Bo Diddley Revisited

Bo Diddley Revisited

I’ve been making good use of my time, watching YouTube videos of interviews with Eric Burdon, former front man for the Animals.[1] In the mid-Sixties, the Animals ranked as my favorite band because the timbre of Burdon’s singing voice sounded as if he could have been from my native ground, the Lowcountry of South Carolina (as opposed to Eric’s Newcastle-upon-Tyne). In fact, it was the Animals, and to lesser extent the Rolling Stones, who introduced me the blues, to Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and a host of others.

Decades ago, at his record store on Society Street (we’re talking Charleston, South Carolina), Gary Erwin, AKA Shrimp City Slim, told me that the Animals also had turned him onto R&B and the blues. He referenced their album Animal Tracks as his gateway into the land of shotgun shacks, cotton fields, black snakes, two-timing, big-legged women, and prison farms. 

Here’s the tracklist for Animal Tracks.

A1We Gotta Get Out Of This Place3:17
A2Take It Easy Baby2:51
A3Bring It On Home To Me2:40
A4The Story Of Bo Diddley5:42
B1Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood2:26
B2I Can’t Believe It3:35
B3Club A-Go-Go2:19
B5Bury My Body2:52
B6For Miss Caulker3:55

Although “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Don’t’ Let Me Be Misunderstood” are the big hits from the album, my two favorite tracks are the magnificent cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and “The Story of Bo Diddley,” a sort of pop song bio of one of the pioneers of rock-n-roll, which ends with a comic encounter when Bo, his sister the Duchess, and Jerome Greene meet the Animals at the Club A-Go-Go in Newcastle. 

Listen and read along:

Now lets hear the story of Bo Diddley
And the Rock n Roll scene in general

Bo Diddley was born Ellis McDaniels
In a place called McCoom, Missississipi about 1926
He moved to Chicago about 1938
Where his name was eventually changed to Bo Diddley.

He practiced the guitar everyday and sometimes into the night
Till his papa’s hair began to turn white
His Pa said “Son, listen hear, I know
You can stay but that guitar has just gotta go.”

So he pulled his hat down over his eyes
Headed out for them Western Skies
I think Bob Dylan said that, he hit New York City.

He began to play at the Apollo in Harlem,
Good scene there, everybody raving.
One day, one night, came a Cadillac with four head lights
Came a man with a big, long, fat, cigar said,
“C’mere son, I’m gonna make you a star”
Bo Diddley said, “Uh.whats in it for me?”
Man said, “Shut your mouth son,
Play the guitar and you just wait and see.”

Well, that boy made it, he made it real big
And so did the rest of the rock n roll scene along with him
And a white guy named Johnny Otis took Bo Diddleys rhythm
He changed it into hand-jive and it went like this
In a little old country town one day
A little old country band began to play
Add two guirtars and a beat up saxophone
When the drummer said, boy, those cats begin to roam

Oh baby oh we oh oh
Ooh la la that rock and roll
Ya hear me oh we oh oh
Ooh la la that rock and roll

Then in the U.S. music scene there was big changes made.
Due to circumstances beyond our control such as payola,
The rock n roll scene died after two years of solid rock
And you got discs like, ah…
Take good care of my baby
Please don’t ever make her blue and so forth.

About, ah, one year later in a place called Liverpool in England
Four young guys with mop haircuts began to sing stuff like, ah…
It’s been a hard days night and I’ve been working like a dog and so on.

In a place called Richmond in Surrey, whay down in the deep south

They got guys with long hair down their back singing
I wanna be your lover baby I wanna be your man yeah and all that jazz.

Now we’ve doing this number, Bo Diddley, for quite some time now
Bo Diddley visited this country last year
We were playing at the Club A Gogo in Newcastle, our home town.

The doors opened one night and to our surprise
Walked in the man himself, Bo Diddley
Along with him was Jerome Green, his maraca man,
And the Duchess, his gorgeous sister.
And a we were doing this number

Along with them came the Rolling Stones, the Mersey Beats,
They’re all standing around diggin’ it
And I overheard Bo Diddley talkin’
He turned around to Jermone Green
And he said, “Hey, Jerome? What do you think these guys
Doin’ our.our material?”

Jerome said, “Uh, where’s the bar, man? Please show me to the bar…”

He turned around the Duchess
And he said, “Hey Duchess… what do you think of these young guys
Doin’ our material?”

She said, “I don’t know. I only came across here
To see the changin’ of the guards and all that jazz.”

Well, Bo Diddley looked up and said to me,
With half closed eyes and a smile,
He said “Man, ” took off his glasses,
He said, “Man, that sure is the biggest load of rubbish
I ever heard in my life…”

Hey Bo Diddley
Oh Bo Diddley
Yeah Bo Diddley
Oh Bo Diddley
Yeah Bo Diddley

from lest to right, Bo Diddley, the Duchess, and jerome Green
Bo, the Duchess, and Jerome Green

By the way, this is my second homage to Bo. I also wrote about him in April of 2021 and my father-in-law’s Bo Diddley obsession. If so inclined, you can access that HERE, and it features videos of Bo performing on the Ed Sullivan Show and a snippet from the movie Fritz the Cat

By the way, the white fellow in the collage up above is my father-in-law Lee Tigner in his younger days.

[bongo fade out]

[1] What prompted this foray into nostalgia was my recent poem, which you can access HERE, “The St James Infirmary iPhone Blues.”

2 thoughts on “Bo Diddley Revisited

  1. I was six years old in ’58 when my older brother brought ‘Bo Diddley’ home from the record store. He put it on the turntable on the big console stereo in the family den and turned it up. That jungle beat went right to my soul and my brother Jimmy pulled out his pawn shop Gibson guitar and tried his best to imitate the sound. My parents, blues fans to the core, thought it was reminiscent of the music they had heard in the juke joints of rural Arkansas just up Hwy. 49 from Clarksdale. We all loved Bo.
    Next came ‘Go Bo Diddley’ and then ‘Have Guitar, Will Travel’. We couldn’t get enough of that rhythm and by ’63, I was taking guitar lessons on that very same Gibson and doing my best to mimic the innovator, Bo. I inherited those albums and still have them in my collection.
    Fast forward a couple of decades and Dana and I were at that same show in N. Charleston. We saw him again in the early 80’s in south Florida. His daughter Tammy was playing drums with him then and I have a great photo of Bo and my wife Dana arm in arm.
    Your April ’21 homage to Bo was much appreciated and inspired me to make a pilgrimage to Bronson to see the gravesite for myself. So, on the way back from Crystal River last year we found the lonely graveyard and stopped to pay our respects. With a bottle of bourbon in hand, we made our way the huge granite marker with the signature red square guitar etched into the stone. Just as we poured out a shot for the Man, a car coming down Hwy. 24 screeched to a stop and turned into the cemetery. Two people in the car were eyeing us suspiciously and we didn’t know what was up. Two girls got out of the car and walked up to ask what we were doing there. To honor Bo, we said. They then revealed that they were both Bo’s daughters and lived in his house just down the road. Tammy, the drummer, and her sister Terri were so pleased that someone would take the time to come to Bronson just to visit the site. We drank some whiskey and talked about their dad and they even sang a song they had written about him (which we recorded on our phone). Terri presented me with a special green guitar pick of Bo’s that she said she always carried with her and they invited us back to their house for more whiskey and to visit. It was late in the day though and we had miles to go before we rested back in our home in Awendaw. So we exchanged phone info, said our goodbyes and headed north. Since then, we’ve sent photos and greetings back and forth and will look forward to returning to Bronson for another proper visit.
    Wesley, thanks to your first homage to Bo, Dana and I had a serendipitous experience with the daughters of one of my all-time guitar god and one we will never forget.

    Bill Bennett

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