Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Ray Knew Diddley

Bo Diddley
Raymond Scott, born in 1908, never truly understood Rock & Roll. But he did know Bo — with whom he shared a mutual affinity for home-made musical instruments.

Ray met Bo Diddley (a/k/a Ellas McDaniel) when Scott was A&R Director for Everest Records. A surviving tape in the Scott archives from 1958 is a fascinating aural artifact of what may have been an audition; Scott twirls knobs and adjusts levels while Bo runs through several of what were, at the time, new Diddley tunes that have since become classics. Eventually Scott joins him on piano for an impromptu version of "Stormy Weather."

Bo Diddley died yesterday at age 79, during the 100th anniversary of Scott's birth. The world of music will miss them both.

In 2005, Neil Strauss wrote a
feature about Diddley for ROLLING STONE, and mentioned the encounter with Raymond Scott:

There is a bootleg tape floating around of Raymond Scott, an inventive musical genius in his own right from the swing era, auditioning Bo Diddley for Everest Records. To hear it is to understand the challenge that Diddley was up against: Scott wanted Diddley to play guitar normally. But that wasn't how Diddley played. His music was all jittery high-end rhythm -- from the tremolo-drenched guitar to the constant hailstorm of maracas. The music Diddley was playing didn't swing or boogie-woogie. It was all about the guitar -- played with fat, clumsy thumbs and tuned to an open E. It wasn't commercial. It was strange.

"I couldn't play like other people wanted me to," Diddley says, with some pride. "I played backwards. You can't change my stuff. I am me."