[image-1]Sad news today: guitar hero and hugely influential rock pioneer Bo Diddley died today (Mon. June 2) of heart failure at the age of 79. According to new reports, Diddley suffered a heart attack in August, three months after suffering a stroke. Since his earliest days recording side for the old Chess label, he never stopped touring or working until last year. [image-2]

Born Ellas Bates (he later changed it to Ellas McDaniel) in Mississippi in 1928, he grew up in Chicago and switched from boxing to playing R&B and blues in the 1950s. His first big break came in 1955, when Chess released his debut single, “Bo Diddley” — bold tune that featured his unique, reverby electric guitar sound and the signature, syncopated rhythmic pattern (nicknamed “shave and a haircut, two bits”). Follow-up hits included “I’m a Man,” the calypso-tinged “Crackin’ Up,” “Who Do You Love,” “Road Runner,” and “Bo Diddley Does Gunslinger” (click audio sample below).

[image-3]His early band featured a guitar-playing lady named Duchess and a maraca-shakin’ sidekick named Jerome Green. Their repetitive, beat-heavy style influenced just about everyone who followed them — from Buddy Holly and the Rolling Stones to George Thorogood & The Destroyers (he had a role as a pool shark in that band’s “Bad to the Bone” video clip) and The Clash.

Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and received a lifetime achievement award in 1999 at the Grammy Awards. He’s rightly considered to be a founding father of rock ’n’ roll.

“Gun Slinger”