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Musical legend Bo Diddley rocks Gilroy audiences

Evan Yee/The Dispatch

Bo Diddley (right) and John Garcia get their licks in at Old City Hall.

By Billy Allstetter
Dispatch Staff Writer

GILROY — It’s 30 years later and the beat still goes on — even in Gilroy.

The sound was more complex than his original recordings 30 years ago, but the driving beat that made Bo Diddley a legend still shook the floor at Old City Hall Tuesday night.

Close to 150 people stomped, cheered and clapped for Bo Diddley and the John Garcia Band as they put on two high-energy shows.

Big name musicians rarely play in Gilroy, but the local promoters who brought Diddley to town promise more such concerts in the future.

“This is all right for Gilroy,” said one smiling music fan, Joy Hayden, as she left after the first show.

“This is the first time I’ve partied here and I’ve lived in this town for eight years,” said her husband, Russ.

Whether it’s in his own songs — Bo Diddley, Who Do You Love and I’m a Man — or songs that The Who {Magic Bus), Eric Clapton {Hand Jive) or the Grateful Dead {Not Fade A way) have recorded since, the syncopated rhythm that Did­dley originated still shakes audiences to their feet and makes them clap their hands.

“Everybody just grabbed on to it and held it,” said Diddley Tuesday night of his trademark beat that has inspired audiences and performers for 30 years.

Dressed in a grey suit and a hat covered with pins from around the world, the 56-year-old Did­dley rocked, jived and joked like a 20-year-old. He ranged from a Jimi Hendrix-like rendition of The Star Spangled Banner to the rock ‘n’ roll classics Cherry Pie and You Send Me. Although the beat was the same as it was 30 years ago, all the songs had a jazzed-up and funked-up sound that brought them into the ’80s.

But it was more than just the beat that enter­tained the crowd last night. The X-rated banter with Lady Bo, the black guitar with a flashing Bo Diddley sign and a powerful backup performance by the John Garcia Band all added to the show.

“Garcia is a good group to work with,” said a undershirted Diddley as he wiped the sweat from his face backstage after the show. “Garcia is one hell of an entertainer.”

Garcia and his band played 45-minute opening sets before Diddley appeared for both shows. Gar­cia acted up by gyrating on the stage and climbing onto tables during the second show.

Old City Hall didn’t sell out for either of the two shows, but the promoters said they were pleased with the turnout.

“This is just the start of things,” said Morgan Hill resident Pete Edwards. Edwards and fellow Morgan Hill resident Leo Trumello, who call their partnership The Entertainer, booked Diddley. Trumello estimated they broke even or made a small profit on the show.

Diddley, who lives in Hawthorne, Fla., had never been to Gilroy before, but indicated he might return to entertain South County audiences.