Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Back in my youth I had the opportunity to catch a number of concerts. I’ve talked about some of them before, but the death yesterday of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bo Diddley reminded me of the time I saw him perform.

I was stationed in Norfolk, VA at the time and a few of us decided to take in a ‘rock ‘n’ roll revival’ concert on evening. The headliner was Chuck Berry, along with Bo Diddley, ‘Chubby’ Checker and several singing groups from that era, The Dovells (“Bristol Stomp”) & The Shirelles (“Soldier Boy”).
The show was opened by a local 'fifties' group that played covers of several artists, none of them part of the show. They also played back up for some of the artists later. First The Dovells performed, followed by The Shirelles. Both were excellent, but I don't know enough about either group to be able to tell if how many, if any, of the original members of either was on stage that night. There was no mistaking Chubby Checker when he came out and performed about a half dozen songs. Doing the 'twist' for so many years, he was certainly not 'chubby' by any means and he had the crowd up and moving for his entire set.
A couple of hours before the show one of my friends (Don Ludwick, I believe) and I were sitting in front of the hall trying to decide if we wanted to grab a bit to eat. A black guy, in a wide-brimmed black hat and carrying a guitar case comes over to us and asks if we know how he can get inside. I ask him if he is in the show and he smiles, telling us that he is. We tell him that if he goes around the side of the hall that he’ll see the delivery doors and that they would probably let him in there. He thanked us and went off as we had directed.

By now of course, you know where this is going. As he walks away both of us realize that the guitar case he has is rather oddly shaped. It’s square! At the same instant we both say to each other…”That was Bo Diddley!!” Brush with greatness, indeed.
After Chubby Checker, it was time for Bo Diddley to step on stage. If Don and I had any doubt about the identity of the man before we were not disappointed to have been proven right. Not only did Bo Diddley do his own amazing set, but he later sat in on drums backing Chuck Berry. How can you forget something like that?

Rest in Peace, Ellas Otha Bates. Hey, Bo Diddley!
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