... he died on June 2, 2008.
Born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi, Bo Diddley was known as "The Originator" because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll. Diddley originated insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged guitar sound to music.
He influenced a host of legendary acts including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Clash,The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton; and the list goes on and on...
Bo Diddley only had a few hits in the 1950s and early '60s, but he produced greater and more influential music than all but a handful of the best early rockers. The Bo Diddley beat - bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp - is one of rock & roll's bedrock rhythms. His vibrating, fuzzy guitar style did much to bring the electric guitar into prominence.
Before taking up blues and R&B, Diddley had actually studied classical violin, but switched after hearing John Lee Hooker. In the early '50s, he began playing with his longtime partner, maraca player Jerome Green, to get what Bo's called "that freight train sound."
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Billy Boy Arnold, a well-known blues harmonica player and singer, was also performing with Diddley when the guitarist got a recording contract with Chess in the mid-'50s. His first single, "Bo Diddley"/"I'm a Man" in 1955, featured futuristic waves of tremolo guitar, set to an ageless nursery rhyme. The "B" side was a bump-and-grind, harmonica-driven shuffle, based around a blues riff. The result was a new kind of guitar-based rock & roll, soaked in the blues and R&B.
Diddley was never a top seller like his label-mate Chuck Berry, but over the next few years, he'd produce a catalog of classics that rival Berry's in quality. "You Don't Love Me," "Diddley Daddy," "Pretty Thing," "Diddy Wah Diddy," "Who Do You Love?," "Mona," "Road Runner" and "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover."
On stage, Diddley was charismatic, with his square guitars and distorted amplification to produce novel sounds. In Great Britain, he was revered as a giant on the order of Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. The Rolling Stones borrowed a lot from Bo's rhythms and attitude in their early days. Other British R&B groups like the Yardbirds and Animals covered Diddley standards in their early days.
In the U.S., Buddy Holly covered "Bo Diddley" and used a modified Bo Diddley beat on "Not Fade Away"; when the Stones gave the song the full-on Bo, giving them their first big hit record.
After 1963, he never wrote or recorded a record that matched his early standards.
Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He was known in particular for his technical innovations, including his trademark rectangular guitar.