Bo Diddley: Say Man (1958)

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Bo Diddley: Say Man (1958)

The late Bo Diddley was perhaps best known for that distinctive self-titled riff that he bequeathed to rock. He used it on a number of songs -- Hey Bo Diddley, Pretty Thing, Hush Your Mouth and others -- and it came into rock with Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away, the Downliners Sect's Be A Sect Maniac and Sect Appeal and many others.

Bo referred to it as his "shave and a haircut, two bits" beat (say it repeatedly, leaving a pause at the comma) but he had many others sides to his music.

Not the least was when he worked with his longtime percussion player Jerome Green (as he does here) on songs grounded in a Southern tradition of children's games where insults were exchanged.

The style is known as "playing the dozens" (eg "Your mama's so fat, when she sits around the house, she sits around the house") but of course became increasing rough-edged when adults in a big city like Chicago used it. And were often the precursors to a physical scrap.

Say Man, delivered like a street corner conversation, is firmly in the tradition and one of the first examples of dozens in the blues, and by its style it has lead some to say to anticipated rap.

Maybe, maybe not. It's certainly kinda fun and rides a Haitian/Cuban rhythm for extra pleasure and impact.

 

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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