Diddley’s greatest contribution to the rock lexicon is undeniably the infectious beat that will forever bear his name. In Guitar Player’s April, 2005 cover story, “The 101 Greatest Moments in Guitar History,” Diddley’s introduction of that timeless rhythm easily made the list: “On his eponymous 1957 debut album, Bo Diddley gave rock and roll its most-identifiable pulse—as well as a primal thump that exploded with all the sex, sweat, and swagger rock had to offer. What would come to be known as the ‘Bo Diddley Beat’ was a standard African rhythm, but when Bo first used it to propel tunes such as ‘I’m a Man’ and ‘Who Do You Love,’ America’s parents were treated to a groove that scared the holy hell out of them.”
Diddley worked his magic on Gretsch guitars, the most famous of which being his iconic rectangular model with two Filter ’Tron pickups. His catalog includes classic albums such as Bo Diddley, Have Guitar Will Travel, and Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger. The answer to his enduring musical question is patently obvious: We love you, Bo. Rest in peace.
Look for a full tribute to the man in the September 2008 issue of GP.