he was playing on the street with backing from Roosevelt Jackson (on washtub bass) and Jody Williams (whom he had taught to play the guitar). Williams later played lead guitar on "Who Do You Love?" (1956). In 1951 he landed a regular spot at the 708 Club on Chicago's South Side, with a repertoire influenced by Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters.
In late 1954, he teamed up with harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, drummer Clifton James and bass player Roosevelt Jackson, and recorded demos of "I'm A Man" and "Bo Diddley". They re-recorded the songs at Chess Studios with a backing ensemble comprising Otis Spann (piano), Lester Davenport (harmonica), Frank Kirkland (drums) and Jerome Green (maracas). The record was released in March 1955, and the A-side, "Bo Diddley", became a #1 R&B hit.
McDaniel adopted the stage name "Bo Diddley". The origin of the name is somewhat unclear, as several differing stories and claims exist. Bo Diddley himself has said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother was familiar with, while harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold once said in an interview that it was originally the name of a local comedian that Leonard Chess borrowed for the song title and artist name for Bo Diddley's first single.
On November 20, 1955, he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, a popular television variety show, where he infuriated the host. "I did two songs and he got mad," Bo Diddley later recalled. "Ed Sullivan said that I was one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him.
Chess included Diddley's recording of "Sixteen Tons" on the album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger, which was originally released in 1960.
He continued to have hits through the late 1950s and the 1960s, including "Pretty Thing" (1956), "Say Man" (1959), and "You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover" (1962). He released a string of albums whose titles, including Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger and Have Guitar, Will Travel, were bolstered his self-invented legend. Between 1958 and 1963, Checker Records released 11 full-length albums by Bo Diddley. Although he broke through as a crossover artist with white audiences (appearing at the Alan Freed concerts, for example), he rarely tailored his compositions to teenage concerns.
In 1963, he starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The Rolling Stones, still barely known outside London at that time, appeared as a supporting act on the same bill.
In addition to the many songs recorded by him, in 1956 he co-wrote, with Jody Williams, the pioneering pop song "Love Is Strange", a hit for Mickey & Sylvia in 1957.
Bo Diddley was well known for the "Bo Diddley beat," a rumba-like beat similar to "hambone", a style used by street performers who play out the beat by slapping and patting their arms, legs, chest, and cheeks while chanting rhymes. Somewhat resembling "shave and a haircut, two bits" beat, Diddley came across it while trying to play Gene Autry's "(I've Got Spurs That) Jingle, Jangle, Jingle". Three years before Bo's "Bo Diddley", a song that closely resembles it, "Hambone", was cut by Red Saunders' Orchestra with The Hambone Kids.
His songs (for example, "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love?") often have no chord changes; that is, the musicians play the same chord throughout the piece, so that the rhythms create the excitement, rather than having the excitement generated by harmonic tension and release. In his other recordings, Bo Diddley used a variety of rhythms, from straight back beat to pop ballad style to doo-wop, frequently with maracas by Jerome Green.
Also an influential guitar player, he developed many special effects and other innovations in tone and attack. Bo Diddley's trademark instrument was the rectangular-bodied Gretsch nicknamed "The Twang Machine" (referred to as "cigar-box shaped" by music promoter Dick Clark). Although he had other odd-shaped guitars custom-made for him by other manufacturers throughout the years, most notably the "Cadillac" design made by Tom Holmes (who also made guitars for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, among others), Diddley fashioned the square guitar himself around 1958 and wielded it in thousands of concerts over the years. In a 2005 interview on JJJ radio in Australia, Bo implied that the design sprang from an embarrassing moment. During an early gig, while jumping around on stage with a Gibson L5 guitar, he landed awkwardly hurting his groin. He then went about designing a smaller, less restrictive guitar that allowed him to keep jumping around on stage while still playing his guitar. He also played the violin, which is featured on his mournful instrumental "The Clock Strikes Twelve", a 12-bar blues.
He often created lyrics as witty and humorous adaptations of folk music themes. The song "Bo Diddley" was based on the lullaby "Hush Little Baby." Likewise, "Hey Bo Diddley" is based on the song "Old MacDonald". The rap-style boasting of "Who Do You Love", a wordplay on hoodoo, used many striking lyrics from the African-American tradition of toasts and boasts. His "Say Man" and "Say Man, Back Again," both of which were later cited as progenerators of hip-hop music, share a strong connection to the insult game known as "the dozens". For example: "You got the nerve to call somebody ugly, why you so ugly the stork that brought you into the world ought to be arrested".
Bo Diddley (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008) is the stage name for Ellas Otha Bates, an American rock and roll vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and inventor. He was known as "The Originator" because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll, influencing a host of legendary acts including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.
He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs. Accordingly, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was known in particular for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar.
Born in McComb, Mississippi, as Ellas Otha Bates, he was adopted and raised by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Ellas McDaniel. In 1934, the McDaniel family moved to the largely black South Side area of Chicago, where the young man dropped the name Otha and became known as Ellas McDaniel, until his musical ambitions demanded that he take on a more catchy identity.
In Chicago, he was an active member of his local Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he studied the trombone and the violin,