Leading an infamous pack of defiers who dared to go against the wishes of Ed Sullivan, Mississippi blues-cum-rock innovator, Bo Diddley, dropped “the Bo Diddley beat” on this day in 1955 on The Ed Sullivan Show, introducing America to the 4/4 time shuffle that everyone from Buddy Holly to the Stones would go on to ape and make famous.
The defiance, sometimes remembered as a misunderstanding, came when Sullivan wanted Diddley to open with a cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford‘s “Sixteen Tons,” on account of hearing Diddley singing it in his dressing room. But it’s more rock and roll to think it was on purpose.
Either way, Diddley’s unprecedented push is legendary, as it was considered the bridge between pre-war blues and modern rock, marrying the hambone plantation beats of the black man within an industry that was commandeered by the white man at the time. While the icing came in a “Hush, Little Baby” lullaby lyric backbone, Diddley reappropriating the entire song with his own name, chug-a-lugging into American brains:
Mojo come to my house, ya black cat bone
Take my baby away from home
Ugly ole Mojo, where ya been?
Up your house and gone again
Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley have you heard?
My pretty baby sad she wasn’t for it