Today is the anniversary of Bo Diddley’s birthday and in honor of the great rock legend here is the true story of why there was only one appearance of Bo Diddley on The Ed Sullivan Show. Bo Diddley’s Ed Sullivan Show performance is one of the most notorious in the show’s 23-year run, and has become a part of rock and roll lore.
Bo Diddley came out with his first single, self-titled “Bo Diddley”, in March of 1955. The song found immediate commercial success, spending 18 weeks on the R&B charts, including 2 weeks at #1.
On November 20, 1955, hours before going on the air, Ed Sullivan heard Bo Diddley performing Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” backstage, and asked him to perform that song for the show. Diddley agreed, but when he looked at the set list he saw “Bo Diddley. Sixteen Tons”. Not realizing that the “Bo Diddley” was referring to him and not his hit single, he took that to mean that he was supposed to play both songs back to back. Bo Diddley was cut off following the first song and after the performance Ed Sullivan banned the musician from the show for not following his directions.
But that appearance cemented Diddley as a pioneer of rock and roll, and made him a megastar. The revolutionary sound he brought to the stage has provided the foundation for many hit songs and has proved to be one of the most influential styles in the rock and roll history. The Bo Diddley Beat can even be heard in a number of songs performed by The Rolling Stones on Ed Sullivan.
Happy Birthday Bo Diddley!