Bo Diddley’s Beach Party

Title: Bo Diddley’s Beach Party

Artist: Bo Diddley

Label: Hip-O Select

Catalog No.: B0015214-02 (originally issued as Checker LP-2988)

Format: CD, MP3

Release Date: March 8, 2011

On July 5th and 6th, 1963, “an audience of more than two thousand Bo Diddley admirers” assembled at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, SC, and Chess Records was there with microphones and tape recorder.  The results are documented in this brief but explosive CD.  In short, Bo and his band tore up the place.  The primitive (and somewhat distorted) recordings capture a hyperactive energy and enthusiasm that Bo Diddley’s superb studio hits couldn’t fit into the grooves.

The Hip-O Select reissue includes original album artwork, original song sequence and original liner notes, plus a new essay by Chris Morris.  According to Morris, a recorded-live R&B LP was a rarity in 1963, but Chess Records had taken note of the success in 1962 of James Brown’s The Apollo Theatre Presents – In Person! The James Brown Show and “Little” Stevie Wonder’s The 12 Year Old Genius, recorded live at the Regal Theatre in Chicago. So Chess’s Max Cooperstein and Marshall Chess decided to bottle up a Bo Diddley performance on a 12” platter.

The July gigs, in front of white audiences in segregation-era South Carolina, were reportedly not without controversy.  Nadine Cohodas, in her book about Chess, Spinning Blues Into Gold, wrote that one of the shows was cut short after Diddley sideman Jerome Green waded into the crowd shaking his maracas, and a group of white girls started dancing around him. But enough showtime occurred for the Chess gang to pull out of Myrtle Beach with a live album in the can.

And it’s quite a live album at that!  Bo Diddley covers his hits “Hey Bo-Diddley,” “Gunslinger,” “I’m All Right,” “Crackin’ Up” (called “What’s Buggin’ You” on this album) and “Road Runner.” He also covers Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” does a guitar-pyrotechnic sendup of “Up On Old Smokey” and his adaption of “Mr. Custer,” a 1961 hit for Larry Verne.

The following clip of “Road Runner” from a 1965 TV show hints at the excitement of his live performances from this era:

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One can envision a lot of sweaty dancing and gyrating and a roof-raising noise level, all the makings of a superb early ‘60s beach party. It’s good to have this album back in print. The 2007 CD reissue The Definitive Collection contains all the major hits and a few other studio recordings. The pair of CD’s should provide ample evidence of why Bo Diddley was so influential on so many rock and blues artists.

Reviewed by Tom Fine