"The Story Of BO DIDDLEY...":
career 50s / 60s / 70s / 80s / 90s / 00s
70th birthday tributes page 1 / 2 / 3
discography 45s / lps / comps / misc
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lady bo page 1 / 2 / 3
photo gallery page 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 /
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Margo Lewis or Faith Fusillo
Co-Managing Partners, The Estate of Bo Diddley
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Piermont, NY 10968
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BO DIDDLEY - The Originator
A Celebration of his unique contribution to Popular Music.
"Have Guitar - Will Travel..."
Around 1958, BO DIDDLEY built the world's first square guitar by taking the neck and the electrics off a Gretsch guitar and putting them onto a square body that he had constructed. Later that year he commissioned Gretsch's Brooklyn factory to make him another square guitar, which he nicknamed "Big B". Two decades later, and despite having it rebuilt twice and adding new electronic effects to it, "Big B" had become almost obsolete.
We are very grateful to Chris Kinman of Kinman Guitar Electrix in Brisbane, Australia for supplying us with the following recollections of how he came to build his next square guitar, the one that BO DIDDLEY dubbed "The Mean Machine".
"In 1978, Bo was touring Australia and picking up local bands to back him. In Brisbane he used Hombrey, with Ron Delbridge playing lead. Ron had one of my custom built guitars, and Bo took a shine to it, and asked where he got it. I was in my factory one Sunday afternoon just cleaning up and the phone rang. "BO DIDDLEY here", said a big black voice. I thought someone was playing a prank. I only became convinced when he said he liked Ron's guitar, and wanted one built as well.
"I played with an authentic R&B band called The Roadrunners during the 60s, and Bo was a legend and a hero to me. It took a while to sink in that I was actually going to build him a guitar.
"I had only 4 weeks to complete it before his tour finished. I didn't think building a rectangular shape would be so difficult, but it was. He wanted it fitted with various effect devices, and the wiring alone took about 8 hours, as I recall. The body was constructed from New Guinea Walnut with intense fiddle back figure; the last pieces I had. It was bound with cream plastic binding on both sides.
"The neck was laminated with 5 ply of Honduras Mahogany, Silver Ash and New Guinea Rosewood, with an ebony fretboard. The neck was inclined to the body, (like a Les Paul), with an inclined headstock, and had a long tongue which finished under the tailpiece. The scale was 24 3/4 inches. I inlaid the KINMAN name in real mother-of-pearl into a black headstock overlay. I made the neck real fat, something to really get hold of, to suit his hands. He loved it!
"The pickups were Gibson humbuckers. I tried DiMarzios and a few others, but the Gibsons definitely sounded better. All the electronics were taken from their original metal enclosures, and their circuit boards mounted in shielded cavities in the body of the guitar, with transparent covers so they could be seen. That made a very impressive sight. All the controls and signal routing switches were mounted through the wood on the face of the guitar, some 12 of them as I recall.
"Another problem I ran into was the case. I couldn't find one, so I made one specially out of plywood and pine. It was a bit of a monster, built to withstand the torture of world tours, able to be dropped from an 8 story building, and run over by a bulldozer without serious injury to the guitar. Just as well Bo had big strong arms, it weighed a ton. I often wondered how many tennis elbows he got from lugging it around.
"I did a real special price for him, because I was so honoured and pleased to be associated with him. He did ask me to build another one, a bit different to this one, but I couldn't oblige again, as I was in financial difficulty and needed to change the course of my business. I stopped making guitars full-time shortly after, got divorced, and concentrated on repairs and retail with only the occasional guitar for about 6 years. In 1984 I launched my Blueprint Series guitars, which were much more successful, and what led me to my present project, the Hx Series Strat pickups."
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