Bo Diddley Remembered as a True Life-Saver
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
While millions across the world knew him as a legendary musician, many gathered Saturday to remember their friend, and for a few, a true life-saver.
It was a rocking funeral, fitting for a father of rock and roll.
The stories are as plentiful as the hundreds gathered indoors and out.
Gator Wood brought a picture on a 25-hour motorcycle ride from Arkansas to attend the funeral. He says Bo Diddley saved his life twice. First, getting him off drug and alcohol addictions. And then when he was considering suicide after his wife's death.
"I told him I really had enough and was checking out," says Wood. "And he (Diddley) said, I couldn't do that because he'd have to live his life without me."
But now, it's Bo Diddley that's gone.
"Now I have to go on without him and it's going to be real hard."
Sorrowful embraces for another life Bo Diddley saved. Jill Schneider became a massage therapist for Diddley 26 years ago when she was flat-broke with a 4-year-old-son. Now that son is part of her favorite memory of the legend.
"Bo is this big black guy," remembers Schneider. "And he came up to my son and says 'You don't talk to your momma like that,' and my son has never talked back to me since."
Family and friends made a quiet procession in to the funeral, including Billy "Dino" Downing, who drummed with Diddley in the 60s. But indoors, there was no holding back... singing, dancing, clapping. And the fun-loving Diddley is what Downing remembers, especially Diddley's fondess for practical jokes.
"Gluing their shoes to the floor, things like that, to musicians, you know," says Downing. "Those are the kind of things we remember. And the cooking, he loved to cook."
But it was his contributions to rock and roll that more people are familiar with.
Legendary photographer Bob Gruen says Diddley was sought after even by the other icons.
"When he was coming to America with the Beatles in 1964 someone asked John Lennon what the first thing you're going to do," remembers Gruen. "And he (Lennon) says, 'I want to meet Bo Diddley because Bo Diddley is the guy."
For the the thousands that saw him in person in North Central Florida, Bo Diddley will always be the guy.
"It's a great loss," says Gruen. "The beginning of the end of the era. But not the end of rock and roll. Rock and roll will go on forever, thanks to Bo Diddley."
"He might have been a rock and roll star to some, but he was really a friend to others," Wood says with tears in his eyes.
Bo Diddley leaves behind 4 children, 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren.
He was 79.
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