Video clip of Bo Diddley doing Bo Diddley
BO DIDDLEY - The Originator
A Celebration of his unique contribution to Popular Music. "I Don't Sound Like Nobody..."
ELLAS BATES was born on Sunday December 30th 1928 on a small farm near the town of McComb, Mississippi, USA, in rural Pike County, close to the Louisiana border, the only child of Ethel Wilson and Eugene Bates. He had 3 half-brothers and a half-sister. He was adopted by his mother's cousin, Mrs. Gussie McDaniel, along with his cousins Willis, Lucille and Freddie, and adopted the name ELLAS McDANIEL. In the mid-1930's the family moved to the south side of Chicago. Soon after, he began to take violin lessons from Professor O.W. Frederick at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. He studied the violin for twelve years, composing 2 concertos for the instrument. For Christmas in 1940, his sister Lucille bought him his first guitar, a cheap Harmony acoustic. It was at this time that he acquired the nickname "BO DIDDLEY" ("...BO DIDDLEY is me; to tell ya the truth, I don't know what it (the name) really is...") from his fellow pupils at the Foster Vocational High School in Chicago.The newly-named BO DIDDLEY had long been fascinated by the rhythms that he heard coming from the sanctified churches. A frustrated drummer, he tried to translate the sounds that he heard into his own style. Gradually he began to duplicate what he did with his violin bow by rapidly flicking his plectrum across his guitar strings. "I play the guitar as if I'm playing the drums....I play drum licks on the guitar."
He continued to practice the guitar through his early teens. Shortly before leaving school he formed his first group, a trio named The Hipsters, later known as The Langley Avenue Jive Cats, after the Chicago street where he lived. Upon graduation he pursued a variety of low paid occupations including truck driving, building site work and boxing, playing locally with his group to supplement his income. In 1950 maracas player Jerome Green joined the group, followed a year later by harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold. After more than a decade of playing on street corners and in clubs around Chicago, BO DIDDLEY finally got the chance to cut a demo of 2 songs that he had written; "Uncle John" and "I'm A Man". After various rejections from local record labels, (most notably Vee-Jay), in the spring of 1955 he took the recordings to brothers Leonard and Phil Chess, owners of Chess Records, with studios located at 4750-2 South Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago. They suggested that he changed the title and the lyrics of "Uncle John" to more reflect his own unique personality.The 2 songs were re-recorded at Bill Putnam's Universal Recording Studio at 111 East Ontario in Chicago on Wednesday March 2nd 1955, and released as a double A-side disc "Bo Diddley"/"I'm A Man" on the Chess Records subsidiary label Checker Records. It went straight to the top of the rhythm'n'blues charts, establishing BO DIDDLEY as one of the most exciting and original new talents in American music.