ELVIS and BO DIDDLEY


I don’t usually write an extra article just one day after a regular post, but I have been a Bo Diddley fan since my high school years, so this is my small tribute to the rock & roll legend who died today at age seventy-nine.  There isn’t a huge connection between Bo and Elvis, but there are a few goodies.
 
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The First Bo Diddley Album I Purchased
 
Elvis was also definitely a Bo Diddley fan.  In 1956, while Elvis was in New York to appear on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show TV program, he went to the Apollo Theater to see Bo Diddley perform.
 
In the early years of Bo Diddley’s career, he wiggled his hips a good bit while singing.  Elvis was becoming a national sensation with his gyrations at the same time, so some people thought Elvis was copying Bo Diddley’s style of performing.  Bo has been quoted, “If he copied me, I don’t care.  More power to him.  I’m not starving.”  Of course, Elvis had been shaking his hips since an August 1954 concert at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis, so Elvis came up with his movements a year-and-a-half before ever seeing Bo Diddley perform.
 
However, the myth of Elvis copying Bo endured.  In an August 16, 2007 article, NY Daily News writer David Hinkley wrote:  “The one bright spot in the trip, apparently, was a trip to the Apollo Theater to see Bo Diddley.  Elvis loved Bo's music and Bo would later say Elvis stood in the wings and studied Bo's moves, close variations of which would later show up in Elvis' own act.”  It sounds like Bo Diddley cared more than he had originally let on.
 
So far as is known, Elvis performed one Bo Diddley song in concert.  On December 28, 1976, at a performance in Dallas, Elvis sang “Hey Bo Diddley.”  Technically, the song was an instrumental featuring drummer Ronnie Tutt, with Elvis just scatting along from time to time.  You can here this version on the bootleg Elvis album called “A Hot Winter Night In Dallas,” or the CD of the same name, released in 1998.
 
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And finally, here is my favorite Bo Didley story, reprinted from the February 11, 2007 ElvisBlog article titled “Elvis and Ed Sullivan.” 
Early in 1956, as Elvis’ career took off, Ed Sullivan was not interested in booking Elvis on his show. Sullivan even stated to the press, “He is not my cup of tea.”  So, when Col. Parker offered to book Elvis for $5,000, Sullivan turned it down.
 
Another reason for Sullivan’s rejection was the famous Bo Diddley incident that turned Sullivan against all rock & rollers.  In November of ’55, two of the hottest songs in the country were “Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley.  Sullivan booked both singers on the same show, but Ford had to cancel at the last minute.  For some reason, Sullivan thought the song was more important than the artist, and he pressed Bo Diddley to sing “Sixteen Tons” on the live show.   
If you remember “Sixteen Tons” and the music of Bo Diddley, you know how ridiculous that notion was.  Bo Diddley certainly must have thought so, but he was just starting out and needed the exposure.  He didn’t fight with Sullivan’s producer.  They printed up cue cards with the lyrics to “Sixteen Tons” for Diddley, and he did the song in rehearsal.  However, when it was show time, Diddley performed his own song.  This enraged Sullivan, and he vowed to see that Diddley would never appear again on TV.  Of course, this did not happen, but he was banned from ever appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show again.
 
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Bo Diddley Performing In 2006
 
Bo, you were an original, and we will miss you.
(C)  2008   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved  www.ElvisBlog.net

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