Man of the Century

The late, great Bo Diddley helped put Lupo’s on the map
By PHILLIPE + JORGE  |  June 4, 2008
Bo-Diddley-1981INSIDE.jpg


Jorge met Bo Diddley in 1977 when the Young Adults were booked to play a week of gigs at Lupo’s, opening for, and then playing behind, the rock ’n’ roll originator. Bo, a particular favorite of Lupo, was the first “name” performer to play the club.

From 1975 to 1977, Lupo’s fare was quality local and regional acts (Rizzz, Roomful of Blues, the Hometown Rockers, Fat Man Wilson, Stovall Brown, Otis & Ridley, Tabaji, the Memphis Rockabilly Band, etc.) of a decidedly roots rock bent. So booking Bo was a big deal for the club (and for Rich Lupo personally). It was the first small step in turning the venue from a basic local beer hall with a blues band into a showcase club and regular stop on tours by older artists and emerging new bands.

This paved the way for shows by Rick Nelson, James Brown, Roy Orbison, and Big Joe Turner, as well as the Boomtown Rats, Talking Heads, the Dead Boys, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Rockpile. In other words, for most of the ’70s and ’80s, Lupo’s was the essential Rhode Island club. And it all started with Bo. The ’77 shows were so successful that Jim Wolpaw convinced Bo to appear in a documentary, the filmmaker’s first effort.

Jorge learned of Bo’s death from the BeloJo’s estimable pop music writer, Rick Massimo. Rick was collecting comments from locals who had known or worked with the great Did-dley. Bo was a warm and generous man, a powerful artist, and a pure original.

Ben Ratliff was spot-on with the opening line of his front-page story in Tuesday’s New York Times: “Bo Diddley, a singer and guitarist who invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself, died Monday.” (Little-known fact: his twin daughters, Tammi and Terri, lived in Rhode Island for a time in the 1980s.) His souped-up guitars weighed a ton, but, regardless of what or who else was there, he was always the heaviest thing on stage.

Back in 1977, the Young Adults presented Bo with a trophy that featured a man playing a guitar and the words “Bo Diddley, Man of the Century.” The next year, when he re-turned to Lupo’s for our series of gigs, Bo told us how the Rolling Stones, back in 1963 (they were opening for Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, and Bo) gave him some cufflinks with his initials on them.

He told us that he had epoxyed the cufflinks onto the trophy. To Bo, we were all just a bunch of white boy copycats. And he was absolutely right.

Green days
Beat feet this weekend down to the RI Sustainable Living Festival & Clean Energy Expo, at the home of our friends at the Apeiron Institute for Sustainable Living in western Coven-try.

The fest will take place June 7 and 8 at the Nickerson Community Center’s Camp Hamilton, which features a beautiful 150-year-old pine forest, streams and fields, nature trails with plant identification signs, a variety of wildlife, and Apeiron’s award-winning Center for Sustainable Living. (P&J have always had a problem with the word “sustainable,” which has about a million different definitions, but we know it is a good thing. However, if a certain something is sustained for more than four hours, consult your physician.)

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