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Bo Diddley

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  • Inducted by:
    ZZ Top
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Hall of Fame Essay


Michael Hill

Ed Sullivan was “more surprised than pleased” following his November 17th, 1955, show, during which Bo Diddley performed his self-mythologizing Top Ten R&B hit, “Bo Diddley,” instead of the version of “Sixteen Tons” Sullivan insisted he rehearse that afternoon. 

The swaggering Chicago guitarist had been part of a fifteen-minute segment emceed by New York DJ Tommy “Dr. Jive” Smalls and also featuring such current R&B faves as LaVern Baker, the Five Keys and Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson. 

Diddley, facing the nation that Sunday evening, subverted the set with a tune that showed off his customized sound, the Bo Diddley beat—a staccato duet between guitar and maracas, insistent and irresistible, an urban-jungle rhythm that conjured rock and roll out of the blues.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Program 1987
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that inimitable Bo Diddley beat

Jann Wenner



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