Interview with Bo Diddley (1928-2008)

Photo by Reinhard Weixler

Kasemattenbühne, Graz, Austria, July 13th, 2006

This interview took place immediately before Bo Diddley's concert in the course of the Jazz Festival Graz. I want to give all my thanks to Bo Diddley's management, to host Reinhard Weixler for his help and especially to the lovely Margo Lewis for her kindness.


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bf: What's the last time you've been to Austria? Do you know any Austrian blues musician?


Bo D.: Yeah, Hans Theessink, Hans is my friend, yeah. He was comin' in my house, in Florida. And do you know Milica, the lady being with him all the time?


bf: Milica, yes, his wife. She is giving him a hand all around.


Bo D.: Yeah. And she's got the key (laughing loud).


bf: You're the man who put the rock in Rock and Roll; which Blues and Rock 'n' Roll musicians from the last ten years have attracted your attention?


Bo D.: Nobody!


bf: Nobody?


Bo D.: Nobody! I do know a lot of guys they claim that they are playin' Blues but this is not Blues. They don't groove good, Blues is not in the same veins that it was 30 years ago, it has changed. So more which takes away the feeling and the goodness, feels like Chuck Berry said, salt, black purple, you know you got to season it up.


bf: But you don't think that only the black men can play the Blues?


Bo D.: Oh yeah, that's right! We live it, you don't live it! See - that's the problem, thanks for asking me that 'cause that I'd like to tell you for the longest. See - see - black people had to use what they knew had to knew in order to survive. Because somebody had the beer on the bottom and somebody had the beer on the top! So, I'm not angry about me knowing what I know, I'm glad I know what I know!

Because if I hadn't lived I would not know it. But I know, a cheque book with no leafs in – you're sad, you understand?


Bf: Is it true that Little Walter, Little Walter Jacobs, sent you away from the Chess Records studio in '55?


BD: No! Little Walter was my friend!


bf: And Leonard Chess didn't fetch you back?


BD: No, no, no, I don't know where that came from. Little Walter was a friend of mine, you know. We played in the studio, he was a very well liked person. But he had one problem – drinking! Drinking! I don't had any little problem, no drinking. I used to drink this stuff all the time.


bf: What is that?


BD: Grand Marnier. For a cold, you know, like you get a cold – take this and a cup, about, ohhh, say about this (shows two fingers) in a cup, take a lemon, crush it up in there, and take about that much (shows) water. Boil it for about ten minutes, then put in a cup like this, you got a whole cup full, get in a bed, and sip it as hard as you can. The cold you got will change it's directions and you start coming out (laughs)! This kills it, it dies, and I swear about because I had the sick and my broke got all screwed up, I said: Oh, no! One more thing is that soup, drink some soup, some got a chicken broth , like one of these. Drink that out, get in a bed, cover and stay in there. It's sweat, just sweat, you know. Coming' out, I swear about it.


bf: When I've got a fever, I do the same.


BD: That's it, get 'em in, really,better come out, come right out, you know, like me, and you feel so hot but you feel better after that … (all laugh).


bf: One of your first great stages was the Apollo Theatre in New York City; is it correct that this audience had a great effect in careers those days?


BD: No, the main stage would help us. You run the right track; if you made it in the Apollo Theatre you'd go to Washington, D.C.. Washington, D.C., or Chicago. If you made it in Chicago, you had a shot at Washington, D.C.. If you made it in Washington, D.C.., now let's go a little bit further but Washington, D.C.. If you passed there all that you can do a little southern stage but in New York you're running good. Got some places like Kansas City, Missouri, now we are entering the Western territory, cowboy – oooh-ooooh-ooooh – pang-pang-ooooh . They all mess in those serenades, hold you out there, 'cause you play (imitates the classic blues tune on a guitar) . If you got into that thing they've got amazed. Now – get from Oklahoma City, go to California, there you are really a drop. If you make it in California, your career is on the way. You got amazed, but if you make it in California, you can get everybody out there. I went to a place called Figural Ballroom in California, Los Angeles. I said: Well, here I am! – Yoooo!
Cause California was like western dew. You know, little bit a country  or whatever else they are doin' there I have no idea. But it was a different, you had different states, straight down…
Tour manager interrupted: Ok, let's go, Bo.


BD: Oh thank you, just hang in there, baby! (all laughed)

(continues): You had different states, if you made it in Los Angeles, you was on your way to be somebody. I've been nothing but a streetwalker, you will be somebody when  you are known or recognized. But that's the way it went, if you made it to pass Washington, D.C., because the kids were sittin in Washington, D.C.. The kids in Washington, D.C, they didn't like it, they are sittin in the audience with their bag. They had tomatoes, eggs, and everything like that in their bag, and they took it out and throwed it at you if they didn't like it.


(The interview was finished after this because the band had to go on stage and was ten minutes late. Irene and me met Bo Diddley after the show again, also met Margo Lewis for a small chat, we will keep them all in our hearts and our minds. Many thanks again also to Reinhard Weixler and Danny Giorlando.)