Bo Diddley’s Essential Tips for Surviving Life & the Music Business


Some peo­ple think Chuck Berry invent­ed rock and roll. Chuck Berry sure thinks so. But I say it was Bo Did­dley. At least Did­dley invent­ed the rock and roll I love—throbbing, dirty, hyp­not­ic, hov­er­ing in some space between the blues, gospel and African rhythms but also with its feet firm­ly plant­ed on any indus­tri­al city street­corner. Bo Did­dley invent­ed irony in rock (his first band was called “The Hip­sters”). Bo Did­dley nev­er pan­dered to the teeny­bop­per crowd (though he did go com­mer­cial in the 80s). Even his biggest hits have about them an oth­er­world­ly air of echo‑y weird­ness, with their sig­na­ture beat and one-note drone.  Also some­thing vague­ly sleazy and maybe a lit­tle sin­is­ter, essen­tial ele­ments of rock and roll wor­thy of the name.

So, as a man who made his own rhythm, his own tones, his own stu­dio, and his own gui­tar—who was so much his own man that one of his best known songs is named after him—it stands to rea­son that he would also make his own set of rules for sur­viv­ing the music busi­ness. Called “Bo Diddley’s Guide to Sur­vival,” the list cov­ers all the bases: drugs and booze (“NO!”), food (“any­thing you can get your hands on”), health, mon­ey, defense, cows, women, and hear­ing. What more is there, real­ly?

The list, clear­ly part of a mag­a­zine fea­ture, has cir­cu­lat­ed on the inter­net for some time, but no one has man­aged to track down the source. It’s prob­a­bly gen­uine, though; it sounds like the per­fect mix of the down-to-earth and far-out fun­ny that was Bo Did­dley. I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigued by his very spe­cif­ic defense tech­niques (Elvis obvi­ous­ly took notes). It is true, by the way, that Did­dley once served as a sher­iff in New Mex­i­co, a fact that adds so much to the mys­tique. Where “Defense” and “Women” get lengthy (and respect­ful) treat­ments, his suc­cinct take on “Hear­ing” is as prac­ti­cal as it gets.

See the orig­i­nal list at the top and read the full tran­script below. As you do, lis­ten to the time­less weird­ness of “Bo Did­dley” above. There’s noth­ing else like it.

Alco­hol and Drugs  Only drink Grand Marnier, and that’s to keep the throat from dry­ing up in a place where there’s a lot of smoke. As for drugs: a big NO!

Food  Eat any­time, any­thing you can get your hands on. I mean it!

Health  When­ev­er you get to feel­ing weird, take Bay­er aspirin. I can’t stand tak­ing all that oth­er bull­shit.

Mon­ey  Always take a lawyer with you, and then bring anoth­er lawyer to watch him.

Defense  I can’t go around slap­ping peo­ple with my hands or else I’d go broke. So I take karate, and kick when I fight. Of course, I got plen­ty of guns — one real big one. But guns are for peo­ple try­ing to take your home, not some guy who makes you mad. I used to be a sher­iff down in New Mex­i­co for two and a half years, so I know not to pull it right away.

Cows  If they wan­na play, and you don’t wan­na make pets out of ‘em, and you can’t eat ‘em — then get rid of ‘em!

Women  If you wan­na meet a nice young lady, then you try to smell your best. A girl don’t like nobody walk­ing up in her face smelling like a goat. Then, you don’t say crap like “Hey, don’t I know you?” The first thing you ask her is: “Are you alone?” If she tells you that she’s with her boyfriend, then you see if the cat’s as big as you. If you don’t have no mon­ey, just smell right. And for God’s sake don’t be pulling on her and slap­ping on her. You don’t hit the girls! If you do this, you can’t miss.

Hear­ing  Just don’t put your ears in the speak­ers.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Chuck Berry Takes Kei­th Richards to School, Shows Him How to Rock (1987)

Kei­th Richards Wax­es Philo­soph­i­cal, Plays Live with His Idol, the Great Mud­dy Waters

A His­to­ry of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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