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Music / Bo Diddley

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Bo Diddley with his iconic homemade guitar.

Ellas McDaniel Otha Bates, (born Ellas Otha Bates, December 30, 1928 June 2, 2008), better known as Bo Diddley, was an African-American Blues and Rock singer, mainly prominent in the 1950s. He was known as "the Originator" for being one of the first artists to start playing Rock & Roll. The Beatles cited him as a favorite, and Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were directly inspired by him.

His most famous contribution was the "Bo Diddley Beat" that rock bands the world over still use. He famously made his own, distinctively rectangular, electric guitars. They have a distinctive, almost ukelele-like tone color, easily recognizable and closely associated with Bo Diddley Beat-type music. Rolling Stone recognizes him as the twenty-seventh greatest guitarist of all time on their list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

He also served for some time as a deputy Sheriff. He lived his last years in Gainesville, Florida where there is a park/community plaza named after him. His son was arrested while protesting there.

Tropes having to do with Bo Diddley:

  • Answer Song: Muddy Waters' "Mannish Boy" is a response to "I'm a Man".
  • Badass Boast: "I'm a Man"
    • Also "Who do You Love?"
  • Bizarre Instrument: Mild example in his signature box-shaped guitar.
  • Pun-Based Title: His 1960 album Have Guitar Will Travel is a pun on the Western TV show Have Gun Will Travel.
  • Singer Namedrop: A master of this trope, since his Breakthrough Hit was called "Bo Diddley" and he mentioned himself in countless other titles and lyrics (one writer joked that he probably even wrote a song called "Bo Diddley is God").
  • Spelling Song: "I'm a Man" and "Cadillac".
  • Who's on First?: One of his most famous songs is named after him, which can lead to much confusion. It even confused Bo Diddley himself: when he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955, he was supposed to perform "Sixteen Tons", but he performed "Bo Diddley" instead due to seeing a cue card with his name on it and thinking he was to perform both songs. Sullivan got furious from the perceived double-crossing and banned him from future appearances on his show.