I was so very saddened when I learned that Lady Bo passed away last week.
When I first began what turned into a rather unique journey documenting the legacy of the song LOUIE LOUIE, Lady Bo was there at the very beginning.
The KFJC Maximum LOUIE LOUIE marathon was ground zero for this special adventure. This small radio station in Los Altos Hills, California created a marathon to collect and broadcast every single version of this song, and Richard Berry, the author of the song, was the very special guest. Lady Bo and her band the Lady Bo Trio, featuring her husband Wally Malone on bass and George Ostrander on drums, was originally supposed to back up Richard Berry. A few hours before the event, Jack Ely, the original vocalist for the Kingsmen, flew in from Portland, Oregon. This was the very first time Richard Berry had ever met a member of the Kingsmen, which had a national hit record with their interpretation of Richard’s song.
It turned out to be a more elaborate performance than expected. Richard Berry played the keyboards, Jack Ely became a second bass player and local musician Ricky Sludge of the Readymades brought in his trumpet. It all took place in a college classroom that was converted into a makeshift recording studio. An audience of KFJC DJs and local musical enthusiasts squeezed their way into this room, with many audience members becoming actual participants singing portions of the song to a live radio audience.
While the marathon itself received a lot of local news coverage, I was the only one that brought a video camera to this once-in-a-lifetime performance. Using a somewhat bulky 3-tube video camera and portable 3/4″ U-matic recorder that I borrowed from a local public access channel, I was able to capture something that nobody else was getting.
Here’s the first ten minutes of the historic performance by Richard Berry, Jack Ely and the Lady Bo Trio at the KFJC Maximum LOUIE LOUIE Marathon.
This is the FIRST TIME this footage has ever been shared publicly.
I also assembled a special video clip that focused on Lady Bo at this event, including some interview footage and a portion of this performance that included some inspired scat singing.
Lady Bo had quite a career in the music biz. She played rhythm guitar with Bo Diddley‘s band in the late 1950s and early 1960s, becoming one of the first female rock guitarists in a famous rock ‘n’ roll band.
She was often called the “Queen Mother of Guitar.”
AfroPunk provided a wonderful history lesson on her career:
Peggy Jones, aka Lady Bo grew up in New York City, attending Manhattan’s famed High School for the Performing Arts (of Fame fame) as a singer and dancer. She studied tap and ballet and trained in opera. She had been playing guitar for only 2 years when a chance encounter with Bo Diddley before a show at the legendary Apollo Theatre led to a life-changing gig as Bo Diddley’s lead guitarist. Diddley was awestruck by the sight of a beautiful young woman with a guitar and struck up a conversation. When Jerome Greene (the single luckiest maraca player in the history of music) ran out to tell Bo that dinner was being served in the dressing room, Bo invited Jones in. Jones recounts in an interview with Lea Gilmore:
After a while he opened his guitar, asked me to grab mine and play something. When I opened my case he laughed louder than anyone I’d heard before. I wanted to know what¹s funny? Hysterically he said what is that? He had never seen a Supro guitar. I said, “Now that’s a dumb question! First you probably never saw a girl carrying a guitar down the street before and want to know if I played it, did you think that was funny?” He said, “NO!” I continued, “then you insult my ax and I listen to Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Charlie Parker and I THINK I’ve heard of you! Do you think that’s funny?” He said, “No, but I like your attitude, let’s play something.” I said OK and the rest is history.
SheShreds provided an overview of her career after her initial run with Bo Didley:
In addition to her work with Bo Diddley’s band, Jones had a rich solo career. She formed her own band, The Jewels (also known as The Family Jewel, Lady Bo and the Family Jewel, The Fabulous Jewels, Little Jewel and the Family Jewel, and Lady Bo and the BC Horns). Jones left Diddley’s band in 1961 to focus on her work with the Jewels which went on to become one of the most popular touring bands on the East Coast. During this time she also released singles with groups such as the Bop Chords and the Continentals and even briefly joined James Brown’s backing band. When Jones rejoined Bo Diddley in 1970 her entire band came with her and became his new backing band. At their first show back together the crowd was so excited to see them back on stage together that they chanted “Lady Bo”—thus creating Jones’s famous nickname.
My friend Dave Seabury took some great photos of Lady Bo performing with Bo Diddley. Here’s one of his photos from an appearance at the Keystone Berkeley sometime in the 1970’s…
Lady Bo’s death was announced on Facebook by her beloved husband / longtime band member Wally Malone. Eighteen days after she was diagnosed with cancer, she died on September 16th at the age of 75 years old.
Today is one of the saddest days of my life. My wife and partner of 47 Years has been called up to that great rock & roll band in the heavens to be reunited with Bo Diddley, Jerome Green and Clifton James.
Details for her memorial / celebration of life will be announced in the near future.
Wikipedia on Lady Bo (Peggy Jones Malone)
AfroPunk obit on Lady Bo
SheShredsMagazine obit on Lady Bo
Ultimate Classic Rock obit on Lady Bo
David Blakely’s tribute to Lady Bo – comprehensive overview of her career
The official Lady Bo webpage