A Poster For Bo Diddley

Here’s a poster Alton Kelley (and Stanley Mouse) did for Bo Diddley, the pioneer rocker who followed Kelley into the great unknown yesterday. Bo Diddley was already legendary in 1966, one of the legends of our youth. He invented the bo diddley beat. It sounded so simple when you listened to it, but it was hard or impossible for aspiring rockers to pull off — that relentless driving cross the night.

I was still in high school in 1959 when my more intelligent Palo Alto girl friend introduced me to its grinding, insinuating rhythm, although we were sitting in her parent’s living room with all the lights on. She flipped on her new LP and swung it into “Hey, Bo Diddley”, then the one I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks, “Diddley Didlley Diddley Diddley Daa-aah-die”. Bless you, girl. By 1966, when he appeared at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, he’d already finished his first brush with fame, and was on the comeback trail. Actually, Bo wasn’t particularly rave among the hippies and promoter Chet Helms took a chance by booking him. But the Paul Butterfield Blues Band had blown the hippies away when they arrived in San Francisco the preceding spring. The Chicago masters soon followed in their wake – Muddy Waters and James Cotton became San Francisco regulars, and an unknown named Steve Miller (The Steve Miller Blues Band in those days) showed up a little later. So by the time of this July concert the pump had been primed to go beyond Chicago blues…and into the Chicago bo diddley beat.


3 thoughts on “A Poster For Bo Diddley

  1. Can’t help but remember another death today, 40 years since Bobby died. He seemed like the last great hope in the midst of Vietnam and the aftermath of Martin’s death. My god, I was just a kid and I watched Bobby writhing on the floor of the Ambassador’s kitchen, destined to meet his brothers in just a few short hours.

    With the rising of the likes of Barak through the beginnings of this cynnical and jaded century barely begun, I feel affirmed, yet skeptical. Skeptical, maybe obviously, but affirmed for too many reasons to put a finger on, but I try.

    I just can’t help but go back to Bobby though. It’s weird, almost unexplainable. We were, my family, in the middle of the McCarthy campaign. We knew he was doomed to not be the pick of the party, but we persisted. My Dad, a near middle-aged guy with a few ideals still intact after Martin’s bloody death, and me a young stripling, still reeling from watching Bobby’s brother die on TV when I was home after tonsil surgery. We, dad and I, sat and watched the California speech on that late night and we were literally floored by what we saw as Bobby walked through that stupid kitchen. We were speechless and way past tears. We thought enough had been shed those few weeks before when Martin went down.

    No, I guess you’re never done. I know every generation has its’ tragedies, but why does it seem like some tragedies never end?

    Well, anyways, in retrospect I guess things have progressed and people have actually succeeded. A young man, just a few years older than Bobby when he died, stands poised to be the next president. He’s not from successful background, financially, or anywhere near as charismatic or passionate as Bobby had been, but he’s charismatic and passionate and poised for leadership none the less.

    Oh, yeah, he’s from African American background. Can’t ever forget that, can we? But, almost miraculously, that part is pretty far away from what’s going on. It’s about time.

    Amazing. Nothing I’d have expected in my lifetime, though I’ve hoped for it since 1968. I don’t know why ’68 was a pivotal year for me. Hell, I wasn’t even old enough to vote yet. But yet…

    But in 1968 Barak wasn’t even 7 years old and I was just a scant few years older. The Pondering Pig was about 26. Bo Diddley was 40. Bobby was 42.

    Bobby’d have been 82 this year. Go figure.

    I’m not quite certain why I’m rambling in this particular direction, but one thing seems clear tonight. After the atavistic directions this country has taken since those idealistic days, we’re still here and persisting.

    Jaded and less than enthusiastic? Yes. But jaded isn’t quite descriptive enough. Discouraged, hollow, repentant and remorseful? For me those pretty much hit the note.

    Bobby died and we elected Nixon. I can’t help but think that these are really the end times. I guess we’ll see.

    “Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
    Other times I can barely see.”


  2. Sad about Bo, huh? I went to my friend King Cotton’s (of the Bone Daddys) concert last night in Santa Monica. The Bone Daddys were (inspired and recored and played with Bo), so last night they paid tribute to him and played “Hey, Do Diddley.” I’ll post photos on my site later today or tomorrow. My husband was fortunate to play with Bo along with the Bone Daddys in the ’80s.

    Great post and cool poster.


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