Bo Diddley – The Singles Collection (2CD SET)
Artist: Bo Diddley
Cat No: NOT2CD494
Bo Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates in December 1928 in McComb, Mississippi but was given the surname McDaniel when adopted by his mother’s cousin. When he was six his adoptive family moved to Chicago and he began learning the trombone and the violin in a local church orchestra. When he saw bluesman John Lee Hooker playing at a concert he switched to guitar and began busking on street corners with a band called the Hipsters, who later changed their name to the Langley Avenue Jive Cats. By 1951 he was regularly playing at Chicago’s 708 Club, where his repertoire was influenced strongly by Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. After recording and submitting some demo tracks in 1955, Diddley was signed to Chess Records’ subsidiary label Checker. He recorded ‘Bo Diddley’ and ‘I’m A Man’ for the label and when the single was released in March of that year it shot to the top of the R&B charts. The lyrics of the A-side were based on the traditional ‘Hush Little Baby’.
Bo Diddley has been nicknamed ‘The Originator’ at various times in musical history for the role he played in influencing many genres of rock and blues. Clearly his influence on the genesis of Fifties rock‘n’roll was a key one. Even though he may not have had the chart success of his rival, Chess (near) labelmate Chuck Berry, the part he played in the ‘R&B + Rockabilly = Rock‘n’roll’ equation was pivotal. He has also been claimed by a new generation of rappers and hip-hop musicians as the originator of their style. He often played just one chord throughout an entire song, so the music was entirely reliant on the all-pervasive rhythm and the spoken or shouted lyrics. These were derived from the call and response of gospel music and often from some other very unlikely sources. The ‘Hush Little Baby’ origins of ‘Bo Diddley’ have already been mentioned; likewise, his track ‘Hey Bo Diddley’, released in 1957, is based on the nursery rhyme ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’!
Bo Diddley never achieved the chart success other rock‘n’roll pioneers enjoyed, and the origin of this may lie in an incident which occurred on US TV’s Ed Sullivan Show in 1955. He was booked to appear on the show and was heard backstage casually singing the Tennessee Ernie Ford song ‘Sixteen Tons’. Sullivan then instructed him to sing the song on his show. There followed a misunderstanding where Diddley saw the words ‘Bo Diddley’ and ‘Sixteen Tons’ on a cue card, so began with ‘Bo Diddley’ instead. This infuriated Sullivan, who apparently told the musician he ‘wouldn’t last six months’ and that he was ‘the first coloured boy to double-cross him’. Bo Diddley was a great storyteller and doubtless embellished this story over the years, although he always maintained he never intended to ‘double-cross’ Sullivan. Diddley continued to have single hits through the Fifties and early Sixties and achieved fame in the UK when, in 1963, he starred in a concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The Rolling Stones, still hardly known outside London at that time, appeared as a support act on the same tour. Bo Diddley was truly a one-off who played an often-underestimated role in the history of rock‘n’roll. Enjoy this compilation of his singles that proves it.