When King Met Bo
It was 1987 the year of our Lord. I had been singing lead for th’ Bonedaddys since we formed th’ band 3 years prior. Four of th’ brotherhood of th’ bone, guitarist Paul Lacques, guitarist Larry “Gator” Knight, Mike Tempo leader/percussionist and myself were sitting around in a circle in my living room in Woodland Hills California kickin’ around some original musical ideas trying to stay true to our World Beat roots. Tempo was schooling th’ 3 of us on this 1000 year old African beat from Ghana called “Kpalongo” and suggested that perhaps we should incorporate it into an original tune.
As he went on to demonstrate on his hand drums how th’ beat is performed, th’ minute he started bangin’ it out, we all looked at each other and said, “That’s th’ Bo Diddley beat!” You know, th’ old “Shave n’ hair cut six bits” thang that we all grew up with. Th’ beat ever so popularized by our hero Bo. Th’ one that he laid claim to way back in th’ early 50s.
So, immediately I snapped back with, “Hey why don’t we write a tribute to Bo and this age old beat, and poke a bit of fun back at our hero asking him, “Hey Bo where’d you get that Kplongo?” And thus began th’ catalyst for our new original composition. All 4 of us started spittin’ out classic lyrical lines and guitar riffs left and right and within 5 fun-filled minutes we had th’ entire arrangement lyric and music nailed.
Yes my bruthas and sistahs we was giggling and cuttin’ up like a bunch of little giddy high school girls just havin’ a natchel’ ball over the air that we’d just painlessly sculptured together in next to no time flat. And before we knew it, we had recorded ourselves a full band studio version of our little tribute ditty to Bo. And might I say, that track was soundin’ some kinda Super Bad. However it was lacking one secret ingredient, and that one ingredient dear friends was scheduled to be in town th' very next week in th’ form of Bo Diddley his bad self!
Now somehow, some way I knew I had to make it my personal quest to go and meet Mr. D and convince him to come down to th’ studio and overdub anything he desired to our already finished track. When th’ Bo date arrived I do recall hittin’ up all th’ guys in th’ band (to no avail) about rollin’ out with me to th’ Hop in Lakeside way down in Orange county, A decent little 50 mile jaunt from my spot in Woodland Hills. I had a raggedy-ass 67’ Plymouth Fury drop-top with four bald tires and a testy alternator about to blow on me at any given moment but, I knew this was my only chance to get up next to th’ man, so I hit th’ highway determined to see this thing through.
I finally gets to the Hop all by my lonesome and by th’ skin of my teeth. I Strolled on up to th’ gate, paid th’ man and walked in expecting a full house and lo and behold, much to my dismay, there was only about 30 folk up in this 400 plus seater club. Ya see, I had played with Bo back home in Texas and had seen him a couple 3 times or so since but, this time was different. I viewed th' man in a whole nuther light. I mean to tell ya Ize on a mission folks and I wudden fixin’ to take no for an answer!
I had brought a cool little Bo Diddley surf toon to th’ band table awhile back, titled “Surfers love Call” from an obscure Bo LP called “Surfing With Bo Diddley” (You go figure) and this number proved to be quite popular with th’ fans and all, what with its sing along call and response yodeling style Hawaiian sounding hooky vocals and such. In fact, I was doing a movie with Tim Robbins and John Cusack called “Tapeheads” at th’ time and both Tim and Johnny boy loved coming to our gigs and jumpin’ up on stage to chime in on this song with us. They were to later improvise a rather bastardized version of this novel number into a scene in th’ film. (More to be continued on that part of our story!)
Meanwhile back at th’ Hop, I could plainly see Bo was strugglin’ to stay in spirit but lookin’ a bit haggard from one too many one night stands playing with shitty little pick-up bands and th' like. And lemmie tell ya th’ band up there behind him at this evening’s performance was certainly no exception. Finally I said “Fuck it!” (I said this To myself see) and in between songs I walks across th’ empty dance floor and goes up to Bo and says, “May I request a song Sir?”
Bo says, “Why sho-nuff buddy, what would you like to hear?” You guessed it! I says. “How ‘bout Surfers Love Call?” Well he ‘bout shit ah brick and with this perplexed look on his face he fired back with. “Man I ain’t dun that toon in over 20 years, in fact I ain’t NEVAH performed it evah. And besides that, th’ band don’t know it!” My come-back reply to his statement was, “Well so far, th’ band haddn’t had a clue to not one song you’ve played all night!” After composing his self from crackin’ up and spittin’ laughing juice all over me upon hearing my reply, he honored my strange request and stumbled his way thru “Surfers Love Call” Whew! I had broken th’ ice.
After Bo’s performance I waited a few minutes for him to cool off and unwind a bit then I made my move. I went backstage and knocked on th’ dressing room door and this elderly gentleman begrudgingly greeted me with an abrupt “Yes, how can I help you?” Assuming this ol codger was Bo’s manager I stated my name and a brief explanation of what I was there for. As th’ gentleman started to shut th’ door in my face with a firm, “Not interested!” I stuck one foot in and quickly chimed in with, “We’ll pay him $1,000.00 Cash!” As his grip on th’ door eased up a bit and his downed mouth eased into a sly come-hither grin, I knew then that at least I had a chance. (Little did I realize that much to my chagrin this ol codger, Marty Otelsberg and I was soon to become best friends?)
Fast forward two days ahead to Culver City Recording Studio. As th’ band and I sat staring up at th’ clock in anticipation of Bo’s arrival, a knock suddenly breaks th’ still silence of th’ small control room. We all jumps up and rush to eagerly greet our hero at th’ front entrance and there he stood..... A Giant among men.
Towering next to him in this sharp as a knife silver shark skin suit stood a humongous; bigger than life sized well groomed African American dude that we all assumed was to be his bodyguard. Marty, his slight framed Jewish manager was in tow as well, and flanked Bo’s opposite side with his hand stretched out and palm-up in th’ pay-me position.
Bo did not waste nary a moment getting down to bidness and straight to th’ point as he ordered th’ engineer to play th’ track. At that moment all eyes are on BO. Th’ deep Kplongo beat begins for 4 bars, then th’ vocal chorus kicks in right from th’ git-go with th’ opening line “Say Bo where’d you get that Kplongo?" After just 3 lines of th’ infectious chorus, Bo barks out. “Mr. Engineer! Mr. Engineer! Shut it off! STOP! That’s enuff!” We’re all thinkin,’ oh shit we’ve offended him or he hates it. Suddenly to our relief, Bo cracks that big wide beautiful full teeth grin of his and ever so softly he mumbles, “Go get my Gurtar!” At that moment th’ tension breaks with relief and we all start shuckin’ n’ jivin’ n’ hi-fivin’ with pure and sheer delight knowing he likes it! Bo likes our song!
Next thing to happen was Bo lookin’ at me with guitar strapped on in th’ ready position and asked “Now whudda yawl wont me to do?” At that point people all I could think of to say was, “BO, you can go out yonder and take a greasy shit if you want to and that’ll be just fine with us, coz this is your song as well as ours and we’re splitting up writers credits on it with you, So go on n’ do yo natchel Bo’ thang Mistah Diddley. For its yo thang and you can do what you wanna do!”
Th’ final phase finds Bo and me out in th’ tracking room buddied-up on th’ same mic together and I starts in on th’ chorus line, Remember? “Say Bo where’d you get that Kplongo?” And that folks was th’ moment Bo literally brought me, th’ King, to his knees with that brilliant come-back line of his, “Th’ Church give it to me!” After I repeated th’ next line of th’ chorus he bellowes out. “I didn’t steal it….Dood!” Th’ rest, my dear friends is history as they say. And with that being said, kindly allow me to end this tale with these last few words.
“May God be with Ellis “Bo Diddley” McDaniels.” What a man!