One of the founding fathers of rock ’n’ roll has left the building he helped construct. Bo Diddley, aged 79, died of heart failure on June 2 at his home in Archer, FL where he had resided for more than 20 years.
With Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, Diddley (born Ellas Otha Bates) was one of music’s principal architects in the mid-1950s. The guitarist-singer-songwriter influenced musicians working in such disparate styles as rockabilly, British Invasion pop, surf, psychedelic, hip-hop and punk rock.
Diddley was born on December 30, 1928, in McComb, MI. He was raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, with whom he moved to Chicago at the age of seven and whose surname he took, becoming Ellas McDaniel. Sources differ on where the stage name Bo Diddley originated, but McDaniel was using it professionally by 1954, when he recorded “I’m a Man” and his namesake song, “Bo Diddley,” at Chess Records’ studios. Issued as a single, “Bo Diddley” topped Billboard’s R&B Singles chart in 1955 (its flipside, “I’m a Man,” charted for 11 weeks in its own right) and was followed by Top-20 hits “Diddley Daddy,” “Pretty Thing,” “I’m Sorry,” “Crackin’ Up” and “Say Man.”
He cut 11 albums for Chess between 1958 and 1963, a number of which are now highly collectable. In ’63 he co-headlined a UK tour with the Everly Brothers; opening the bill were the as-yet-unheralded Rolling Stones.
Diddley had continued performing well into 2007 until he suffered a stroke in May of that year in Council Bluffs, IA, followed by a heart attack in August. Diddley is survived by his brother The Reverend Kenneth Haynes of Biloxi, MS; his children, Evelyn Kelly, Ellas A. McDaniel, Tammi D. McDaniel and Terri Lynn Foster; 15 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Private and public services are planned for this weekend.