Bo Diddley – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.


Bo Diddley & Oph 2

The red plaid checked jacket, oblong box guitar, splayed legs, cocky attitude, guitar held defiantly, surly look and piercing eyes. Bo was not someone to mess with. Straight out of McComb Mississippi to Chicago and onto the charts, Bo Diddley was arrogant, assertive, brash and egocentric. He was an ex-boxer, a street busker and could hold his own. His first single, aptly titled Bo Diddley, set the tone. There was the distinctive beat and rhythm that was going to become part of the fabric of Rock Music coupled with the bragging lyrics. This was black R&B aimed at the white teenage market and hit the right time smack in the face. Ellas Otha Bates, AKA Bo Diddley had arrived. He was accepted into the broad lexicon of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He and Chuck, straight out of Chess, set the pace for black blues-based Rock ‘n’ Roll and inspired a generation of British Beat groups.

Bo is black shorthand for ‘bad boy’. Bo was mean but he had a sense of humour and you were never totally sure how much he meant and how much was real. His attitude came straight off the streets. This was no black boy to be put in his place. Behind the fun and flamboyant style was seriousness lurking. When he sang ‘Who do you love?’ or ‘I’m the greatest lover in the world’ there was an air of belief. He probably did decorate his house with human skulls and go around town with a rattle-snake whip.

On those first appearances Bo was to be seen with his maraca man Jerome Green and the gorgeous Duchess on bass complete with slinky outfits, burning sexuality and equal defiance. It must have scared the hell out of all those racist rednecks. It certainly had an effect on me. It filled me with adrenaline and set my heart beating fast. Bo was a monster.

There were endless variations on that basic shuffle beat. Bo’s guitars got more outrageous with furry ones making an appearance and more distortion and gadgetry. He was not looking for a clean sound. He courted that raw, dirty sound. His tuning was different. The guitar sounded original. Nobody else could quite capture it.

Bo told stories about himself and cops and robbers. He used black jive and laughed a lot. He was the greatest lumberjack, gunslinger and lover on the planet. There was nothing he couldn’t do. He even could cope with aliens. Through the fifties and into the sixties he road-ran his Cadillac, bewitched the pretty things and bragged about his exploits through a series of brilliant, innovative and highly original tracks. Even when he got poorly he took the pills and made a play for the nurse. There was no holding him back. His repertoire formed the substrata of a whole generation of British Beat groups. He was idolised. But no-one could do it like Bo.

I saw him in the eighties when he gave a riotous concert in Hull on the night that Muddy Waters died. We talked to him afterwards and he claimed to have been ripped off by Chess and was a bit angry and sour but none-the-less friendly and amenable. I still cherish that photo I had taken with him.

Bo was a true original pioneer. What he laid down in the fifties will last for ever.

In the UK:

Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses :

In the USA:

Opher’s World Tributes to Rock Geniuses :

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5 thoughts on “Bo Diddley – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

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