Bo Knows

Seeing that adaptability is frequently the cornerstone to survival, it's easy to accept the notion that Bo Diddley is one highly adapted performer. Popular music has changed immeasurably in the years between Ellas McDaniel's (a.k.a. Diddley) first Chicago gigs with the Langley Ave. Jive Cats and the cocky utterance, "Bo, you don't know Diddley," from perhaps the funniest sneaker commercial of all time. While that time span swallowed the careers of countless musicians, Diddley's ability to evolve -- and his patented sense of humor -- allowed him to move with the times. Innate enthusiasm for testing boundaries and an unwillingness to abide by the rigid bluesman image has assured Diddley his place in rock and roll history as a major innovator rather than an influential footnote. If you care to dispute that, go argue with the Rolling Stones.

Not that Diddley didn't have some assistance, in particular from his earliest record label. There's no way to tell what kind of music we'd be listening to now if it hadn't been for the chances taken by Chicago's Chess Records. While the owners of many other regional labels that marketed "race" recordings stayed with tried-and-true formulas, the Chess brothers were willing to listen to, record and distribute new ideas from artists such as Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and, of course, Diddley. While Wolf and Waters took the blues to places it had never been before, Diddley went even further. By the mid-'50s -- within a year or so after he cut his first sides for Chess -- Diddley's photograph, along with Little Richard's and Fats Domino's, began appearing nationwide in black newspapers advertising a new kind of music called rock and roll. Fueling the fire -- and establishing the early rockers' inadvertent civil rights credentials -- were the radio stations that targeted a black audience but found a much larger market than expected. Imagine yourself as a white teenager in 1958, flipping around the segregated radio dial. Who would hold your enthusiasm longer -- Pat Boone or Bo Diddley?

The humorous bounces and boogies that characterized Diddley's guitar style turned heads around the world. A careful mixture of boasting and self-deprecation resulted in lyrics such as "Bo Diddley Is Loose," "Diddley Daddy," "Bo's a Lumberjack" and "Hey, Bo Diddley." What might have been taken as shameless self-promotion was instead viewed as good fun. Indeed, if there's one current that runs through Diddley's music, it's the fact that he's never forgotten that music is about as much fun as a man can have making a living. Diddley's always known that raising hell on-stage -- no matter who's at the top of the charts at the moment -- beats going back to boxing for a living.

Consequently, Diddley had fun and raised hell on legendary stages from Carnegie Hall to the Apollo Theatre. Few artists can match Diddley's media credentials -- Ed Sullivan, the soundtrack to Fritz the Cat, a slew of documentaries, every TV show Dick Clark's ever hosted. A chance to see an artist of this stature up close and personal doesn't come along often, so you'd be advised to snatch it up while you can. -- Jim Sherman

Bo Diddley performs at 7:30 and 11 p.m. Saturday, February 3, at Billy Blues Bar & Grill, 6025 Richmond Avenue. Tickets are $20. Hamilton Loomis opens. For info, call 266-9294.

Little Sister -- Yep, it's another H.O.R.D.E. band -- albeit one with more personality and songwriting savvy than most. Making use of those valued attributes (neither of which should be underestimated when a group's neck-deep in a neo-hippie style that's been done to death), Austin's Little Sister has quietly become one of the strongest live draws in Houston. Through January, the band held the coveted Saturday slot at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. You'd think that playing week after week would amount to overkill, costing Little Sister attendance. Surprisingly, it hasn't. The Satellite is packed just about every gig, and the group has made a habit of playing like it hasn't seen a Houston audience in months. Phony or not, that sort of enthusiasm goes over big. On-stage, vocalist/guitarist Patrice Pike and the rest of Little Sister belt out their bawdy, deep-grooved brand of blues-rock with a stunning technical finesse that gives this rather young band more journeyman credibility than it -- quite honestly -- has earned. Granted, it's hard to hear much of that credibility on Little Sister's self-titled debut, which is rescued from stiff musicianship only by its refreshing eclecticism, but confined to the realm of a sweaty nightclub, Little Sister outclasses many of her older brothers. At the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, Saturday, February 3, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $6. The Gibb Droll Band opens. 869-COOL. (Hobart Rowland)

Ed Hall -- Deep Phat's cramped indoor quarters make for one choice punk-rock venue. No matter where you're standing, expect to lose at least one drink -- and be doused by someone else's -- as the music kicks in and you become nothing more than an eddy in a wave of drunks and skate punks. This is likely to be the case when Austin's psycho-punk practitioners Ed Hall roll into town. This trio has been spreading its insanity since 1987, in the form of five albums on the Trance Syndicate label and a host of unforgettable live shows, many with the group dolled up in body paint while performing under a black light, looking like the neon street gang Robin brawled with in Batman Forever. Ed Hall's most recent CD, 1995's La La Land, beat the pants off most Texas indie efforts last year, and it serves as an excellent introduction. Even if these weirdoes came through town every weekend -- which they don't -- their strange misbehavior would still warrant a close look. At Deep Phat, 302 Tuam, Friday, February 2. Tickets are $5. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Suckerpunch, Feared Alien Voodoo and Truth Decay open. 523-3786. (Joe Hon)

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Joe Hon
Hobart Rowland
Jim Sherman