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Bo Diddley Biography

Birth Name:
Otha Ellas Bates
Birth Place:
McComb, Mississippi, United States

Fast Facts

  • Began playing violin at age 8, when his church took up a collection to buy the instrument and pay for lessons; switched to guitar as a teenager, after his stepsister, Lucille, gave him his first six-string
  • Started his recording career in 1955, releasing the chart-topping "Bo Diddley/I'm a Man" single on Chicago's Chess Records
  • Was the first African-American to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, playing his signature "Bo Diddley" on November 20, 1955
  • An early innovator in rock music, he created his own sound effects when they weren't readily available and custom-built many of his guitars
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, one year after its creation
  • Entered the Blues Hall of Fame in 2004, the same year his 1956 single "Love Is Strange" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame


  • Gussie McDaniel -- Cousin
  • Tammi McDaniel -- Daughter
  • Ethel Smith -- Ex-wife
  • Kay Reynolds -- Ex-wife
  • Louise Woolingham -- Ex-wife
  • Eugene Bates -- Father
  • Kenneth Haynes -- Half Brother
  • Ethel Wilson -- Mother
  • Lucille -- Stepsister
  • Jacob Paiz -- Stepson
  • Sylvia -- Wife