Bo Diddley (song)

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"Bo Diddley"
Bodiddley single song.jpg
Single reissue with picture sleeve, Checker Records
Single by Bo Diddley
B-side"I'm a Man"
ReleasedApril 1955 (1955-04)[1]
Format7-inch 45 rpm, 10-inch 78 rpm
RecordedMarch 2, 1955
StudioUniversal Recording Studios, Chicago, Illinois[2][3]
GenreRhythm and blues, rock and roll
LabelChecker 814
Songwriter(s)Ellas McDaniel a.k.a. Bo Diddley
Producer(s)Leonard Chess, Phil Chess, Bo Diddley[2]
Bo Diddley singles chronology
"Bo Diddley"
"Diddley Daddy"
Audio sample

"Bo Diddley" is a rhythm and blues and rock and roll song first recorded and sung by Bo Diddley at the Universal Recording Studio in Chicago and released on the Chess Records subsidiary Checker Records in 1955. Its lyrics are based on the traditional lullaby titled "Hush Little Baby", and it prominently features the Bo Diddley beat that the singer made famous. It became an immediate hit single that stayed on the R&B charts for a total of 18 weeks, 2 of those weeks at #1, and seven more weeks than its flipside (the B-side, "I'm a Man").[4] It was the first recording to introduce African rhythms into rock and roll directly by using the patted juba beat. It was Diddley's first recording and his first hit single.[5] The song is featured on many of Diddley's compilation albums including His Best.

In 2012 the A and B-side pair were added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings.[6] In 2017, the single was inducted in to the Blues Hall of Fame.[7]


The song is rhythmically similar to hambone,[8] a technique of dancing and slapping various parts of the body to create a rhythm and song. It is lyrically similar to the traditional lullaby "Hush Little Baby". When Diddley started playing with it, his electric guitar amplified the patted juba with his backup musicians on maracas and drums unifying the rhythm. This combination of rock and roll, African rhythms and sanctified guitar chord shouts was a true innovation and is often called a Bo Diddley Beat.[9]

He first titled his version "Uncle John" but before he recorded it, he changed the title to his own nickname Bo Diddly, with an "e" added to the song's title and his professional name by one of the Chess brothers.[5]


Three weeks after Billboard magazine announced the release of "Bo Diddley", on April 30, 1955, the paper announced two remakes of "Bo Diddley" by the Joe Reisman Orchestra and by Jean Dinning of The Dinning Sisters.[10] The Harmonicats released their own version, an instrumental, a few weeks later.[11] "Bo Diddley" went on to become the 17th best selling R&B record of 1955, according to Billboard.[12]

Legacy and awards[edit]

This first single was called a "double-sided monster" by All-Music Guide reviewer Richie Unterberger.[13] "Bo Diddley" was infused with waves of tremolo guitar, set to a children's chant. "I'm a Man" was a bump-and-grind shuffle, with a powerful blues riff woven throughout. The outcome was a new kind of guitar-based, blues and R&B-drenched, rock and roll.[13] The song was voted #62 on Rolling Stone magazine's list, "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[14] The song is also a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll" list.[15] In 1998 "Bo Diddley" was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.[16] In 2017, the single was inducted in to the Blues Hall of Fame.[7]

Single track listings[edit]

US 7"/10" Single[edit]

Side one
  1. "Bo Diddley"
Side two
  1. "I'm a Man"

UK 7" EP[edit]

Side one
  1. "Bo Diddley"
  2. "I'm a Man"
Side two
  1. "Diddley Daddy"
  2. "She's Fine, She's Mine"

UK 7" Single[edit]

Side one
  1. "Bo Diddley"
Side two
  1. "Detour"

Cover versions[edit]

Buddy Holly version[edit]

"Bo Diddley"
Bo Diddley Budddy Holly.jpg
Single by Buddy Holly
from the album Reminiscing
B-side"It's Not My Fault"
Format7-inch 45 rpm
Recorded1956 and 1962 (overdubs)
StudioNorman Petty Recording Studios, Clovis, New Mexico
GenreRock and roll, rockabilly
Songwriter(s)Ellas McDaniel a.k.a. Bo Diddley
Producer(s)Norman Petty
Buddy Holly singles chronology
"Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
"Bo Diddley"

Buddy Holly recorded the song in 1956, but it was not released until the LP Reminiscing in 1963 and later became a single release.


Buddy Holly on vocals/guitar and Jerry Allison on drums recorded "Bo Diddley" at one of their earliest sessions with producer/engineer Norman Petty at his recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico, sometime in 1956. In 1962 Norman Petty overdubbed the demo of "Bo Diddley", as well as others, with the Fireballs.[17]


The single release was one of Holly's highest-charting singles on the UK Singles Chart, reaching #4 on the week of July 10, 1963, spending a total of 12 weeks on the chart.[18] In the U.S., the song reached #116 on Billboard magazine's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.[19]

Other versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Reviews of New R&B Records". Billboard. April 9, 1955. p. 46. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  2. ^ a b His Best (CD liner). Bo Diddley. United States: Chess Records/MCA Records. 1997. CHD-9373.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89820-068-3.
  5. ^ a b Dawson, Jim & Propes, Steve (1992). What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Record. Boston & London: Faber & Faber. pp. 177–181. ISBN 978-0-571-12939-3.
  6. ^ "The National Recording Registry 2011". National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Library of Congress. May 24, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "BLUES HALL OF FAME - ABOUT/Inductions - Blues Foundation". Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  8. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 3 - The Tribal Drum: The rise of rhythm and blues. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Bogdanov, Woodstra, eds. (1995). All Music Guide to Rock. Miller Freeman Books. p. 244. ISBN 0-87930-376-X.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Reviews of New Pop Records". Billboard: 40. April 30, 1955.
  11. ^ "Reviews of New Pop Records". Billboard: 64. May 21, 1955.
  12. ^ "1955's Top R&B Records". Billboard: 20. January 7, 1956.
  13. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Bo Diddley - Biography". allmusic. United States: Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  14. ^ Jann S. Wenner, ed. (December 9, 2004). "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. United States: Jann S. Wenner (963). Archived from the original on June 19, 2008.
  15. ^ "The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on December 19, 2010.
  16. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame". Grammy Awards. United States: National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  17. ^ "Album Reviews". Billboard: 25. February 16, 1963. Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  18. ^ "Buddy Holly - Bo Diddley". Official Charts Company. 1963-08-24. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  19. ^ "Bubbling Under the Hot 100". Billboard: 24. May 11, 1963. Retrieved January 26, 2011.

External links[edit]