In the mid 1970s, in Wellington, I used to do a bit of arts journalism. There was a magazine that went out to secondary schools, published by maverick Alister Taylor. Can't remember what it was called. I did a few things for it, one was a commission to interview two kids from New Plymouth who'd won art prizes. Their names were Andrew Davie and Richard Penny and they came down to the big smoke for the interview, which I duly wrote up and the mag published. They were, like, 18, and I was 22. A few weeks later I got a phone call from Andrew in New Plymouth. He'd won a radio competition; the prize was dinner with Bo Diddley; would I like to come along? It was in the dining room on the first floor of the Waterloo Hotel opposite the Wellington Railway Station. Bo had an entourage - some of his band, some of his minders. So far as I recall, everyone was black apart from me and Andrew. The food was awful - NZ pub cuisine of the era, tough meat, limp vegetables, some kind of gravy. Fruit and custard afterwards. Maybe they were drinking beer but we weren't. Bo was very grand. He barely spoke to us - what was there to say to two spotty awestruck white boys? - and I remember realising that he was probably disappointed that we weren't girls. I asked him what he thought of Hendrix and he waved the query away with a kind of magnificent indifference. Jimi was cool, he said. He could play guitar real well. Later on we went to the concert. The square white guitar, the sweat pouring down, that beat, that beat ... his signature tune: Got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind / I'm just twenty-two and don't mind dying / Now come on baby take a walk with me and tell me / Who do you love? He wrote that song in 1956. His given name was Ellas McDaniel. When he died, he'd just been back to his home town of McComb, Mississippi. He was a lordly man.


artandmylife said...

Someone just told me a story about hearing Allen Curnow read in late years - there are similarities to your BD story

Martin Edmond said...

Allen Curnow & Bo Diddley ... that's a double act I never would have thought of!

artandmylife said...

I guess my mind works in an odd way - makes connections that aren't really there

Elisabeth said...

Hi Martin
I'm just now browsing your blog. Wonderful stuff and sad to read about Bo's death. Wonderful though to read your memories, as a young man.