Bo Diddley

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    ZZ Top
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A guitarist so iconic there’s a beat named after him.

Bo Diddley, nicknamed “the Originator” for his role in the transition from blues to rock and roll, drove music into a new era with his rollicking rhythms and edgy guitar.

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