Sunday, November 20, 2011

What exactly did Bo Diddley unleash after being introduced by a confused Ed Sullivan on November 20, 1955? (From Jake Austen's "TV a-go-go")

"Ladies and gentlemen," the gargoyle of an emcee anounced to his rapt studio and vast TV audiences, "As everybody knows, whenever any new musical trend has evinced itself in the popular field, the first area to find out about it in advance is Harlem." His audiences had to wait a bit longer to learn the name of the Next Big Thing as the host's tongue got tangled in a string of his signature malapropisms. "Roll . . . rhythm and, uh . . . rhythm and roll . . . rhythm and color. . . ." Finally, he mannaged to locate his desired phraise: "Rhythm and blues!"

The appellation Ed Sullivan stumbled upon with such difficulty that night -- Sunday, November 20, 1955 -- was incorrect. When that "wonderful folk-blues singer" Bo Diddley kicked off Sullivan's presentation of Dr. Jive's Apollo Theater-based musical revue, what he was playing was not R&B. Instead, Diddley was introducing rock 'n' roll to America's living Rooms.

At its best, rock 'n' roll boils down to the cultural miscegenation of American music to its most potent concentration. This perfectly describes the hypnotizing, pounding, rhythm-driven music that guitarist Diddley -- along with drummer Clifton James, tuba-player-turned-maracas-genius Jerome Green, and second guitarist Bobby Parker -- unleashed that night. During the 1950s many R&B artists had met the musical criteria for rock 'n' roll, but only a few grasped the intangible elements that marked its cross-pollination of R&B, hillbilly, blues, country, jazz, Irish music, boogie-woogie, and other folk sounds. Saturated with super-coool attitude, doing a sly, funky dance across the TV screen, and singing "Bo Diddley" -- a theme song that balanced nursery rhyme innocdnce with dirty-joke naughtiness -- Diddley on Sullivan made these intagibles downright tangible.

(From Jake Austen's "TV a-go-go" page 1-2.)

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