Bo Diddley

Selected by Dan Grunebaum

"I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob..."
Blue Note Tokyo

Few artists are lucky enough to have a time signature named after them, but then few are as unique as rhythm & blues pioneer Bo Diddley. In the first week of August, Bo Diddley will bring his "Bo Diddley Beat" to Tokyo for a landmark first-ever visit to the Blue Note Tokyo.

Like many of the Chicago bluesmen, Bo Diddley (b. Ellas Bates) was a transplant from the Mississippi Delta, relocating to Chicago in the mid-1930s. But unlike his peers, Diddley took a circuitous route to the blues, switching to the guitar only after studying the violin for 12 years.

A frustrated drummer, Diddley attempted to mimic percussion techniques using his guitar pick. "I play guitar as if I' playing the drums... I play drum licks on the guitar," he is quoted as saying on his official website. Putting together his first group, The Hipsters, later known as the Langley Avenue Jive Cats, Diddley spent the better part of the late '40s and early '50s jamming on the street corners and in the clubs of Chicago before scoring his first contract.

After repeated rejections from various labels, he brought some tracks to the Chess brothers, owners of the storied Chess Records label. They suggested he make some changes, re-recorded the tracks and released them in 1955 as a double A-side, "Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man" on Chess subsidiary Checkers Records. The disc went straight to the top of the R&B charts, launching Bo Diddley on a career that would profoundly influence the genesis of rock'n'roll.

With his pounding Bo Diddley Beat, custom built, fur-covered guitars, innovative use of effects, distinctive all-black outfit and habit of playing his guitar between his legs, with his teeth, and every which way, Diddley's legacy can be seen in everyone from Jimi Hendrix to George Thorogood. To get a true sense of his reach, consider the following: Diddley was invited by UK punk group The Clash to open for them on their first major US tour in 1978. And in 1987, pop star George Michael scored an international smash hit with "Faith," a song driven by the Bo Diddley Beat.

In recent years, with the bluesman celebrating his 70th birthday in 1998, Diddley has begun to receive the respect he deserves. He was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, joined the Hollywood RockWalk in 1989, appeared at the Democratic National Convention in 1992, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1998 Grammys.

Bo Diddley plays the Blue Note Tokyo from Aug 4-9. See listings for details.

Concert Listings
394: Regurgitator
393: Art Garfunkel


392: Belle and Sebastian
391: Super Furry Animals
390: Ben Folds
389: Elton John
388: Dido
387: Papa Roach
386: Beast Feast 2001
385: Summersonic
384: David Sylvian
383: Maxi Priest & Big Mountain
382: Fuji Rock Festival 01
381: Roxy Music
380: Bo Diddley
379: John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussain in Remember Shakti
378: Paul Weller
377: Coolio
376: Backyard Babies
375: Marcus Miller
374: Black Crowes
373: Megadeath
372: Dionne Warwick
371: Arrested Development
370: Mouse on Mars
369: Duran Duran
368: Linkin Park
367: Maceo Parker
366: Japan Blues Carnival 2001
365: Ben Harper
364: Cheap Trick
363: Stephen Malkmus
362: Mogwai
361: Weezer
360: Marilyn Manson
359: Green Day
358: AC/DC
357: Richard Thompson
356: Bob Dylan
355: J. Mascis
354: Leigh Stephen Kenny
352/3: Limp Bizkit
351: Boyz II Men
350: Reef
349: Park Tower Blues Festival
348: Roni Size
347: Compay Segundo
346: Incognito
345: Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes
344: Bad Religion
343: Japan Soul Festival 2000
342: Rocktober 2000
341: Richard Ashcroft
340: Motorhead
339: Festival Halou
338: Ricky Martin
337: Taj Mahal
336: Asian Dub Foundation
335: Lou Reed
334: Earth, Wind & Fire
333: Sting
332: No Doubt
331: Camel
330: Fuji Rock: Smash Talks
329: Summer Sonic
328: Mt. Fuju Aid 2000
327: Salif Keita
326: Buena Vista Social Club
325: Bill Frisell
324: Maxi Priest
323: Lenine
322: Rage Against the Machine
321: Tommy Flanagan Trio
320: Smashing Pumpkins
319: Pet Shop Boys
318: Japan Blues Carnival
317: Gipsy Kings
316: Steely Dan
315: Pshish
314: Big Night Out
313: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
312: Harry Connick Jr.
311: Sonny Rollins
310: Speech
309: Santana