"Diddy Wah Diddy" is a song written by Willie Dixon and Ellas McDaniel—known as Bo Diddley—and recorded by the latter in 1956. Over the years, the song has been covered by many bands and artists, including The Astronauts, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, The Remains, The Twilights, Taj Mahal, The Sonics, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and The Blues Band among others.
Original version by Bo Diddley
"Diddy Wah Diddy" was Bo Diddley's fourth single release on Checker Records, and was released in early 1956. The song was recorded on November 10, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois. The recording featured The Moonglows on backing vocals, Willie Dixon on bass, Jody Williams on guitar, along with Bo Diddley, Clifton James on drums, Jerome Green playing the maracas, and Little Willie Smith on harmonica.
Lyrically, the song makes mention of the mythical town of Diddy Wah Diddy. It was not unusual in the early part of the 20th century for African Americans in the southern states (particularly in Florida) to speak of various mythical cities and countries such as Beluthahatchie, Heaven, Diddy Wah Diddy and West Hell as if they were real. Of all the imaginary locations that were in common usage at the time, folklorist and ethnomusicologist Benjamin Albert Botkin has noted that Diddy Wah Diddy was "the largest and best known of the Negro mythical places." It was commonly believed that in Diddy Wah Diddy food could be found in abundance, the townsfolk did not have to work, and people and animals had no concerns. Dixon and McDaniel's song is sung from the point of view of a man whose lover lives in this mythical location, as evidenced by such lines as...
- She loves her man, just is a pity
- Crazy 'bout my gal in Diddy Wah Diddy
- Ain't no town, and it ain't no city
- But oh, how they love in Diddy Wah Diddy
The song is often confused with Blind Blake's similarly titled 1928 song, "Diddie Wa Diddie", which was also covered by various bands and artists mostly under the name "Diddy Wah Diddy".
The first known cover of the song was by the Colorado based rock band The Astronauts, on their RCA album The Astronauts Orbit Campus, in 1964.
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band recorded a blues rock version of the track, produced by David Gates, later the leader of Bread, in January 1966 at Sunset Sound Recorders studio in Hollywood, California. It was the band's first single, released on the A&M label in March of that year. On some copies of the single, it was incorrectly credited to A. Christensen as the songwriter. The track shortly gained interest and became a regional hit, with the band appearing on the TV show Where The Action Is to promote it in May 1966, in a mimed segment filmed on a California beach.
Around the same time, The Remains, from Boston, released a garage rock version of the song which became a hit in the East Coast charts.
The Sonics covered the song as a garage rock version around 1966, and it was included in the 1991 release of Maintaining My Cool and the 2004 Sundazed reissue of the album Introducing the Sonics.
Two Australian bands, The Twilights, and Mike Furber and the Bowery Boys, covered the song, again in 1966. Another Australian band, Running Jumping Standing Still, recorded a version in 1967, which charted #13 in Melbourne.
A cover by blues rock band The Fabulous Thunderbirds appeared on their 1982 album T-Bird Rhythm.
A loosely interpreted garage rock cover of "Diddy Wah Diddy" was recorded by the Ty Segall Band for their 2012 album Slaughterhouse.
In popular culture
"Diddy Wah Diddy" is mentioned by name on the cover of the first issue of Robert Crumb's Zap Comix, where a woman asks Mr. Natural for the meaning of the song's title.
Diddy Wah Diddy at Allmusic