In The Style Of Bo Diddley

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

This week we have to talk about one of the most interesting figures in the history of primitive Rock and Roll and, consequently, Rock in general. He is a special and unique artist due to two marked signs of distinction in his music since his beginnings.

The first of them is that rhythm of five accents that has accompanied us since he released his first singles and which we all associate to his figure; and the second, even more focused on our world, is that absolutely spectacular image   that guy portrayed with square and extravagant shaped guitars in years when even the Fender Stratocaster seemed out of this world. We're talking about the unique and unrepeatable Bo Diddley.


Born in pursuit of new sounds since a performance by John Lee Hooker changed his life and made him learn to play the guitar, Diddley began building his first electric guitar seemingly by amplifying the signal of his strings with the needle capsule of a turntable. Perhaps that first guitar already had a body without too much elaboration and was already square; hence his predilection for this rectangular shape. However, other sources point out that the square body was his favorite because it allowed him to move and jump on stage more comfortably than with the usual 'fat-ass' box guitars of the early 1950s.


What we do know is that before he started using his most typical models we can see him on covers and performances from the 1950s with what appears to be a Gretsch 6131. That's why the dude from Mississippi approached one of the chief builders of that American company to convince him to build a square guitar for him that ended up becoming a reality. This guitar, based on the cigar box form of those days, is commonly known as the 'Gretsch Bo Diddley' and is already part of the most popular iconography in rock history.

It was also the Gretsch company that made for him another of its most iconic models, the Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird, with DeArmond pickups, a truly precious guitar that years later would find a new owner in Billy Gibbons, a declared Diddley's music lover. The leader of ZZ Top was in charge in the 90's of convincing the people of Gretsch to make a reissue model of this guitar since he didn't want to take the original on tour and so the Gretsch 6199 Billy-Bo model was born.

In addition to these Special guitars Bo Diddley has the honor of being one of the pioneers also in the use of effects for the recording of their songs. Specifically he was one of the first to use a tremolo effect, the Dearmond Model 601 Tremolo, commercialized in 1948 and which already sounded in his first recordings with Chess Records.

So it goes without saying that we're dealing with one of the strongest personalities to be found in this show business, a countercurrent type, who marked his own path, with his own style, with his own image, with his own guitars and his own sound: the Bo Diddley sound.