Here's a story that I really wanna tell
It's about Bo Diddley at the O.K. Corral
Now Bo Diddley didn't start no mess
He had a gun on his hip and a rose on his vest
'Cause Bo Diddley's a gunslinger
("Bo Diddley's a Gunslinger")
The fourth face on a mythical rock and roll Mount Rushmore would probably be open for debate. Buddy Holly or Bill Haley? Jackie Brenston (Ike Turner's sax player under whose name the "first rock and roll song," "Rocket 88," was released) or Little Richard? However, there would most likely be no argument for the other three faces: Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley.
Ellas Bates, or Ellas McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley, died Monday of heart failure. "Unique and influential" is how Joel Whitburn's entry identifies Diddley. "Understatement" is what most people would say to that description. However, to be fair to Whitburn, he is limited by space in his Billboard books.
Forget what those popular (and very humorous) Nike commercials said, Bo knew Diddley. He knew the blues, too, having grown up in Mississippi. He listened to everything from Louis Jordan to Nat "King" Cole and put it all into his music, which was powered by what he called "drum licks on the guitar" played on that trademark box-shaped guitar of his. He was one of the earliest performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, being enshrined in its second "class" in 1987, and for good reason: Rock and roll would be completely different music without Bo's influence.
Farewell to the legendary Bo Diddley, dead at age 79.