Bo Diddley is dead. He was the author of the “shave and a haircut… two bits” beat.
“That beat came almost from children’s nursery rhymes and it came from outside barber shops in America,” Singer-songwriter Richard Hawley told the BBC. ” Outside the barber shops, they’d have a kid with a little wooden plank with tap shoes playing that kind of rhythm. ”
The rock world is bestowing tributes on him today, of course. Many are coming from the institutions that ripped him off, according to a 2005 interview he gave to Rolling Stone, referenced in the Boston Globe today.
“Elvis was not first; I was the first son of a gun out here, me and Chuck Berry. And I’m very sick of the lie,” Mr. Diddley said in a 2005 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “You know, we are over that black-and-white crap, and that was all the reason Elvis got the appreciation that he did. I’m the dude that he copied, and I’m not even mentioned. . . . I’ve been out here for 50 years, man, and I haven’t ever seen a royalty check.”
Mitch Berg, author of the Shot in the Dark blog, pens a tribute (by the way, to see why Berg is, perhaps, the best blog writer in Minnesota when it comes to music, see his post on Bruce Springsteen.), invoking some long-forgotten images of when rock married politics, as in the 1989 George Bush inaugural.
Diddley, Sam and Dave, and Lee Atwater (the architect of Bush’s win) jammed on stage. It also gave us one of the goofiest pictures of a U.S. president… ever, when President George H.W. Bush jumped on stage, picked up a guitar and pretended to jam, both Atwater and Bush making “air guitar”-like faces at each other. (Unfortunately, the only copy of the picture I can find on the Internet is a small thumbnail. But trust me on this.)
Courtesy of KARE 11, a Coon Rapids man — Ar Stevens — tells the story of playing with Diddley in the ’80s. Watch the accompanying video only if you’re prepared to withstand the gratuitous — and overworked — “you don’t know Diddley” references.