02 June 2008

Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits; Bo Diddley Dead

Bo Diddley, one of rock 'n' rolls litany founding fathers whose famous "shave and a haircut, two bits" rhythm and innovative guitar playing inspired just about everyone to come along since, died today after many months of bad health.

Diddley suffered a heart attack last August just three months after suffering a stroke while on tour in Iowa.

Diddley was born as Ellas Bates on 30 December 1928. Apparently the name 'Bo Diddley' came from his friends growing up 'round Chicago. "I don't know where the kids got it, but the kids in grammar school gave me that name," he said.

Other times, he gave somewhat differing stories on where he got the name. Some believe the name came from the one-string instrument used in traditional blues music called a diddley bow. Either way Ellas liked it so much it later became his stage name.

Diddley received many awards; an induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, a lifetime achievement award, but he'd often famously quip: "it didn't put no figures in my checkbook." Yes, a man after my own heart.

Another famous Diddleyism was "If you ain't got no money, ain't nobody calls you honey". He became more and more bitter, resentful and delusional as the years went on and really, who could blame him?

Diddley was also one of the pioneers of the electric guitar. One of the first dudes to ever use reverb and tremolo.

As a kid Diddley said he had no musical idols, and he wasn't exactly pleased that others drew on his innovations. "I don't like to copy anybody. Everybody tries to do what I do, update it," he said. "I don't have any idols I copied after."

"They copied everything I did, upgraded it, messed it up. It seems to me that nobody can come up with their own thing, they have to put a little bit of Bo Diddley there," he said.

Dude was bitter, and with good reason, for despite his success, Diddley claimed he only received a small portion of the money he made during his career. As a result, he continued to tour and record music and thats where he was when he had a stroke a few months ago, on tour in Iowa for chrissakes. "I am owed. I've never got paid," he said. "A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun."

Diddley was 79 years old.

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