by Brett Lemke
Bo Diddley is the originator. Born in 1928, he is widely acknowledged as the father of rock n’ roll, a grandfather to punk, and has been copied more times than any recorded musician this side of Clyde Stubblefield. Like Stubblefield, Diddley has been elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammies.
His signature rhythm, the “Bo Diddley Beat” has spurred generations of rockers, from Buddy Holly, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Guns n’ Roses, to the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, the Animals and, of course, George Thorogood. In 2003, Diddley was honored by US Representative John Conyers, Jr., who stated that Bo Diddley was “one of the true pioneers of rock and roll who has influenced generations,” and he’s been instrumental in helping to organize benefits for Katrina victims in Mississippi.
Some believe the name Bo Diddley comes from an old, southern black slang phrase meaning “nothing at all,” as in, “he ain’t bo diddley.” Others believe it may have been his nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer. Another story links the name to the “diddley bow,” a one-stringed instrument that consisted of a nail and some bailing wire attached to your front porch; A common start for many players on the old south.
In 1955, Bo Diddley was the first African-American to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and he was also the first person to be banned: According to the history books, he was asked to play a cover song, “16 Tons,” but instead played his No. 1 R&B hit, “Bo Diddley.” Enraging Sullivan, Diddley was banned from further appearances on the show, 12 years before The Doors were banned for singing “girl we couldn’t get much higher” in 1967. Diddley later recalled that Ed Sullivan commented that he was, “the first colored boys to ever double-cross me.”