Rock original Bo Diddley keeps on shufflin’
There aren’t too many rock ‘n’ roll originals playing live shows on a regular basis anymore. But Bo Diddley, “The Originator,” is approaching his 50th year of captivating live audiences with his trademark sound. Known as the “Bo Diddley Beat,” it’s a rhythm Diddley developed on the streets of Chicago in the early 1950s. “I was just messin’ around and it popped up,” Diddley said. “That’s the way most things happen with everybody – just messin’ around.”The Chess Bothers of Chess Records heard that unique beat in 1955 and knew Diddley had something special. “They gave me a shot, gave me a chance,” Diddley said. “The Chess Brothers helped me, and I made it.” His first release was the double-sided record “Bo Diddley/I’m a Man,” and it was a hit. By the end of the year, legendary blues musician Muddy Waters released “Mannish Boy,” his rendition of Diddley’s “I’m a Man.” “It’s just a different sound and people liked it,” Diddley said. “It’s still exciting.” Born Ellas Bates McDaniel on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Miss., Diddley moved to Chicago with his family in 1936, where he got the nickname Bo Diddley. “The kids in grammar school gave it to me,” Diddley said. “I don’t know why, but it stuck.” So did his musical career. Over the next four-and-a-half decades, Diddley recorded a number of hits and was immortalized with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was also presented with a number of lifetime achievement awards including the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Awards (1996), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s Grammy Awards (1998), and the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcaster’s Communications Awards (2002).While he’s enjoyed great success, Diddley’s had his bouts with bad luck. “I’ve been ripped royally,” Diddley said. “I was one of those guys who trusted people. I ain’t gonna tell you [who ripped me off] but they did it.” His love for music is as strong as ever, but it’s also a business.”I’ve been doing it for 48 years, that should tell you something,” he said. “[But] I can’t stop, I gotta work, I ain’t financially set. I never received royalties … that statute of limitations, that is the U.S. devil.”I don’t know how to go after it, but my turn is coming up,” he added. Meanwhile, Diddley will just keep playing. He returns to Aspen Saturday, taking the stage the same night as headliner Tom Petty at the Jazz Aspen Labor Day Festival. Playing alongside Petty is nothing new to Diddley.”I do a few dates with him,” Diddley said. “We work good together – I go out and get the crowd ready, and [then] he does his thing. “Tom’s a beautiful person, it’s really great working with that group, the whole band is fantastic,” he added. Diddley loves playing in Aspen, but he could do without the altitude. “I don’t like the breathing situation,” he joked. “I hope I don’t get out of breath.”Diddley is a joker; his one regret is that he didn’t do more comedy in the past.”I’m a clown,” said Diddley, “I just wish I had a better role where I could have clowned and done some funnier shit.” When asked about some of the highlights of his career, Diddley said he loved making guest appearances in comedy shows and movies, like “According to Jim” and “Blues Brothers 2000.” “You gotta mess around a little bit, create something,” he said.
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