Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley invented a guitar riff so important to rock 'n' roll that it was named after him. Born Ellas Bates, Diddley was adopted as a baby and his last name changed to McDaniel. Like many other struggling sharecroppers in Mississippi, he and his family moved to Chicago in pursuit of a better life. In those times, folks who couldn't afford an instrument would improvise by plucking wires attached to nails hammered into a piece of wood. This was call a diddley bow, and Bo's classmates nicknamed him after this object. He eventually learned to play the guitar proper and played out on the streets of Chicago and then in the blues clubs. His first hit, "Bo Diddley," helped to make him a household name in 1955. Other hits soon followed: "I'm a Man," "Say Man," and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover." These songs were all a variation on the Diddley beat, and were ultimately the beginning of rhythm and blues and Diddley's profound influence on what would later be the classic rock 'n' roll sound. In the 1960s, his songs were covered by the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors, among many others.

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