TDR MEMORY: BO DIDDLEY. I was just sitting at my computer station and gazed upward at the large framed poster on the wall, a tribute to one of the first Major Rockers that I ever saw live, Bo Diddley, (Elias McDaniel) probably in 1961. My college bro, Jim Everts (Later to gain fame as "Diamond Jim Dandy" on Rock Radio) told me, "Bo Diddley's at (some club) tonight, $5 bucks at the door and they throw in a pitcher of beer."
Obviously a better way to spend the evening than studying, so off we go. The place was kind of dark and stunk of stale beer and cigarettes, but that added to the atmosphere. On the small stage there was a folding chair with a mic stand in front of it, a simple Drum Set, and, I think, a Standup Bass, Electric Basses weren't widely used yet.
The joint filled up with mostly students about three quarters full, and the Juke Box played while we waited for the show. Then without announcement the musicians took the stage, with Bo entering last. The memory that's stayed with me is of a large black man wearing a raincoat buttoned up to his neck and a flat-brimmed hat, he had his guitar in one hand and a brown paper bag with a bottle in the other.
Bo sat down on the chair, adjusted the mic and hit the first chords of his self-named song...the place came unglued, I mean it was mean and loud and 15 feet away...before long folks were dancing and Bo and the boys would just jump from one tune to another...it was big-time Rock and Roll being played by the only artist to have a Signature Beat, (made up of African Rhythms and 5 accent hambone rhythms) playing 15 feet away.
Every couple of songs he'd pause, take a swig of whatever was in the bottle in the bag and go back to playing...it was a transcendental evening for many of us. In later years I'd see Bo dressed well and standing up, but it never had the impact of feeling like he was sitting on the couch playing in your living room.
Fun Fact: When Bo Diddley first hit the road on the Chitlin' Circuit many of the towns in the South did not have a restaurant that would allow black people inside, usually a local family would take them in and feed them and perhaps offer a place to spend the night. For Bo Diddley, a man of big appetites that wasn't good enough eating, he really liked to cook fried chicken and potatoes. So he put together a traveling kitchen with an electric hot plate, deep fryer, pots and pans, plates and utensils, etc.
In each town he'd send his assistant and driver to the grocery store to buy a chicken, some potatoes, maybe collard greens or whatever else looked good and set him up backstage. Of course the aroma of frying chicken traveled all around back there and it wasn't long before a Chuck Berry or a BB King would stick their head in the door to see what was cooking. Bo would of course invite them in, usually someone would have a bottle to share, and they'd feast.
Now this practice became so ingrained in Bo's appearances that many years after he started it had become a tradition and the other artists on the bill. Jerry Lee loved it, would have this big picnic before the shows. One other thing, when asked where his name came from, Bo Diddley would reply, "I don't know, some of the other musicians started calling me that in the early days...I don't think it was respectful."
But one of the early influences on my love of Rock and Roll gets a world of respect here at TDR with his poster on the wall. Of course being an early inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm And Blues Foundation showed some respect too. I just had a thought, I imagine Elvis and Chuck and Richard and all the rest were thrilled when he showed up In Rock and Roll Heaven ready to fry some Heavenly Chicken in in 2008 after he passed away at age 79 (Heart failure).
Here he is, the inimitable BO DIDDLEY, in 1965 gussied up in a Tux, playing live with a Female Trio (Note the lady playing Rhythm Guitar in an evening gown) in black and white video with Fine Rock and Roll Sound. Rock On!
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