Monday, March 10, 2014
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley, Have You Heard?
First, some background: I lived in Izmir, Turkey, from 1956 to 1958. We few American teenagers pooled our small stack of 45s for group listening, and one hepcat brought r&b magic unknown to the rest of us, copies of both "Over the Mountain, Across the Sea" and the staccato, driving "Mona." The latter immediately became one of my forever favorites... which may explain why, when I went off to college in 1960, my first musical move was to swap my Wailers Tall Cool One LP for some other dormie's copy of Bo Diddley's debut album...
In the 1970s I was writing and agency-producing radio, TV, and print ads for Rainier Beer; I was proudest of my specialty, our long series of music parodies, from Tom Waits to the Johnny Burnette Trio, Elvis to DEVO, Los Lobos to the Supremes. When I learned that Chess Records legend Bo Diddley was coming to
I wrote some sketchy lyrics, booked studio time, and eagerly awaited The Man.
At the appointed time, Bo breezed in wearing black sunglasses, black shirt and slacks, and a rakish black mini-Stetson, carrying a black electric guitar--no amp, no case--a Telecaster (I think), and not one of his familiar shaped or hand-built versions. He heard the idea, sneered at my lame lyrics, plugged directly into the board, and quickly laid down two minute-long takes of his own instant-substitute
Bo was usually droll and raucous and deadpan-funny: "You look like you been whupped wid a n'ugly stick"..."Uh, I ain't got nuthin' t' do wid it, but I b'lieve that fella's right!" Maybe he'd been channeling Chuck Berry (cash up front, no discussion).
The ad ran for a few weeks but, sadly, caused no stir. I guess that Boat had sailed.