You are here

Bo Diddley, Guitar Pioneer, Dies at 79

Bo Diddley, Guitar Pioneer, Dies at 79

Bob Diddley, the pioneering rock guitarist who blended R&B and rock through a distinctive thumping beat, died at his home in Archer, Florida, on Monday, June 2, of heart failure. He was 79.

Diddley was famous for laying the foundation of rock and roll with his signature beat on such songs as "Who Do You Love?" and "Bo Diddley," and usually played on a distinctive, rectangle-shaped guitar.

"Bo Diddley invented the beat that the Rolling Stones used often," said former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. "He was a pioneer and he will be greatly missed."

"This distinctive, African-based...rhythm pattern (which goes bomp-bomp-bomp bomp-bomp) was picked up by other artists and has been a distinctive and recurring element in rock 'n' roll through the decades," according to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Diddley was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in January 1987.

In 2005 Diddley spoke to Uncut magazine about the rock and roll revolution he helped start: "Well, it's no different from anything else, I guess. I started sumthin'. I just happened to be the first one. But I never thought it would turn into what it did. Somebody had to be first, and it happened to be me."

Diddley was born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi, on December 30, 1928. He later took the name McDaniel after being adopted by his mother's cousin. Diddley's family moved to Chicago when he was 7, according to his Hall of Fame biography.

Diddley's debut single was his self-titled 1955 classic, with "I'm a Man" as its B-side. The songs were released on Chicago's Chess-Checker Records label, also the home of Chuck Berry and Willie Dixon.

Seven Contemporary Jazz Guitarists Worth Checking Out