Bo Diddley Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
Bo Diddley was an American R&B singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He is best known as a pioneer for transitioning blue to rock.
Childhood and Early Life
Bo Diddle was born on December 30, 1928, in McComb, Mississippi. His name at birth was Ellas Bates. His family moved him to the South Side of Chicago to live with his cousin Gussie McDaniel. She later adopted him. There Bo Diddle learned how to play the trombone and violin with the help of his church's music director.
Bo Diddle attended Foster Vocational High School in Chicago. He was learning how to make violins and guitars. He eventually dropped out of school.
Bo Diddle worked various jobs as a carpenter and a mechanic. When he wasn't working, he was playing his music in the streets or any bar gig he could get in Chicago. His first recording contract was with Checker, a subsidiary of Chess Records, in 1995.
His first songs were “Bo Diddley” and “I'm a Man.” In 1956, he was rising the charts with songs such as “Pretty Thing” and “Who Do You Love.”
Diddley continued gaining in popularity bringing his upbeat music on tour or television through the 1960s. However, during the 1970s, his popularity waned as music was changing.
Still, he continued playing and touring with bands including The Grateful Dead and The Clash. His music is credited in over 150 films, documentaries, and TV shows. His final studio album was titled Man Amongst Men which was released in 1996.
Personal Life and Legacy
Bo Diddley's best known for his impact on American music. His songs influenced future generations of musicians including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Doors, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen. Even the rhythm of his music is heard in more contemporary songs such as “I Want Candy,” “Desire” by U2, and “Faith” by George Michael.
Bo Diddle married Louise Woolingham in 1946, but they divorced in 1947. He later married Ethel Mae Smith in 1949. The couple had two children but divorced in 1956. In 1960, he married Kay Reynolds.
They had two children and stayed married until 1980 when they divorced. In 1992, Diddley married Sylvia Paiz. The couple divorced in 2005. Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008, at the age of 79 in Archer, Florida. The cause of death was reported as heart failure.
Awards and Achievements
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, 1987
Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996
The Recording Academy at the Grammy Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998
Summary of Major Works
“Bo Diddley/I'm a Man,” 1955
“Pretty Things,” 1956
“Who Do You Love,” 1956
“Before You Accuse Me,” 1957
“You Can't Judge a Book By the Cover,” 1962
Man Amongst Men, 1996