Records That Made History

Bo Diddley – Black Gladiator

todayDecember 23, 2023 39

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Perhaps the hottest era of original Chicago Blues left its mark with Chess Records in the late 1960s. In an effort to appeal to younger audiences at the time, the label recruited an elite group of musicians, including the holy trinity to consist of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley.

Unfortunately, in the case of Muddy and Wolf, the inoculation with acid rock vibes of the solid and traditional Blues feel on their albums Electric Mud and The Howlin’ Wolf Album respectively, did not overcome the expected negative reviews which of course the artists loathed, although both have since gained a younger and more adventurous following, shedding the classic standards of those of the Chess Records era.

Bo Diddley, meanwhile, seemed to welcome this youth grab with open arms when he released The Black Gladiator in 1970. More than being charmed by its rock ‘n’ roll sound, the album helped them discover the Bo of the 1950s.

Working at a slower tempo than he had done in previous years, Diddley chose to follow the heavy funk direction followed by artists of the time such as Funkadelic, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix of the era by Band of Gypsys, including ten tracks on the album.

With a self-designed cover that makes you feel like he spent a wild weekend with funk diva Betty Davis and pornstar Vanessa Del Rio, Gladiator expanded Diddley’s rhythmic roots through gospel chants, urban soul and of raw R&B, delivering tracks like “Elephant Man,” “Power House” and “Hot Buttered Blues” with a thick honey flowing through their grooves, on par with anything Stax and Motown during this period.

Unfortunately, Black Gladiator never had the impact that Chess Records had hoped for on its original release date in the summer of 1970. But in its 53 years of release, the album is considered one of the great finds for the pioneers of good music, the lovers of rhythm and black power worldwide.

Nearly more than five decades later, Bo Diddley’s grand experiment in postmodernism remains as shocking as it was on day one.

From this legendary album we choose the track “Elephant Man”.


1. Elephant Man 4:28
2. You, Bo Diddley 3:30
3. Black Soul 2:47
4. Power House 2:50
5. If The Bible’s Right 3:08
6. I’ve Got A Feeling 2:46
7. Shut Up, Woman 3:40
8. Hot Buttered Blues 3:44
9. Funky Fly 2:55
10. I Don’t Like You 3:10

Written by: Dimitris Sigalos

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