Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 17:09 UK

Obituary: Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley performing in his late 60s
Bo Diddley, a lasting influence on rock music
With his trademark "hambone" rhythm that characterised so many of his songs and was adopted by Buddy Holly on Not Fade Away, Bruce Springsteen on She's the One and The Who on Magic Bus, Bo Diddley was a lasting influence on rhythm and blues.

"I play the guitar like I'm playin' the drums", he once said.

He was born Ellas Otha Bates in Mississippi in 1928, changing his name to McDaniel when he was adopted by his mother's cousin.

He moved with his new family to the South Side of Chicago where he acquired his Bo Diddley nickname at school. A "Diddley Bow" is a one-stringed African guitar.

In his teens, he trained as a boxer while regularly playing guitar on street corners when not in school. He built his first rectangular guitar, that was to become his hallmark, while still a student.


Bo Diddley, a lasting influence on rock music

After several years, he was given regular gigs at the 708 Club in 1951. This led, four years later, to a record deal with Leonard Chess's Checker label.

His first single, the classic Bo Diddley, with its characteristic beat and heavily amplified guitar, was an immediate number one on the R&B charts.

His band looked different from others. He had a woman in it, and unusual instruments like electric violin and maracas. His biggest pop successes came in 1959 when Say Man hit the Top 20, and in 1962 when You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover entered the Top 50.

New generation

His live act, a meeting of blues and rock 'n' roll, featured Jerome Green, Otis Spann, Billy Boy Arnold, Frank Kirkland, and, later, his half-sister "The Duchess".

Though his songs influenced Buddy Holly in the 1950s, it was in the following decade that his songs permeated the repertoires of the so-called British invasion bands like The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Who, Pretty Things and The Animals.

Bo Diddley toured extensively throughout the 1960s and 70s. By supporting The Clash in 1979, he introduced his sound to a new generation.

Bo Diddley performing in the 1970s
Bo Diddley became known to a younger generation
He made cameo appearances in George Thorogood's video Bad to the Bone, and played a pawnbroker in the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. In 1998 he appeared in Blues Brothers 2000.

In the late 1980s, he toured with Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood as The Gunslingers and released the album Live at the Ritz.

In 1989, he raised his profile further with younger audiences when he appeared with baseball star Bo Jackson in a TV commercial for sports shoes.

In 1996, he released his first major album in two decades, A Man Amongst Men, with guest artists that included Ron Wood, Keith Richards and The Shirelles.

Three years later, he received a lifetime achievement honour at the Grammy Awards, in recognition of the influence he had cast over the history of popular music.

Musician Bo Diddley dies aged 79
02 Jun 08 |  Entertainment

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