Bo Diddley didn’t live to see his birthday this year (which he shared with Bob Quine who is still dead). I had three brief but amusing run ins with Bo, which I posted on Boogie Woogie Flu
blog back in June when he died. If you didn’t see it I’ll reprint ’em here:
1) I was bike messengering in the early 80’s and had some time to kill so I stopped into Show World @ 8th Ave and 42nd St (a three story peep-show porn emporium, now gone) to take in the quarter movies and get out of the cold. Who should be checking out at the counter but Bo Diddley in a long leather overcoat and cowboy hat. He had a big bag of videos so I say: “Bo Diddley!, whatcha buyin’ Bo”? He pulls the top video out of the bag and shows me Maximum Perversion Vol. 23. Pix of midgets, women w/snakes, etc. all over it. He had a huge grin on his face.
2) Backstage at Madison Square Garden for some oldies show and there’s Bo at the catering table. He gets a huge piece of apple pie and sits down, but before he eats it he butters both top and bottom with about a quarter inch of butter, then picks it up and swallows it in two bites.
3) In 1985 we went down to Camden, N.J. to see Bo w/the Ben Vaughn Combo backing him up (they were perfect, right down to the plaid jackets, Bo hated them) so I brought my copy of Go Bo Diddley to get signed. While I was getting it autographed, Ben asked Bo about the verse in
“Who Do You Love” about the ice wagon and what it meant. Bo replied that Leonard Chess
made him change the lyrics from the original verse he brought in which was:
around the corner/the shitwagon flew
a bump was hit/a scream was heard
someone got hit with a flying turd”!
By the way, Bo signed the record upside down, so I scanned it upside down in case anyone out there wants to analyze his handwriting.
The point being: I know of no artist, not the Stones, not Dylan, not even Jimmy Reed, who made as many fine records as Bo Diddley. In the early 90’s Charley Records of England issued an twelve CD set of his Chess recordings including many un-issued sides (you can find it here). There’s almost no crap on it at all. Amazing. I wanted to post some of his more obscure tunes here to give you an idea of the depth and scope of his catalogue. He is unfairly remembered as a one-hit, one beat, one riff artist, and that is just utter bullshit. The people who write the history of rock’n’roll are often the most idiotic, misinformed, and laziest writers in the world.
Here is a small attempt to change the “conventional wisdom” on the subject of Bo Diddley. Take a listen.
Background To A Music
Bo’s Dog (live)
Billy Stewart- Billy’s Heartache (produced/written by Bo, Bo’s also playing guitar and singing back-up)
Billy Stewart- Billy’s Blues Part one
Billy Stewart- Billy’s Blues Part two (produced/written by Bo, Bo can also be heard on guitar, “Love Is Strange” was based on this record)
Marquees (w/Marvin Gaye)- Hey Little School Girl (produced/written by Bo)
Cookie Headed Diddley
(cold war Bo!)
Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
(the above was recorded in Bo’s basement during a rehearsal)
with Chuck Berry- Bo’s Beat
Met You On A Saturday
Surfer’s Love Call
Bo’s A Lumber Jack
Mickey & Sylvia- Dearest (written by Bo, who is also playing rhythm guitar behind Mickey Baker, Bob Quine’s favorite guitar solo).
and here’s one by Bo Diddley’s cousin, Bo Dudley (I shit you not): Shotgun Rider
Now if we can only find the homemade R&B star porno movies Bo filmed on tour in the 50’s and 60’s (as described by Etta James in her book Rage To Live (Villard, 1995) see the September posting Etta James Rocks The House for more on Bo’s home movies. Should anybody out there see a Yard Sale sign out in front of Bo Diddley’s place please let me know.
In an old underground comic book called Bop! there was a great story about a teenage garage band circa 1962 who invite Bo Diddley to their house to jam with them. Bo (and maraca shakin’ Jerome!) showed up at the kid’s house the next day and jammed out with the little twerps.
A tape exists of this garage jam and hopefully it will be released in our lifetime (Bo’s manager nixed the release of it when Bo was still alive, preferring to attempt to market some sort of hip hop Bo disc). Ellas Otha Bates McDaniel aka Bo Diddley: great guy, great glasses, great rock’n’roll star…maybe the greatest ever.