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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bo Diddley Wants To Know "Who Do You Love?"


American R&B and Chicago Blues vocalist and guitarist, Bo Diddley  (1928 – 2008) was a songwriter and music producer, usually credited as Ellas McDaniel, who also had cameo appearances in movies. (Bo Diddley, played the pawnbroker who deals with Dan Aykroyd in the movie Trading Places.) He was introduced to the MTV generation when he played pool against George Thorogood in Thorogood's video for "Bad to the Bone."

Diddley was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Chicago. His birth name was Ellas Otha Bates, and he became Ellas McDaniel when he was adopted by his mother's cousin. He attended Ebenezer Baptist Church in Chicago, where he studied the trombone and the violin (He took formal lessons for several years.), becoming proficient enough on the violin for the musical director to invite him to join the orchestra, with which he performed until the age of 18. 

After receiving a guitar for Christmas, he taught himself how to play and joined a band while still in school. Blues legend John Lee Hooker was a huge influence.

Diddley started to record for the Checker and Chess labels in 1955, an association that lasted for 21 years. Most of his hit songs were on the R&B charts: Diddley Daddy, his two-sided hit Bo Diddley/I'm A Man, You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, Say Man (his only song to crossover into the pop charts and make the top forty there in 1959, which eventually became a number twenty entry), and Road Runner.

The origin of the "Bo Diddley" stage name is unclear as it is credited to several stories. McDaniel claimed that his peers gave him the name, which he suspected to be an insult. He also said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother knew, but harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold said that it was a local comedian's name, which Leonard Chess. record company executive and the co-founder of Chess Records, adopted as McDaniel's stage name and also for the title of his first single. And, guitar craftsman Ed Roman stated that it was McDaniel's nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer.

 (Ed Roman. "Ed Roman on Bo' Diddley RIP". Celebrity Rock Star Guitars. 2005.)

A "diddley bow" is a homemade, American single-string instrument played mainly by workers in the southern fields. It probably has influences from the West African coast.

(Chris Morris, I'm A Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–1958 liner notes.
Geffen Records. February 2007.)

In the American slang term, bo diddly, bo is an intensifier and diddly is a truncation of diddly squat, which means "absolutely nothing."

All of this speculation about the name just added to Bo's great mystique.

Bo Diddley was nicknamed "The Originator" because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll, and to rock. When he hired Peggy Jones to play guitar in his touring band, he became the first major artist to use a female lead guitarist. With his distinctive style, he also influenced a host of famous acts, including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Parliament Funkadelic.

His hambone beat [shave-and-a-hair-cut, two bits] was his trademark and is now commonly known in rock music as the Bo Diddley Beat. Rock critic Don Snowden says, "Bo Diddley played body rock - his musical sights were set on the listener's hips from the git-go." But, unfortunately, you can't trademark a beat, so he didn't get royalties on the songs he influenced. And, there were many, many songs he influenced. Still they come.

Snowden continues ...

"Ironically, Bo Diddley - Bo of the heavy-rimmed black glasses that'd probably get him called a nerd today, Bo of the tartan plaid and black leather gunslinger suits, Bo of the self-made square guitar and sonic noises, Bo the unlikeliest of teen idols - was the rocker who brought the deep blues to white America. While Chuck Berry seduced it with rollicking piano, fluid guitar solos and teenage American dream themes, Bo Diddley was the bridge to the guitar/harmonica sound and hoodoo the voodoo chants of Chicago/Mississippi blues their virgin ears weren't ready for in their undiluted form just yet."

(Don Snowden. "Bo Diddley: His Best." Liner notes -- MCA/Chess Records. CHD - 9373. 1997.)

"I'm what you call a black Frenchman, a Creole," Diddley related to Pete Welding on the liner notes to his 1973 compilation Got My Own Bag Of Tricks. "All my people are from New Orleans, the bayou country - French, African, Indian, all mixed up. That's where my music comes from, all that mixture."

"Who Do You Love?"

"Who Do You Love?" is a song written by Bo Diddley in 1956 and one of his most popular, enduring works. An upbeat rocker with readily identifiable, the song was part of Bo Diddley's repertoire throughout his career. 

The song is one of Bo Diddley's strongest lyrical efforts. It has been called "an enduring lyric archetype on the order of rocker "Johnny B. Goode" and blues standard "Hoochie Coochie Man."[

The lyrics relate a Louisiana/Mississippi hoodoo theme, but it was "transplanted to the American Southwest with "47 miles of barbed wire, cobra snake neckties, houses made from rattlesnake hide and a chimney made from a human skull." By the way, the "ice wagon" is a reference to a hearse.

Hey Bo Diddley (1958), the album containing the song, maintains the Western motif with its dude (in every sense of the word) ranch fantasy boast supported by great backing vocals (probably the Moonglows, maybe with a very young Marvin Gaye.  "The album was loaded with tremolo and buttressed by drums, funky piano, and usually maracas; it's absolutely infectious. This is one of the greatest rock sounds that you're likely to hear, and it's all on this one record, too."

(Matthew Greenwald. AllMusic Review.

The song centers around one chord with guitar flourishes complementing the vocals. It has a strong rhythm, but unlike later interpretations, it does not use the signature Bo Diddley beat. Instead "Who Do You Love?" uses a "modified cut shuffle beat" or 2/4 time, giving it an almost rockabilly feel, similar to Chuck Berry's "Maybellene."

(The Blues. Hal Leonard Corporation. 1995.)

"Who Do You Love?" has been interpreted and recorded by numerous musicians. Let me name some that are very popular and have great renditions in themselves. Covers are by these artists:

Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (The Hawks later became The Band.), the Blues Project, the Rolling Stones, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Doors, the Woolies, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Golden Earring, Jack Johnson, John Hammond, Misunderstood, Red Devils, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Yardbirds (featuring Eric Clapton), Tom Rush, Johnny Winter, Carlos Santana, Bob Seger, Van Morrison, and the aforementioned George Thorogood And The Destroyers, who covered the song on his 1978 album Move It On Over.

Also, British blues rockers Juicy Lucy had a #14 hit in the UK in 1970 with their version of this song.

Bo Diddley was a charter inductee into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and later was awarded the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Bo Diddley's original song at number 133 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time", noting that "who do" is a homonym of "hoodoo." A Grammy Hall of Fame Award followed in 2010.

Both Bo Diddley and his song "Who Do You Love?" are timeless, icons that showcase the enduring beat of rock. The simplicity of the presentation and the animalistic, rhythmic appeal of the music stand as testaments to the power of seminal rock to move minds, souls, and bodies. The dark references in the lyrics surely made Arlene a true believer. And I'll bet a little hoodoo from Mr. Diddley has worked many a spell since the needle first hit the grooves. 

"Who Do You Love?"

I walk forty-seven miles of barbed wire
I use a cobra snake for a necktie
I got a brand new house on the roadside
Made from rattlesnake hide
I got a brand new chimney made on top
Made out of a human skull
Now come on take a walk with me, Arlene
And tell me, who do you love?

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

Tombstone hand and a graveyard mind
Just twenty-two and I don't mind dying

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

I rode a lion to town, used a rattlesnake whip
Take it easy Arlene, don't give me no lip

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

Night was dark, but the sky was blue
Down the alley, the ice-wagon flew
Heard a bump, and somebody screamed
You should have heard just what I seen

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?

Arlene took me by my hand
And she said ooo-wee, Bo, you know I understand

Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?
Who do you love?


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