Elias McDaniel (1928-2008) moved from Mississippi up to Chicago as a young boy, where childhood pals gave him the nickname "Bo Diddley." The name stuck as a moniker through some early years as a fighter and onto the stage as a musician. Bo dreamed about pounding out traditional drum patterns and, inspired by John Lee Hooker, soon took to the guitar as a percussive instrument. This was the era in Chicago when Chess and VeeJay were pumping the airwaves with the sounds of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Reed, and newcomer Chuck Berry. Bo knew that he couldn't do what they did on the guitar, so he went back into his corner (as he puts it in interviews) and figured out his own trade-mark approach to playing. That drummer instinct came through strong and we have what is now commonly called "The Bo Diddley Beat" - a Rumba-style rhythm that added the Hambone playfulness of banging out beats and rhymes.
MEET THE DUCHESS
Bo's side-guitar player left for the service in 1956 and was replaced by a female musician named Peggy Jones ("Lady Bo"). She established a swinging stage vibe with Bo Diddley and is known as one of the first female lead guitarists. The uncommon site of their male/female act, accentuated by the two rectangular guitars, was quite sizzling (and even erotic). Lady Bo was replaced in 1962 by Norma-Jean Wofford ("The Duchess"), who continued to boogie with Diddley as a rocking lady strummer. Together they made quite a few television appearances between 1962-1966 that captured their contagious, throbbing beat and cool moves- not to mention the stage-side Go Go dancers and teen audience! Join Spy Vibe for a week of hot shows by Bo Diddley & The Duchess!
To hear the seminal recordings by Bo Diddley (with Lady Bo, The Duchess, Billy Boy Arnold, and others), check out the three-volume box set series by Hip O Select. See the Official Bo website here for more information about the Bo's career. Today's clip: Bo Diddley from Hollywood A Go Go 1965. (Photos: Getty Images)