Bo Diddley Dies At Age 79
Growing up, Diddley said he had no musical idols, and he wasn’t entirely pleased that others drew on his innovations.
“I don’t like to copy anybody. Everybody tries to do what I do, update it,” he said. “I don’t have any idols I copied after.”
“They copied everything I did, upgraded it, messed it up. It seems to me that nobody can come up with their own thing, they have to put a little bit of Bo Diddley there,” he said.
Despite his success, Diddley claimed he only received a small portion of the money he made during his career. Partly as a result, he continued to tour and record music until his stroke.
Between tours, he made his home near Gainesville in north Florida.
“Seventy ain’t nothing but a damn number,” he told The Associated Press in 1999. “I’m writing and creating new stuff and putting together new different things. Trying to stay out there and roll with the punches. I ain’t quit yet.”
Diddley, like other artists of his generations, was paid a flat fee for his recordings and said he received no royalty payments on record sales. He also said he was never paid for many of his performances.
“I am owed. I’ve never got paid,” he said. “A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun.”
In the early 1950s, Diddley said, disc jockeys called his type of music, “Jungle Music.” It was Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed who is credited with inventing the term “rock ‘n’ roll.”
Diddley said Freed was talking about him, when he introduced him, saying, “Here is a man with an original sound, who is going to rock and roll you right out of your seat.”
Diddley won attention from a new generation in 1989 when he took part in the “Bo Knows” ad campaign for Nike, built around football and baseball star Bo Jackson. Commenting on Jackson’s guitar skills, Bo Diddley turned to the camera and said, “He don’t know Diddley.”
“I never could figure out what it had to do with shoes, but it worked,” Diddley said. “I got into a lot of new front rooms on the tube.”
Born as Ellas Bates on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Miss., Diddley was later adopted by his mother’s cousin and took on the name Ellis McDaniel, which his wife always called him.
When he was 5, his family moved to Chicago, where he learned the violin at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He learned guitar at age 10 and entertained passers-by on street corners.
By his early teens, Diddley was playing Chicago’s Maxwell Street.
“I came out of school and made something out of myself. I am known all over the globe, all over the world. There are guys who have done a lot of things that don’t have the same impact that I had,” he said.