June 3, 2008

BO DIDDLEY  12/30/26

“I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob.”    Bo Diddley

When I was trying to break into the music business, one of the first Rock and Roll stars I met was Bo Diddley. It was backstage in a rehearsal room at an Alan Freed show in 1959. I would’ve been happy with an autograph and a few words of encouragement, but Bo put himself out there.

When I asked him how does he get “his sound”, he actually took a few minutes to show me. He took my acoustic guitar and re-tuned it to an open e chord and handed it back to me. I tried to play the usual way with the fingering I learned, but it sounded horrible.

He smiled and took the guitar and played his signature, “Hey Bo Diddley” riff playing the open E chord, then barring the 5th fret when he wanted to change the chord to A. He was about to show me how it sounded on his electric  guitar and his little rehearsal amp when Jackie Wilson and Jimmy Clanton came in with Bobby Darin wanting to use the phonograph to play an acetate of his next single, “Dream Lover”.

The stage manager announced that the next show was in a half hour and all guests would have to leave. Bo never finished my lesson and I never saw him again but I’ll never forget the kindness he showed me.

To quote Alan O’Day and Johnny Stevenson’s song,

“If you believe in forever, life is just a one night stand

If there’s a Rock and Roll Heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band!”

Bo Diddley R.I.P. Rock In Perpetuity

Respectfully, Artie Wayne

Click on to see a short but electrifying clip of Bo in his prime                

Photo of Bo Diddley courtesy of Bobby Lloyd Hicks whose story performing with Bo appears among the comments below

To view “Rock and Roll Heaven”                                                

From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne




  1. rockness Says:

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  2. Eddie Hodges Says:

    Thanks for this offering, Artissimo. I told you this story before, but it bears repeating.
    I was doing a “Shindig” segment. I think Sonny & Cher were also on the same show. Bo Diddley,a favorite of mine for a long time, was also on that show. His band was set up on the studio floor and we were all on a break. I was so fascinated by his guitar that I had to get a closer look. Glenn Campbell and I walked up to look at that famous axe. I just had to strum the strings. Just then, Bo hollered his disapproval and I asked for forgiveness. I asked Glenn if he knew why Bo’s axe was tuned to a chord. He told me that a lot of blues men did that. Bo was a bit standoffish, but I was stoked that I just got to meet him. Of course, I went right home and tuned my Guild Ebony Starfire to that same chord and started playing guitar as close to Bo’s style as I could. I’ll never forget meeting him and the band.
    It makes me sad to know that my fellow countryman is gone. May light perpetual shine upon him and give him peace. Thanks again, my friend, for honoring one of the great blues men of all times.

    Eddie Hodges

  3. Steve Owen Says:

    Dear Artie,
    Wow! what a fantastic time seeing all of the early artists. I read about these times and imagine, but you were actually there! So cool!Thanks for the wonderful story about Bo,
    and it’s great that he took the time to show you that stuff!
    Hope you are doing well, and hello also to Eddie Hodges!


  4. Willie C Says:

    Atrie a very fitting tribute to a true Icon and Legend of the music. He will be truly missed by all. Some of the first records I bought as a kid were by Bo Diddley which I still have and treasure to this day. Bo may be gone but him misic lives on forever.

  5. Jerry Lawson Says:

    When I first found out that I was going to be on The S.S. Norway’s Bluise Cruise with Bo – I was like Mike Tyson “Ecstatic” I was like a little kid. I found out what time his dress rehearsal was & I came and sat in the dark theatre. There was nobody there but me & the soundcheck guy. His band was just playin & playin’ & I was lookin’ for him to come from behind the curtains but no Bo. Then all of a sudden a hand tapped me from behind on the shoulder & I looked up & it was this big guy with a cowboy hat on his head.. he just patted me as if to say hi. Next thing I knew the big guy got on stage.He picked up this home made looking guitar. He started to playin’ & dancin & I said “That’s Bo Didley!” Later that night we ended up running into each other in the dining room & I sat with him & his band. He was so friendly, so down to earth & boy he could talk some trash. Reminded me of being home under the chinaberry tree with the oldtimers I grew up with.

    God Rest His Soul

    Jerry Lawson (Former Lead Singer of The Persuasions)

  6. Artie Wayne Says:

    Posted on behalf of Bobby Lloyd Hicks Re:His band

    The Skeletons backed Bo in the mid-90’s up in Columbia, MO and after he finished his set, he was standing in the wings wrapping up his guitar cord and the kids were going crazy but he wouldn’t go back out…and the promoter was shouting above the din: “Bo, you gotta go out and do just one more song! … fifty bucks, … a hundred, … a hundred an’ fifty!!!” I don’t know where it ended, but he finally walked out, laid his coat across his amplifier and sat down behind my drums and started playing that famous beat. The guys joined in vamping and I grabbed some maracas and started singing “Bo Diddley” and he smiled. After the verses and sing-a-long choruses and a couple of solos we ended the song, the kids cheered and Bo got up and walked off the stage. Done and done! There’s your song, pal.

    Bobby Lloyd Hicks

  7. Paul Evans Says:

    As long as there’s a Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bo Diddley’s name will be honored.

  8. Alan O'Day Says:

    Artie, Our icons can’t last forever, but as you have shown, records & videos & songs are of some comfort, a way of transcending death. The generous talented spirit known as Bo Diddley will live on in the hearts of those who loved him, and those yet to witness his music and performances.

  9. Steve Harvey Says:

    I remember reading some 80s fanzine about this white teenage band in the early 60s (pre-Beatles) that opened for Bo at some gig in their hometown. There were shots of Bo at their house after the gig. I always thought how cool is that? One of the few rockers left during the doldrum years actually was humble enough to go hang out with these kids. Can you imagine any rock star nowadays doing that?

  10. GiorgioGomelsky Says:

    I came across Bo Diddley’s existence in the early 60’s in London. My mate Guy Stevens was collecting and importing singles from small US labels. With very few of them being released in the UK, his apartment became a sort of archival resource for all the budding London blues bands looking for repertoire to play live. It got overwhelming for him but he always took great pleasure and pride in turning all these aspiring musicians (and bands) to the music he loved so much. I think that without Guy the London blues and R&B scene might not have happened. (Later,among other things, he convinced Island Records to start the SUE (UK) label and release all those great R&B singles produced by Juggy Murray with Ike and Tina Turner, Charlie & Inez Foxx and many more.)

    On a cold and wet winter evening in 1962, I’m climbing up the stars to his tiny apartment in Soho with a couples of quart bottles of Double Diamond beer I had promised to bring to a “listening session”, when, coming from his room, I hear these absolutely amazing hypnotic rhythmic patterns played by a very “liquid” guitar and, of all things, a pair of maracas, accompanied by repetitive “call and response” vocals. I was a big fan of afro-cuban and creole music, but the presence and sound of an electric guitar puzzled me completely. The whole thing had a very ancient Voodoo-like, ritualisic aspect and a very contemporary sound picture.For a while, I stood transfixed a couple of floors down from Guy’s apartment trying to pick up the beat pattern. When I reched Guy’s floor I wandered into his flat, awkwardly dancing across those broken beats
    only to discover he was also joyfully hopping around with a big smile on his face… so we just continued bopping and dancing until we had heard the single some twenty times in a row!
    “Who the hell is that?”, I asked after half an hour,
    “Bo Diddley man, Bo Diddley!”

    Within a couple of days every young blues band in London got to hear about Bo Diddley and there was a rush to get all his records so they could cover one or the other of Diddley’s tunes. In those days,
    the 5 or 6 existing London bands knew eachother and often met to talk about and share their favorite music, so before long, they all started
    playing tribute to the man by adding him to their
    repertoires, but also, to avoid overlapping,
    not to cover the same tunes. This brought about, literally, the explosion of the Bo Diddley beat.

    To encourage the upcoming generation to take interest in the music, I ran a weekly venue in the back of the Station Hotel pub in Richmond. It’s first applellation was “BRRB” and it stood for “British Rhythm&Bulse” – notice my accidental misspelling – no wonder only 3 people showed up the first night! However a few weeks later the word of mouth had began to work and before long we got the audience up to a couple of hundred. They came every Sunday night and stood open-mouthed but glued to the floor watching the resident band, an outfit calling themselves The Rollin’ Stones, put together by a bloke from
    Cheltenham named Brian Jones. Soon we needed to invent something to get them off their behinds and start participating and moving about. I remembered how Guy and I had danced away for half an hour on a Bo Diddley tune, so I asked the band to extend their version of “Hey Bo Diddley” into a 15 minute jam, got a couple of friends to stand on tables and start waving their arms about. People got the idea and almost immediately, they added their own moves. Within a couple of weeks the last part of the evening
    became this amazing collective ritual and people were
    lining up arouond the block to get in every Sunday.
    A local newspaper sent a reporter to cover this phenomenon and on Monday morning he called me and asked me what I called the venue. For a second
    I thought to tell him “BRRB” but from the depth of my unconscious the word CRAWDADDY came to my lips.
    “Let’s Do The CrawDad” had been one of the Stones
    tributes to Bo Diddley, so don’t ask me how, but this
    contraction best represented what was going on. There is no doubt in my mind that Bo’s rhythmic patterns
    were the underpinnings which allowed the young generation – in search of their own culture after years of post-war depression – to finally express
    their joy of living. It certainly attracted a lot of attention in the London sacene and gave a career to the resident band. Just a few days ago, I learned that Paul Williams, founder of CrawDaddy Magazine, took the name for his project from that Richmond venue.

    I had heard in Bo Diddley’s music some kind of prophecy of things to come. In the UK at least, I was
    able to witness its unfolding and results. But yes, as Artie says, it’s still going. Bands in China and other distant places are now grappling with the intricacies of that simple yet magical beat which so
    effectively expresses the pulse of life and which Bo Diddley ingeniously invented for us all.

  11. Sam Cooper Says:

    I met Bo at an after concert party in Richmond, VA at Alice Cooper’s hotel suite. Bo had been playing a show across town in a different venue and they were both booked at the same hotel. We had a memorable half hour of conversation. I was enamored by how cool this legend was and how respectful Alice was of him. I think now about the great tune by Nashville-based producer/songwriter/artist Gary Nicholson (a/k/a Whitey Johnson), “What Ever Happened To Bo Diddley’s Money”, and wish Bo had gotten his props right from the beginning, financially speaking. Needless to say, his musical legacy is worth more than material wealth anyway and I feel lucky to have enjoyed the fruits of his labor. Duh, duh, d’duh…duh, duh!

  12. Artie,

    We keep losing all the originals. The comforting thing is was have both the memories and the recording of the greats like Bo Diddley. You are very fortunate to have met him.

  13. Ronnie Allen Says:

    There are innovators and there are influences. Bo was both of course. In the annals of rhythm and blues and rock and roll, Bo Diddley probably influenced as many people if not more than anyone else. It’s difficult for me to add a thought that has not been expressed before. The music world is by far a better place because of what Bo Diddley accomplished during his 79 years. RIP, Bo, your music will live forever.

  14. Brian Ibbott Says:

    Excellent tribute, Artie. I discovered Bo Diddley’s music through covers, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard the originals. His music will live on through the artists that continue to interpret his work, and through the magic of hearing the originals (some for the very first time).

  15. Artie Wayne Says:

    …posted on behalf of SCOTT SHANNON WPLJ-FM



  16. Country Paul Says:

    In 1963, on the Saturday morning of Spring Weekend at Brown University, One of the DJs was interviewing Bo Diddley on WBRU, then a closed-cicuit college station. He was the star of the afternoon open-air show (the highlight event of the weekend). Bo commented that he had just eaten at “the Ratty” (which we called the college Refectory, i. e., dining hall), and found the breakfast to be really good. Sadly, the Ratty had a well-deserved reputation for culinary malfeasance (to put it nicely), and I remember talking with some of the other folks at the station about his comment. The basic tenor of the discussion was that if Bo thought Ratty food was good, he must be having a tough run of it and not getting the respect he deserved. Unfortunately, time proved him right, although I remember his show as being an amazingly energized set which really got the crowd going; I’d certainly never seen anything like it. I’m very happy to have caught him at the height of his powers. (By the way, he had “The Duchess” with him at the time – he was one of the first rock artists to regularly employ women as equal members of his band.)

    I saw him again – and for the last time – at his 70th birthday “party” at New York’s Bottom Line (Al Kooper opened). While the intense fire of his younger show had been banked a bit, the heat was still on; it was a very fine night. (A side note: although my respect for the accomplishments of both Bo and Chuck Berry remains high, I think that at equivalent ages, Bo still “had it” while Chuck was just walking through it.)

    One last comment: a special shout-out to two favorite Bo Diddley songs, neither having “the beat” but both noteworthy: “Surfer’s Love Call” (obviously re-titled by some record company hack to cash in on the “craze,” but a fine piece of bluesy rock & roll nonetheless); and one I was just turned on to, “I’m Sorry,” made into a hit by CL & The Pictures. The man was far more than a one-trick pony; Ameican music is richer for his having been a big part of it. RIP.

  17. Had it not been for Bo Diddley or at least the song, I’m sure I would not be in the music business. Attending a high school talent show I saw a guy perform the song “Bo Diddley” I was so taken by it I worked myself back stage and ask him how he learned to play like that. He said you just have to get a guitar and start playing it.
    That’s what he said. His name was Ed Bruce (Musician,
    Singer,Actor, Country Star)so, I worked hard that summer and made enough to order a guitar from Sears. A school buddy Billy Tatum had a copy of “Bo Diddley” W/ “Diddy Daddy” on the flip side. I learned both of them and moved on from there. One time Bo was performing at the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis and Rufus Thomas took me back stage to meet him,a thrill I’ll never forget.
    It has been a sincere privilege to be on several shows
    with Bo through the years. Most recently at the MGM
    Grand. Bo was also with us in the “Blues Brothers 2000” where he said “we’re gonna smoke them turkeys”.
    A super gentleman to be around. Know one I know has
    more Soul than Bo. He was an entertainers entertainer.
    Thanks Bo for teaching the World what Rhythm in music is all about.

    Steve Cropper

  18. Rose Gross-Marino Says:

    Artie, so good to hear from you albeit via mass mail.
    Saw your name and smiled, and remembered the fun times….!

    All best,


  19. David Spinozza Says:

    I started playing the guitar at eight years old. I have a cousin named Ricky Mangone. He was a teenager then and had a local band called the Continentals. They were very much into Bo and that style of playing.
    I spent some time at my cousin’s house and he showed me that Bo Diddley rhythm. I thought my cousin invented it. Not that he claimed to, but that’s where I heard it first. I don’t believe the Continentals went on to be professional musicians, but I was hooked for life.
    Thank you Bo, You will be missed forever.

    David Spinozza

  20. Artie Wayne Says:

    Posted from an e-mail sent to me by Vinnie Bell

    Dear Artie,

    It’s great to hear from you again, especially regarding “A BOWL OF TALENT,” known as Bo Diddley. I’m certain that both of us have adored and idolized Bo throughout our careers. During the early years, as a starving musician, I was with a vocal/instrumental group called the Gallahads. After bombing many times, we finally made a hit record, “I Should Care,” and were immediately placed on a promotional tour. On that same tour was a man named Bo Diddley. Although unfamiliar to me, he was already a strong name to the disc-jockeys. Being a guitarist myself, I was amazed to see that the body of his guitar was shaped like a cigar box. Yet… what great rhythmic licks jumped out from that instrument!

    Some years later, while auditioning for staff musician at CBS, I was asked to play as many varied musical styles as I could. I instantly became a hero when I played the Bo Diddley rhythm and that cinched the job. My admiration for him became even greater from that moment on.

    Hey, Bo! I’m sure you’ve made the angels rhythm section and are having a ball!!!

    Your Fan, Vinnie Bell…

    P.S. Thanks, Artie! We all appreciate what you have done for such a great man!

  21. Tom Diehl Says:

    Bo Diddley was a man who was way ahead of his time. He never had great chart success, but he had legions of fans, and influenced thousands upon thousands of musicians with his style of music. Just reading some of the messages left by Eddie Hodges, Steve Cropper, Paul Evans, Alan O’Day, etc. proves this. He was one of the major influences in early rock and roll, along the likes of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, and without his sound, the music world would’ve been a very different place today. We might never have gotten to hear I’m A Man by the Yardbirds, Who Do You Love by the Woolies, or any other tune that Bo first performed or tunes that used the “bo diddley beat”. In his lifetime, he got recognised for his contributions to musical history, but it may have taken his passing for him to really get the due respect from his legions of fans, that he truly deserved. RIP Bo.

  22. My Company, Banner Talent, represented the Great BO DIDDLEY for almost 20 years. We spent many days, weeks and months on the road together. We traveled to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc., etc., and, had a Great time being with him. He was a ‘legend’ before people knew what a music ‘legend’ was. He will be missed by all who enjoy creativity.

  23. Loni Specter Says:

    Yes yes Bo was THE man. That beat just moves me. Always has. Bo lived in Granada Hills for a time and I would see him now and then. I should have hit him up for a lesson, but I didn’t, because every guitar player just starting out, myself included, knew how to rock that groove.
    Coincidentally I was in the studio a few weeks before Bo passed with drumer Walfredo Reyes(El Rayo-X, S. Winnwood, etc), recording three of my new songs. One of them used that Diddley type beat! I finished the session with Paul Barrere (Little Feat) just two days ago. I think the only reason Paul wanted to play was because of that bouncin’beat! We had a blast!
    Bo Knows!
    Thanks Artie for starting this thread.

  24. Art Munson Says:

    Yea, who didn’t love Bo. We all learned from him!

  25. Artie Wayne Says:

    Posted on behalf of Charlie Gracie…

    In 1957, Charlie Gracie headlined Alan Freed’s Easter Shows at the Brooklyn Paramount where he met Bo for the first time: “Bo was a great fellow and a lot of fun to be around. He was driving a big green ’55 or ’56 Caddy at that time…and between shows, he would be outside polishing that big baby. We traded guitars backstage and had a blast. We were supposed to perform together last year in Green Bay (Fabulous 50’s Festival at the Oneida Casino) when Bo took ill. It was a great disappointment. I loved Bo…he was one of the greats and we’ll all miss him. God Bless His Soul. I still perform his classic “Bo Diddley” on stage and will continue to do so in tribute.”


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  27. Neo Gold Says:

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