Erika Goldring, Getty Images The four members of Little Big Town will…
- Posted on Jun 2nd 2008 1:30PM by Gaylord Fields
Born Ellas Bates in Mississippi and later using the name Ellas McDaniel, Diddley adapted the African-derived "hambone" rhythm for his self-referential debut single, 'Bo Diddley.' Issued in 1955 on the legendary Chess label, the song was a No. 1 R&B smash. Despite an extensive catalog of rock classics including 'I'm a Man,' 'Who Do You Love,' 'Road Runner' and 'I Can Tell' just for starters, his only charting pop hit was 1959's 'Say Man,' in which he and maracas player Jerome Green trade "Dirty Dozens" insults all the way to a Top 20 placement.
Besides his own monumental, long-ranging and prolific career, Diddley's importance also lies in the countless musicians who have either dipped into his extensive catalog of rock 'n' roll standards or adopted the Bo Diddley beat in their songs, from Buddy Holly to Muddy Waters to the Rolling Stones to the New York Dolls to Diddley's Florida neighbor Tom Petty, who performed 'Mona' onstage with his mentor in 1999. Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Strumming his trademark rectangular guitar and sporting his equally trademark black Stetson hat and glasses, Diddley was still performing until last year, when a heart attack and a stroke took him off the road after more than 50 years of plying his trade. Along with his longtime labelmate and occasional recording partner Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley should be honored and remembered not just for the magnitude of his influence on rockers past and present but for the sheer scope of his imaginative songwriting, powerful musicianship and bigger-than-life personality. For that is rock 'n' roll.