ridley pearson

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Bo Diddley died two days ago, and I thought I'd share a story.

When I was nineteen...

... and a fledgling folk rock musician (I'm driving our band's 66 passenger converted bus here), my duo partner, Otis Read, and I were flying to perform and were laid over in Chicago's O'Hare airport awaiting flight. This is 1971 or 2. It was a long layover, and "Oat" and I passed the time by pulling out our acoustic guitars and playing a number of songs. After a half hour or so a guy came over and said he liked what we were doing, and asked to play harmonica with us. Now, in the music world, when someone asks to play harmonica with you, it makes you cringe because usually the player is not terribly good -- don't ask me why, but it's just the way it is.

But this guy was good, and he set into an infectious rhythm that carried into what we were playing, and pretty soon we were jamming and connecting, and the other passengers, instead of looking like "when will these guys shut up" were actually interested and started moving closer.

The guy was Bo Diddley.

He got a kick out of the fact that my name was Ridley. (Stephen King, in the Rockbottom Remainders, calls me Bo-Ridley.) We played for about a half hour together, and to use an over-used word, it was "magical." The man's heart must have beat to that rhythm that came to own every song he wrote -- it just flowed out of him.

When we packed up and boarded our flight, and shook hands all around, I was in awe, as was Otis, and I knew it was day I would never forget. And I never have.

So, here's to Bo-Diddley: Keep jamming.