May 162007

Have you ever played with a drummer who, try as he may, just can’t get the Bo Diddley beat? Yes, I’m thinking about Bo as news came out today that he suffered a major stroke. The Bo Diddley beat without Bo is rarely the same, but a world without Bo altogether will one day be weird.

Getting back to the topic at hand, what’s the secret to the Bo Diddley beat? How do some do it so well…

While at best, we usually do it no better than this…

While too often something’s not quite right and it comes out like this…

And almost as often, it simply blows?

Finally, here’s a story that seems to be told about too many oldtime stars. Any of you ever have one of these experiences backing up an old warhorse?


  7 Responses to “Is There a Drummer in the House: Bo Diddley Beat Edition”

  1. Yes – The drummer in the college cover band ChickenFrank and I were in definitely could not do that beat well.

    The worst band to attempt this beat is the Grateful Dead -they just suck the life out it – just like the Tom Petty clip

    I think the key to this beat is kepping the duration of the stick on the drum head short and lively. If you are too heavy and keep the sticks on the drum heads to long it messes with the rhythm and drags it down. I guess being “primal” helps too. NO JAZZ INFLUENCES

  2. saturnismine

    i did sound for Sleepy LaBeef’s first philly appearance at the khyber, early 90s. Go to Blazes (the Aldo era, may he rest in peace) was Sleepy’s backing band.

    Of course, by the time soundcheck was over, Sleepy realized that this was probably one of the better backing bands he’d ever encounter. he was, by turns, pleased, and threatened, especially by Tom Hayman’s expert lead guitar capabilities.

    After three songs during which the two traded solos, Sleepy put the band into a vamp, climbed off stage, and came back to the sound booth: he grabbed me by the shoulder (no, i do not still have the imprints, but boys, he gripped me in the way that fathers do after you’ve been caught daydreaming at first base with men on first and third and one out: a little firm, conveying tension).

    He said, with a smile on his face, “kid…people’r lookin’ at us, so smile so noone gets the wrong impression. Get this straight: I’M the lead GIT-tar man, here, okay? This boy’s DOGGIN me HARD, so make me louder than him. Got it?” I responded by saying “You’re already louder than him.” (which was true). Again, mindful of appearances, he gave me a hearty “Heh heh HEH!” slapped me on the back, and with the biggest shit eating grin i’ve ever seen on a man, he made his way back to the stage. As I turned back to the board, I realized that a FIFTY DOLLAR BILL had made its way into my hand.

    When they finished the song, he said to the audience, “Alright, if you think that was good, we’re just gettin’ warmed up.” Gales of cheering followed. “So before we roll up our sleeves and REALLY get down to it…lemme just say that that this is one of the best bands i’ve ever played with.” Hearty cheering. “…and folks, I really mean this: THAT young man back there in the sound booth is a real pro, one of the best in the business, and i been EVERYWHERE in this great big old world.” Confused cheering and hesitant clapping.

    For the remainder of the evening, he put the Blazes boys through some MEAN paces, and they followed him every step of the way: key switches, tempo switches, songs abandoned half way for other songs in different keys, all without plan. sometimes he’d glare at them as he made these changes.

    Tom did not have a single chance to solo the rest of the night. At every solo spot, Sleepy jumped in first, and when he was done soloing, he’d start singing right away.

  3. saturnismine

    that should say: “I realized that a FIFTY DOLLAR BILL had made its way into my….HAND”.

    although you’re welcome to have fun filling in the blank here….heh heh heh.

  4. That was a great read Art!!!

  5. Mr. Moderator

    GREAT story, Art. I’ve now corrected your original post. We were on the edge of our seats waiting to learn exactly where that big bill landed.

    We need to get Tom Heyman into the Halls of Rock. Anyone in touch with him? He’s good people and a good rock tale-teller.

  6. general slocum

    Yes, exact same story! Down to the tearing into the drummer. Ben Vaughn backed him up at City Gardens in Trenton in the mid eighties. Very angry feller. Ben played his standard “I’m Not Bo Diddley” in the opening set, and in Bo’s set, Lonesome Bob was not permitted to even hint at that beat. (But in fact, most bands fuck up by not at least implying the straight beat along with the Bo Diddley beat. It’s the rhythmic flexibility that makes it interesting. Listen to the rhythm on the Bo video. They’re not all in unison on that rhythm.) That Tom Petty video has all the life of hospital food. The pretty backup singers would have to be getting union scale to get their hips moving to that bilge.

  7. saturnismine

    thanks sally, mod…

    i think i have tom’s email somewhere. he WOULD be a great addition…

    i’ll look into it over the weekend…


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