Revisiting the Bo Diddley Beat

SKF NOTE: This is an interesting chronology of the Bo Diddley beat. Missing from this article is drummer Clifton James who recorded many of Bo Diddley’s great records, and deserves credit for popularizing that beat.

Bo Diddley used a canny sense of PR to open the door for modern rock and hip hop

JUNE 4, 2015


…“Bo Diddley” is something you can’t get out of your head. Perhaps that’s because the song, reduced to stark simplicity, is almost all rhythm.

Clifton James

Clifton James

…Diddley opened a door that the British Invasion, punk music, hip hop and new wave would later rush through.

Still, …Bo Diddley’s …“shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits” beat didn’t start with the man who made it famous. The sound, called kpanlogo, originates from Ghana, West Africa.

A similar rhythm drove “Hambone” by Red Saunders and his Orchestr…years before…. Kpanlogo-style drumming, in fact, made several appearances in the previous decade, notably showing up on a post-war Gene Krupa recording.

Clearly, Red Saunders needed a better PR rep. What he needed, of course, was Bo Diddley.

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