Bo Diddley, “The Originator”, (as he was also known), died of heart failure aged 79 on this day in 2008. He played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock & roll, influencing a host of acts and even made a visual statement – his guitar shaped like a cigar box, (nicknamed “The Twang Machine”) became a style icon.
The unusual guitar design sprang from an embarrassing moment: after jumping around on stage with a Gibson L5 guitar, Bo landed awkwardly, hurting his groin. He then went about designing a smaller, less restrictive, guitar that allowed him to keep jumping around on stage while still playing.
Born in 1928, he was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Ellas McDaniel. Bo was inspired musically after seeing John Lee Hooker, and developed a career playing on Chicago street corners with friends in a band called The Hipsters.
He was one of the first American male musicians to include women in his band, including Norma-Jean Wofford (aka “The Duchess,” 1942-2005), Peggy Jones, Cornelia Redmond and Debby Hastings, who led his band for the final 25 years of his performing career.
Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008 of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida. Garry Mitchell, a grandson of Diddley and one of more than 35 family members at the musician’s home when he died, said: “There was a gospel song that was sung (at his bedside) and when it was done, Bo said ‘wow’ with a thumbs up, and in his last words he said ‘I’m going to heaven.'”
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