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Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection

Identifier: MSS 0409

Scope and Content

The Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection dates from 1957 to 2009 and largely represents the latter half of Bo Diddley's life and career from the 1980s to his death in 2008. The collection includes publications, correspondence, contracts, concert posters, tour itineraries, lyrics, albums, photographs, awards, instruments, clothes, and artifacts.

Series 1: "Publications, 1966-2007" contains newspaper and magazine articles written about Bo Diddley. Most of the articles were written about specific Bo Diddley concerts, but many also include interviews with Bo Diddley and document his life and career. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series 2: "Correspondence, 1963-2006" contains fan letters, personal correspondence, and business correspondence.

Series 3: "Contracts, 1966-2006" contains Bo Diddley's copies of contracts primarily for performance appearances, some of which are signed by Bo Diddley. Most of the contracts were through Talent Consultants International (TCI). The series is arranged alphabetically by contract agency with TCI contracts arranged chronologically.

Series 4: "Concert posters, handbills, and programs, 1957-2007" primarily contains posters, handbills, and programs for Bo Diddley's concerts, tours, and appearances. Many of these items are for international concerts including those in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, France, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Australia, Jamaica, and other countries. This series is arranged chronologically. Many of the posters are oversized and housed separately.

Series 5: "Itineraries, 1963-2005" primarily contains itineraries for Bo Diddely's international tours during the 1980s. Also included are monthly itineraries for the mid 1960s and 2000s. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series 6: "Music, lyrics, and albums, 1970-1999" contains handwritten lyrics and music written by Bo Diddley and other authors. Most of these are undated and some are unidentified. They may date back earlier or later than the listed dates for this series. Also, included are Bo Diddley's albums and chart information. The series is arranged by subject and chronologically.

Series 7: "Photographs, 1960s-2007" primarily contains photographs of Bo Diddley. Also, included are photographs of the women he performed with including Norma-Jean Wofford (The Duchess), Peggy Jones (Lady Bo), and Debbie Hastings. A framed painting is also included in the series. The series is arranged by subject and chronologically.

Series 8: "Awards, 1960-2009" contains plaques and awards presented to Bo Diddley. Most notable is his National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences - Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The series is arranged chronologically.

Series 9: "Instruments and equipment" contains instruments belonging to Bo Diddley including custom built guitars, a Kalimba, and a tambourine. Also included is musical equipment including amps, pedals, and other electronic equipment. Most of these items are oversized and stored off-site, please speak with an archivist before requesting access.

Series 10: "Clothes, undated" contains clothing belonging to Bo Diddley, some of which was worn during his performances. These items are stored off-site, please speak with an archivist before requesting access.

Series 11: "Artifacts and miscellany, 1975-2000s" contains a variety of items including hats, sketches by Bo Diddley, concert passes, and other miscellany.


  • Creation: 1957 - 2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980 - 2007



The collection is open for research.

Select items from this collection are currently on loan for an exhibit at the Matheson Museum.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ellas McDaniel (Ellas Otha Bates) was born on December 30th, 1928 in McComb, Mississippi. He was adopted and raised by his mother's cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed. In 1934, his family moved to the South Side of Chicago where he studied the trombone and violin as well as taking up the guitar. He played on street corners with friends throughout the 1940s. By 1951, he landed a regular spot at the 708 Club on Chicago's South Side with a repertoire influenced by Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters.

In late 1954, he teamed up with the harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold, the drummer Clifton James, and the bass player Roosevelt Jackson to record demos, at Chess Studios, of "I'm a Man" and "Bo Diddley." The record was released in March 1955 becoming a number one R&B hit. Diddley's hit singles continued in the 1950s and 1960s with "Pretty Thing" (1956), "Say Man" (1959), and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" (1962). Between 1958 and 1963, Checker Records released eleven full-length Bo Diddley albums. Despite his stature, Diddley was bitter about how music company executives had allegedly cheated him of royalties during his prime. He said he had signed away the rights to many of his songs in the late 1950s.

After moving from Chicago to Washington, D.C., the basement of his home housed his first home recording studio. Diddley's home studio was frequented by several of Washington, D.C.'s musical luminaries including Marvin Gaye and the site where he recorded the album Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger.

Diddley moved to Los Lunas, New Mexico in the 1970s. He continued his musical career while also spending two and half years as deputy sheriff in the Valencia County Citizens' Patrol. In the late 1970s he moved to Hawthorne, Florida. For the remainder of his life he divided his time between Albuquerque and Florida, living the last 13 years of his life in Archer, Florida.

In 1989, Diddley entered into a licensing agreement with the sportswear brand Nike. The advertisements, titled "Bo Knows" with football and baseball star Bo Jackson, resulted in one of the most iconic advertisements in advertising history. With Jackson attempting a guitar line, Diddley faced the camera and said "He don't know Diddley," a line that became a national catchphrase.

Bo Diddley played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll, and influenced numerous artists including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Clash with his signature "Bo Diddley Beat." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and a Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is also recognized for his technical innovations, including his distinctive rectangular guitar. Diddley was also a pioneer in using women in his band including Norma-Jean Wofford (The Duchess), Gloria Jolivet, Peggy Jones (Lady Bo), Cornelia Redmond (Cookie V.), and Debby Hastings.

Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008, of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida.


McArdle, Terence, and Adam Bernstein. "Music Pioneer Helped Build Rock-and-Roll's Blues Base." Washington Post, 3 June 2008,

"Bo Diddley." Wikipedia, 16 Jan. 2019,


28 Linear Feet (28 Boxes, 6 Oversized items, Oversized folders)

Language of Materials



Publications, correspondence, contracts, concert posters, tour itineraries, lyrics, albums, photographs, awards, instruments, clothes, and artifacts belonging to American R&B singer, guitarist, songwriter and music producer, Bo Diddley (Ellas McDaniel), who played a key role in the transition from the blues to rock and roll.


The Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection is divided into 11 records series.


Please note that some of this collection is housed in the Auxiliary Library Facility off campus and will require advance notice for timely retrieval. Please contact the Special and Area Studies Collections department prior to your visit.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Ellas B. McDaniel Trust in 2017-2018.

Alternative Format Available

Digital reproductions of selected items in the Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

A Guide to the Ellas B. McDaniel (Bo Diddley) Collection
Finding aid created by Matt Kruse
January 2019 (updated October 2021)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America