- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Bo Diddley, a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll whose distinctive “shave and a haircut, two bits” rhythm and innovative guitar effects inspired legions of other musicians, died Monday after months of ill health. He was 79.

Mr. Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Archer, Fla., spokeswoman Susan Clary said. He had suffered a heart attack in August, three months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa. Doctors said the stroke affected his ability to speak, and he had returned to Florida to continue rehabilitation.

The legendary singer and performer, known for his homemade rectangular guitar, dark glasses and black hat, was an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and received a lifetime-achievement award in 1998 at the Grammy Awards.

Mr. Diddley appreciated the honors he received, “but it didn’t put no figures in my checkbook.”

The name Bo Diddley came from other youngsters when he was growing up in Chicago, he said in a 1999 interview.

“I don’t know where the kids got it, but the kids in grammar school gave me that name,” he said, adding that he liked it so it became his stage name.

His first single, “Bo Diddley,” introduced record buyers in 1955 to his signature rhythm: bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp, often summarized as “shave and a haircut, two bits.”

The company that issued his early songs was Chess-Checkers records, the storied Chicago-based labels that also recorded Chuck Berry and other stars.

Howard Kramer, assistant curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, said in 2006 that Mr. Diddley’s Chess recordings “stand among the best singular recordings of the 20th century.”

Bo Diddley’s major songs included, “Say Man,” “Shave and a Haircut,” “Who Do You Love?” and “The Mule.”

Mr. Diddley’s influence was felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Buddy Holly borrowed the bomp ba-bomp bomp, bomp bomp rhythm for his song “Not Fade Away.”

The Rolling Stones’ bluesy remake of that Holly song gave them their first chart single in the United States, in 1964.

Mr. Diddley was also one of the pioneers of the electric guitar, adding reverb and tremolo effects. He even rigged some of his guitars himself.

Despite his success, Mr. Diddley said he only received a small portion of the money he made during his career. Partly as a result, he continued to tour and record music until his stroke. Between tours, he made his home near Gainesville in Florida.

Mr. Diddley, like other artists of his generations, was paid a flat fee for his recordings and said he received no royalty payments on record sales. He also said he was never paid for many of his performances.

“I am owed. I’ve never got paid,” he said. “A dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun.”

Born as Ellas Bates on Dec. 30, 1928, in McComb, Miss., Bo Diddley was later adopted by his mother’s cousin and took on the name Ellis McDaniel, which his wife always called him.

When he was 5, his family moved to Chicago, where he learned the violin at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He learned guitar at 10 and entertained passers-by on street corners.

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