Who Do You Love?

Bo Diddley 1928-2008

Why, the late, great Bo Diddley, of course, whether you know it or not. If simply mentioning the name of his 1957 hit (later covered by George Thoroughgood) wasn’t enough to remind you of the Bo Diddley beat — boompa boom boom, ba boom boom — perhaps this list of songs done by other artists to the same beat might do the trick:

  • Not Fade Away Buddy Holly was the first of many artists to co-opt Diddley’s beat; the Rolling Stones covered this song for their first single
  • I Want Candy Originally released in the ’60s by The Strangeloves, it became a hit all over again in the ’80s when covered by English New Wave group Bow Wow Wow
  • Europa and the Pirate Twins ’80s synth wizard Thomas Dolby is best known for his 1983 hit “She Blinded Me With Science”; this song is its hyper-kinetic brethren from the same album, The Golden Age of Wireless
  • Desire U2 wanted  its Rattle and Hum project to be a tribute to American music; what better way than to record a song with the Bo Diddley beat in the legendary Sun recording studios?

Like other black rock’n’roll pioneers, Diddley waited years to see much in the way of financial compensation, but from the late ’70s onwards, the tributes, awards and pop culture references racked up. In a bomb-threat episode of the ’70s sitcom WKRP In Cincinatti , deejay Dr. Johnny Fever posed the question, “If I die, who’s gonna teach the kids about Bo Diddley?” George Thoroughgood played pool with him in the video for Thoroughgood’s hit “Bad to the Bone”; Dan Akroyd tries unsuccessfully to get more money from Diddley’s pawnbroker character in the 1983 movie Trading Places

When the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame finally got off the ground in the ’80s, Diddley was inducted in its second year. Diddley was even featured in a Nike commercial promoting another Bo, as in Jackson, the two-sport professional athlete. And on a South Florida note, Bo Diddley also played a gig at Lake Worth’s Bamboo Room a few years ago; his passing came a couple days after the club closed its doors. 

Bo Diddley may have come and gone, but his beat will live on as long as songwriters are drawn to its insistent unforgettable rhythm…


No Room (for the summer?) in Lake Worth

The Bamboo Room Goes Dark

Last night I went to see Adrian Belew perform at the Bamboo Room in downtown Lake Worth, FL. I’ve liked Belew since his ’89 release “Mr. Music Head”, and the Bamboo Room has been the premier live-music club in Palm Beach since its opening in ’99, so this should have been nothing but a great way to spend a Saturday night. But since owner Russell Hibbard announced a few weeks ago that, due to the iffy nature of the economy right now, the club would be closing for the summer, it was a bittersweet situation.  Because nothing says that the economy will be any better in the fall, so it was hard not to imagine that last night could have been my last time in that club.

As I walked upstairs to the club, the newstand by the door was filled with copies of a special poster commemorating all the artists that have played there during its nine years of existence. While the Bamboo Room focused primarily on blues and other roots music,  good musicians from all genres have always been on its bill, so it was generally a great place to see a musician you admire play in an intimate setting. In addition to seeing (and meeting) Belew last night, I also got to watch one of my favourite songwriters Marshall Crenshaw perform there. Formerly-local blues harpsman Jason Ricci has also played several gigs there since becoming a national act, so I could on a regular basis see a guy I once played with in a pick-up band tear up the joint with his current outfit New Blood. I also shared an open-mike stage there with ’60s star Dion, and recently caught the tail-end of filming for a live-performance DVD for Devon Allman’s Honeytribe band.

Some of my favourite local artistes have also graced its stage. The Bamboo Room became the venue of choice for local CD release parties: my friends Christine and Aidan of Friction Farm held a soiree there for their 2004 release Believe, and in the last few weeks I’ve been to release parties for alt-country band Black Finger and former INHOUSE lead guitarist Andy Stein.

If you’re a live-music fan and you’re lucky, you get to live in a town with a club like the Bamboo Room. I did once before, back in the Hudson Valley region of New York. The biggest town in the area, Poughkeepsie, didn’t have a lot going for it, but it had a club called The Chance where people like Suzanne Vega, Joe Jackson and The Stray Cats would play gigs, and The Police played there on their first tour of America. 

In the last few years, downtown Lake Worth has become the de facto live-music district of South Florida, and that has everything to do with the Room causing everyone else to elevate their game. And while there will still be venues there to see good local bands perform, Lake Worth (and Palm Beach, for that matter) has lost the jewel in its live-music crown. So come back in the fall, Bamboo Room, Lake Worth still needs you. As it is, it’s gonna be a long, hot summer without you.