Diddy Wah Diddy

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"Diddy Wah Diddy"
Single by Bo Diddley
B-side "I'm Looking for a Woman"
Released 1956
Recorded November 10, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:28
Label Checker 832
Writer(s) Willie Dixon, Ellas McDaniel
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess
Bo Diddley singles chronology
"Pretty Thing"
(November 1955)
"Diddy Wah Diddy"
(1956)
"Who Do You Love?"
(1956)
"Diddy Wah Diddy"
Single by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
B-side "Who Do You Think You're Fooling"
Released March 1966
Recorded January 1966, Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California
Genre Blues rock
Length 2:22
Label A&M 794
Writer(s) Willie Dixon, Ellas McDaniel
Producer(s) David Gates
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band singles chronology
"Diddy Wah Diddy"
(1966)
"Moonchild "
(1966)

"Diddy Wah Diddy" is a song written by Willie Dixon and Ellas McDaniel—known as Bo Diddley—and recorded by the latter in 1956.[1][2] Over the years, the song has been covered by many bands and artists, including The Astronauts, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, The Remains, The Twilights, Taj Mahal, The Sonics, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ty Segall Band, and The Blues Band among others.[3]

Original version by Bo Diddley[edit]

"Diddy Wah Diddy" was Bo Diddley's fourth single release on Checker Records, and was released in early 1956.[4] The song was recorded on November 10, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois.[5] The recording featured The Moonglows on backing vocals, Willie Dixon on bass, Jody Williams on guitar, along with Bo Diddley, Clifton James on drums, Jerome Green playing the maracas, and Little Willie Smith on harmonica.[5][6][7]

Lyrically, the song makes mention of the mythical town of Diddy Wah Diddy. It was not unusual in the early part of the 20th century for African Americans in the southern states (particularly in Florida) to speak of various mythical cities and countries such as Beluthahatchie, Heaven, Diddy Wah Diddy and West Hell as if they were real.[8] Of all the imaginary locations that were in common usage at the time, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Benjamin Albert Botkin has noted that Diddy Wah Diddy was "the largest and best known of the Negro mythical places."[9] It was commonly believed that in Diddy Wah Diddy food could be found in abundance, the townsfolk did not have to work, and people and animals had no concerns.[10] Dixon and McDaniel's song is sung from the point of view of a man whose lover lives in this mythical location, as evidenced by such lines as...

She loves her man, just is a pity
Crazy 'bout my gal in Diddy Wah Diddy
Ain't no town, and it ain't no city
But oh, how they love in Diddy Wah Diddy

The song is often confused with Blind Blake's similarly titled 1928 song, "Diddie Wa Diddie", which was also covered by various bands and artists mostly under the name "Diddy Wah Diddy".[11][12]

Cover versions[edit]

The first known cover of the song was by the Colorado based rock band The Astronauts, on their RCA album The Astronauts Orbit Campus, in 1964.[13][14]

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band recorded a blues rock version of the track, produced by David Gates, later the leader of Bread, in January 1966 at Sunset Sound Recorders studio in Hollywood, California.[13][15][16] It was the band's first single, released on the A&M label in March of that year.[13][15] On some copies of the single, it was incorrectly credited to A. Christensen as the songwriter.[16] The track shortly gained interest and became a regional hit,[15] with the band appearing on the TV show Where The Action Is to promote it in May 1966, in a mimed segment filmed on a California beach.[17]

Around the same time, The Remains, from Boston, released a garage rock version of the song which became a hit in the East Coast charts.[15]

The Sonics covered the song as a garage rock version around 1966, and it was included in the 1991 release of Maintaining My Cool and the 2004 Sundazed reissue of the album Introducing the Sonics.[12][18][19]

Two Australian bands, The Twilights, and Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys, covered the song, again in 1966. Another Australian band, Running Jumping Standing Still, recorded a version in 1967, which charted #13 in Melbourne.[12]

A cover by blues rock band The Fabulous Thunderbirds appeared on their 1982 album T-Bird Rhythm.[20]

A loosely interpreted garage rock cover of "Diddy Wah Diddy" was recorded by the Ty Segall Band for their 2012 album Slaughterhouse.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covered the song in a 1997 rendition of the track which is available on their compilation live album The Live Anthology

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band version[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Diddy Wah Diddy" is mentioned by name on the cover of the first issue of Robert Crumb's Zap Comix, where a woman asks Mr. Natural for the meaning of the song's title.
  • The version by Ty Segall Band is featured on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto V on Vinewood Boulevard Radio.
  • In "Mad Dogs and Servicemen", a third season episode of M*A*S*H, Radar refers to "Diddy Wah Diddy" as one of his favorite records. This is an anachronism, as the Korean War ended in 1953 and "Diddy Wah Diddy" was not recorded until 1955.
  • In Poul Anderson's novel Operation Chaos, Diddy-Wah-Diddy is a place in the Hell universe.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Diddy Wah Diddy by Bo Diddley". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  2. ^ Evans, David (1982). Big Road Blues: Tradition and Creativity in the Folk Blues. University of California Press. p. 280. ISBN 0-520-03484-8. 
  3. ^ "Diddy Wah Diddy". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  4. ^ "Bo Diddley discography". David Blakey. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  5. ^ a b I'm a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955-1958 (CD liner). Bo Diddley. United States: Hip-O Select. 2007. B0009231-02. 
  6. ^ "Jody Williams Singles". WDD. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  7. ^ "R&B Songs Diddy Wah Diddy". Classic R&B. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  8. ^ Weisberger, Bernard A. (1985). The WPA Guide to America: the Best of 1930s America as Seen By the Federal Writers' Project. Pantheon Books. p. 228. 
  9. ^ Botkin, Benjamin Albert. (1976). A Treasury of Southern Folklore: Stories, Ballads, Traditions, and Folkways of the People of the South. Crown Books. p. 479. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  10. ^ Jones, Sharon Lynette. (2009). Critical Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Reference to Her Life. Infobase Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 0-8160-6885-2. 
  11. ^ "Bo Diddley All Songs". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  12. ^ a b c "Running Jumping Standing Still Diddy Wah Diddy". Pop Archives. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  13. ^ a b c "Diddy Wah Diddy". The Denver Eye. Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  14. ^ "Second Hand Songs: The Astronauts Orbit Campus". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 2010-12-25. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band". eNotes. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  16. ^ a b "Captain Beefheart Electricity". Theo Tieman. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  17. ^ "Gimme Dat Harp Boy - Music Info Archive". www.beefheart.com. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  18. ^ "Maintaining My Cool The Sonics". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  19. ^ "Introducing the Sonics Bonus Tracks The Sonics". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  20. ^ "The Fabulous Thunderbirds". eNotes. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  21. ^ Anderson, Poul (1978) [1971]. Operation Chaos. New York: Berkley Pub. Corp. p. 194. ISBN 0425037509. 

External links[edit]