The late Bo Diddley of Archer, near Gainesville, was one of rock music's principal architects in the 1950s. He is generally credited as the man who gave rock its beat—the "rock" upon which the "roll" was built. His innovative and original style of rhythm and blues has been influencing generations of musicians for more than five decades.
Born Ellas Otha Bates in McComb, Mississippi, Diddley was adopted by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, who moved to Chicago's South Side when he was 6 years old. The musically talented Ellas McDaniel excelled at trombone and violin. Inspired by the pulsating rhythms he heard in his Pentecostal church, McDaniel was hooked on the music's sound and energy. In 1940 he picked up his first guitar and changed popular music forever.
By the mid-1950s, McDaniel was becoming professionally known as Bo Diddley, a nickname he'd picked up as a youth. Diddley joined a band, the Langley Avenue Jive Cats, playing local venues in between playing for tips on the street. In 1954, a demo record he made with Billy Boy Arnold's band caught the attention of a record producer. In 1955, Checker Records released a single with two of Diddley's songs, including his rendition of "Bo Diddley" on Side A. The tune was an instant hit, staying on the rhythm and blues charts for 18 weeks. The record is thought to be the first recording to introduce African rhythms into rock-and-roll music.
Diddley's syncopated rhythm (known as the "Bo Diddley beat") and driving, distorted guitar style was revolutionary, eventually earning him the title of "the father of rock-and-roll." Through the mid-1960s, he had a string of hits, most notably "I'm a Man" (Side B of his first hit single); and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" (1962). He heavily influenced other rock-and-roll pioneers, including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard, along with a later generation led by Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
In the late 1970s, Diddley moved to Archer, Florida. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among his top honors was winning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine placed him 20th on a list of "The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." He succumbed to heart failure at his home in Archer in 2008.