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Tone Hunt, Bo Diddley Sound!

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by imsilly, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    36
    Feb 15, 2009
    UK
    I have stripped down my guitar rig leaving just my trusty Telecaster and Blackface Bassman. So I have some cash and more importantly room for some new gear. I have always loved Bo Diddley and his raw effect-laden sound. So what gear will get me sounding like him?

    I have a rough idea of what kinda gear he was using, but I bow to your greater knowledge of these things. I wanna know what pickups (PAFs, Dynasonics and TV Jones I have seen him use), which effects (I know he had many actually built into his guitars, usually time based ones, Delay, Chorus etc) and which amps (In live shows its usually fenders of some type).

    To jog your memories or just for kicks here are a few clips of him where I think he is making a nice noise:



    Or



    Or



    I want to basically know which pickups to put into which guitar to plug into which amp?
     
  2. woodman

    woodman Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    71
    Nov 28, 2004
    Mint Hill, NC
    the time i played with him, he was playing his rectangular guitar (i have no idea what it was or what kind of pickups) through a Twin. no pedals on the floor, all his effects were onboard the guitar. of course, that was back in the '80s, no idea what he was doing in later years.
     
  3. t3l3cast3r

    t3l3cast3r TDPRI Member

    35
    Feb 26, 2009
    Austin, TX
    I would say that most of it had to do with the man playing the guitar--Bo Diddley. You posted several videos of him playing guitars with different pickups but yet it still sounded like Bo! So I would think that even if you got a Billy Bo it would be difficult to sound like Bo Diddley.
     
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  5. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    36
    Feb 15, 2009
    UK
    Cool,

    I read somewhere that during the 1970s while on tour in Australia he got a custom square guitar made. It was filled with gibson humbuckers, made from exotic woods and had loads of onboard effects. These effects are kinda tricky to work out.

    I was guessing the Tremolo you hear is off those big fenders (Showmans or Twins), but I suspect there is chorus and delay inside the actual guitar. I wonder what kind of circuits they were? Bespoke or lifted from mass produced effects and placed into the guitar?

    I'm kinda tempted to put together some insane semi-hollow with old Maxon delay and chorus, or even a EHX memory man.
     
  6. beach bob

    beach bob Friend of Leo's

    Jan 31, 2008
    South Florida
    I'm hearing a flanger in that third cut.
     
  7. t3l3cast3r

    t3l3cast3r TDPRI Member

    35
    Feb 26, 2009
    Austin, TX
    I say "go for it". Use whatever effects you think are cool. I can't imagine Bo Diddley sitting around over thinking things the way we do. I doubt he ever wondered what kind of circuit was in a particular effect.

    If you noodle around with it, I'm sure you'll come up with something cool.
     
  8. Axis29

    Axis29 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 2, 2007
    Virginia, USA
    The first two sound like my Gretsch into a Fender amp. Maybe a little overdrive for a little more dirt at lower volumes.

    The third one definitely has a Flanger on it, but I don't hear much else. I'm waiting on a special ordered Stereo Electric Mistress (Chorus /Flanger) and will try to remember to try and duplicate the sound of that thrid clip.



    But I wanna hear Woodman's story 'bout playin' with Bo Diddley!
     
  9. hekawi

    hekawi Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    59
    Apr 29, 2003
    greenville, sc
    Me Too!!!!
     
  10. vjf1968

    vjf1968 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    48
    Jan 9, 2008
    Philadelphia
    I know Bo in the early days used Magnatone amps for a while because they had that "true vibrato sound", not "tremolo".
     
  11. mad dog

    mad dog Friend of Leo's

    Jun 27, 2005
    Yes, definitely Magnatone in the early days. Aside from the vibrato effect, there's some extra drive in there on chord sounds when vibe is on and it's loud enough. I think of him every time I play my Twilighter (magnatone) 260, especially with an old 335 or anything with low output, PAF type p/us. The other amp that definitely will get you there is a Magnatone M10A, a 1x12 "suitcase" amp. It has the most wet, chorusy sounding vibrato of all the maggies I've heard. Turn that up and you're in the swamp. I can definitely hear those amps in his early sound.
     
  12. Stuco

    Stuco Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 27, 2006
    GA
    Woodman, you are now officially the coolest cat on the tdpri!
     
  13. purpletele

    purpletele Friend of Leo's

    yep, sounds alot like my Gibson GA30RVT, which has alot of Magatoniness in it.
     
  14. Derek S

    Derek S Former Member

    981
    Jan 23, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    [QUOTE But I wanna hear Woodman's story 'bout playin' with Bo Diddley![/QUOTE]


    Dish out the details, Wood!
     
  15. woodman

    woodman Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    71
    Nov 28, 2004
    Mint Hill, NC
    haha! it's kind of a long story, but funny and a real eye-opener for me. i've got the whole gig on a cassette tape buried somewhere.

    at the sound check, the whole crew at the Asheville (NC) Music Hall was nervous — it was their grand opening (Dec. 23, 1984), the sound system was brand-new and untested, and the whole place smelled like fresh paint.

    my old rockabilly trio Woody & the Wingnuts had started out in Asheville, but were then working out of Toledo, Ohio. a good friend was booking the club, so he called me and asked if we wanted the opener/Bo backup slot. ... after the eight-hour drive, our sound check was a relief — the band was tight and we were confident, since we did five or six of his songs and knew his book pretty well.

    Bo arrived just as we were winding up our check. he plugged that rectangular monstrosity into a rented Twin ... his axe had at least seven knobs on it plus an array of multicolored LED's. he hit a groove and the drummer kicked into the bomp-abomp-bomp figure on the toms. Bo stopped us and said, "no no, i do all that — you just hit a straight backbeat." the drummer didn't argue, Bo being a fairly formidable figure.

    he worked us for about 10 minutes and decided we weren't complete turkeys, packed up his guitar and left for his hotel. at showtime, the place was packed, about 600 people. we played a lively opener set, but our minds were on what was to come. after the break, i introduced him as instructed by the man himself:

    "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE MIGHTY ... BO ...... DIDDLEY"

    he sauntered onstage in his trademark hat and an iridescent burnt-orange outfit that probably cost a thousand bucks — gambler-style jacket with big lapels and bell-bottom pants with flashing LED's up the leg — and he kicked off a groove that could have been any of his songs ... i felt this surge go through me, the first time i'd ever experienced literally the heart of rock 'n' roll. we got it going with him and waited for him to start singing, but when he was doing his preliminary uh-huhs, the monitors were squealing.

    so then he stopped playing, scowling at the monitors, the sound booth and us, while we churned on with the groove. when Bo came back in, it was to end the song. he growled at the sound man pretty hard (i pitied the poor dude ... he was mixing monitors from the booth on a system nobody had ever run in concert before). but eventually, things smoothed out and everybody got comfortable again.

    then he kicked off "Gunslinger" — and proceeded to throw us a stunning series of polyrhythmic curveballs. we hung with it, though, and passed his first test. Bo was jamming his ass off — we played like we'd never played before, like horses pulling his thundering chariot. by the end of his first show, everybody was happy and we Wingnuts headed to the bar for a beer.

    Bo walked up right behind us and told the kid behind the bar, "Well, first set went purty good, and i'm all ready for second, though i thought i'd just go ahead and git paid."

    so the kid's stammering, "Yes sir, Mr. Diddley, i can write you a check right now!"

    Bo leans in with a sinister grin and goes, "Heh heh heh! no, son, you don't understand ... i only takes cash money!"

    having the loot in his pocket seemed to inspire Bo on the next set ... we did some of his hits, some stuff i'd never heard before, and some stuff i suspect he was making up as he went along.

    early in the set, he went into "Can't Judge a Book" ... that one was on our songlist, and we nailed the stops. Bo cut his eyes at me, didn't exactly smile, but he scowled less. i knew we'd earned his stamp of approval and ratcheted up the rhythm section a little bit.

    about halfway through the set, he went into these spaceship sounds, Twilight Zone stuff, ethereal howls, twiddling those onboard effects. not sure what it all was besides flanger, echo, maybe a chorus, i dunno, hard to tell. no distortion effects, though ... when he wanted power, he turned it up and drove the amp.

    it ended up a great show. Bo packed up his guitar and deftly slid out the door with a gal he'd been chatting up on break. we had a mighty buzz from the whole thing and hung around shooting the breeze with friends, then loaded out and tried to crank the van for the ride north, since the next day was Christmas Eve ... and the starter had gone out. but hey, that's show biz!

    i saw Bo again around 1994 at a show he did in Charlotte. at the time, i was doing entertainment writing for the local paper, and i took him a clip of the advance story it'd written about him that ran on the features front of the previous Sunday paper. he dug it. i also got him to sign an old Fillmore poster of a show where he opened for Steve Miller. :eek:

    he gave me his phone number and address in Florida, but i never had the nerve to call ... i was in exile from live music then and didn't have much to offer him. but i'll always owe Bo — Ellas McDaniel — for a mighty dose of higher education in showmanship.

    [EDITED for accuracy]
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  16. tpaul

    tpaul Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 18, 2003
    Vermont
    Thanks for the great story, Woodman. Bo was one of my heroes. I was very saddened when I heard he had passed away.

    Regarding his rig - I believe he built his first rectangular guitar himself, and maybe some of the others he played. I also read an interview with him where he claimed to have made his own effects out of electronics parts and stuff he cobbled together. Remember, music stores didn't have shelves full of flangers and chorus pedals for sale when he was getting started. So it might not be so easy to duplicate his sound. Starting with gretsch pickups would make sense, but after that... not so simple.
     
  17. beach bob

    beach bob Friend of Leo's

    Jan 31, 2008
    South Florida
    Heh heh! GREAT story Woodman!!

    Sounds much like the time I saw Bo in Kent OH, with the notorious / infamous / STILL going strong Numbers Band. It was about 900 degrees in JB's that night... Sax & harp player Jack Kidney has a remembrance of the gig on the band's webpage ... check it out

    The band's drummer, David Robinson, used to have his own webpage with tons of great stories; unfortunately it no longer exists. Anyways David told of that same night in hilarious detail, he remembers it being about the worst gig he'd ever had, as Bo wouldn't let Dave rip it up at all, and spent most of the night giving David dirty looks. As you said, that's show biz! :D
     
  18. woodman

    woodman Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    71
    Nov 28, 2004
    Mint Hill, NC
    thanx y'all ... if you're interested in reading the more in-depth newspaper version of the story, you can find it here::: Bo Diddley Lives

    when Bo died last June, the Charlotte Observer reprinted the article i'd written in '94 about the '84 gig, so i put it up as a blog on the Woody Mitchell Music Myspace page. it's written in the cheezy newpaper feature style, so don't hold that against it!
     
  19. byrdbrain

    byrdbrain Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 5, 2006
    Sweden
    You're a writer, woodman, and you know it and we love it!
     
  20. backalleyblues

    backalleyblues Friend of Leo's

    Cool story, Woodman, very cool... lots better than anything I have...

    Anywho, back to the subject at hand- tremolo is the most important element to the Bo Diddley "sound", the swampier the better. There's a bazillion trem pedals out there, and most of them will work fine. Amp tremolo is even better, especially the bias-vary trem of brown Fenders or the Maggies mentioned above. David Allen's amps can get ya there, if you're looking for a new amp with that "old" sound.

    One other thing that people miss with bo Diddley, is that he often played tuned to an open chord, usually open E. Open chord tunings can sound HUGE when they're strummed...

    Franc Robert
     
  21. woodman

    woodman Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    71
    Nov 28, 2004
    Mint Hill, NC
    no doubt — i neglected to mention that cuz it seemed like a no-brainer ... purty sure he had onboard trem with a full set of controls for it.
     
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