Diddy Wah Diddy!

Willie Dixon was born 100 years ago this month. The Chicago blues musician, arranger and record producer influenced many generations of artists, from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley to Bob Dylan, Cream, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

He wrote over 500 songs, including “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”

Willie Dixon also wrote “Diddy Wah Diddy.” It’s been recorded by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Captain Beefheart.

Westporters know — and love best — the version by The Remains.

Featuring Staples grads Barry Tashian (vocals/guitar) and Bill Briggs (keyboards), they opened for the Beatles on their 1966 tour. The Remains performed on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.”

Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

Springsteen’s guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt, called the Remains “living history, and one of our most valued American treasures.”

And Rolling Stone magazine described them as “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”

But they dissolved before most Americans ever discovered their greatness. They got back together a while back, and — though drummer Chip Damiani died last year — still occasionally perform to ecstatic audiences.

Now “Diddy Wah Diddy” is about to get a new life — with another Westport twist.

Staples Class of 1970 grad Bill Banks — whose real job is banking — spent the past year developing Billion Planets Music. Emerging artists and seasoned veterans to work together, in music and video production.

Westport's Charlie Karp, at the hometown Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, has long known

Westport’s Charlie Karp, at the hometown Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, has long known “Diddy Wah Diddy.”

A group of those musicians — including Charlie Karp, who dropped out of Staples in 1970 to tour with Buddy Miles, and later played with Hendrix — has recorded a new version of the song. Banks calls the 2015 genre “blues/hop.”

He liked the collaboration so much, he contacted Willie Dixon’s family in Chicago. They loved it. During the centennial of his birth, it may be included in some of the Blues Heaven Foundation events they’ve planned.

Meanwhile, Banks is starting work on a movie about life in North Miami, as seen through the eyes of Hans Louis. He’s the “emerging artist” singer on the new recording.

“Hans grew up there,” Banks says. “The theme is that it’s an urban/modern ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ place.” (The Remains’ Tashian sang: “She don’t come from no town, she don’t come from no city/She lives way down in Diddy Wah Diddy.”)

You’ll have to wait to hear the blues/hop version. But just click below for the Remains’ take. They’re still rockin’, after 50 years.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

BONUS HIT: Click here to link to a Gap commercial — shown only in India — featuring “Diddy Wah Diddy.”

18 responses to “Diddy Wah Diddy!

  1. Eric Pearson

    Willie played at Players Tavern in the late 70s.

  2. Very cool and I think Bill Banks was our neighbor on Richmondville Ave in the 1960’s. I remember their family well if that’s the same banks family. Ronnie was his brother and we kids played a lot on that street – -it was a playin street.

  3. Excuse the typo– Banks with a capital “B.”

  4. Pam Barkentin

    Great post, Dan. As a side note, it deserves a mention to say that Willie Dixon had another important impact on Westport. As you probably knw, and perhaps have written about already, Bo Diddley came to Westport in the 1950’s to play to small crowds of teenagers at St. Anthony’s Hall in Saugatuck.

    • I have heard that Bo Diddley story often, but don’t know any details. Sounds amazingly random. How did it come about? How did it go? Did Bo Diddley often play suburban church gigs? Inquiring minds want to know — if anyone has any knowledge of this, please chime in!

  5. Sven Davidson

    Who’s playin’ the harp?

  6. Pam Barkentin

    Two songs written by Willie Dixon, Back Door Man, and Little Red Rooster, were recorded by Bo Diddley, and were possible ones he performed and we danced to at those Concerts in the ’50s…

  7. Pam Barkentin

    Sorry…egg on my face. Of course it was Howlin’ Wolf who had recorded those songs, not Bo Diddley…my bad :o(

  8. Bo also played at a “Fandango” dance (Friday nights?) outside at Longshore. He showed up very late but the faithful waited. He did show and played a very cool set through a very large homemade amp. First “big” amp I’d ever seen. Won’t forget it! The Remains version of “Diddy Wah Diddy” is being used in a new GAP commercial coming soon to a computer near you
    (internet only).

  9. Sven Davidson

    Didn’t know Briggs played the harp. Hard to do while playing keyboards at the same time. His riff on Diddy Wah Diddy rivals Delbert McClinton and Little Walter!

  10. Bill Briggs

    When I do it live I use a “rack” Sven.

  11. Sven Davidson

    Yup. You, Dylan, Young — some of the greats.

  12. Pam Barkentin

    The Bo Diddley concerts I remember took place in the late 1950’s at the old St. Anthony’s Hall which was just accross from what is now Tarry Lodge. They were produced by a teen Staples student, Doug Richman (class of ’61), and possibly Mike Youngman (also ’61, and lead singer of town rock group The Schemers…I Googled it). It was on a small stage, and there was a big open floor so we could dance, and I remember dancing with Beau James so close to the stage we could have touched Bo Diddley and, of course, Jerome, as they bantered musical put downs about each orhers’ manhood at each other.

  13. Barry Tashian remembers having seen Bo Diddley around 1957 at St. Anthony’s Hall. He recalls Tim Smith as the individual/promoter who set it up. We had interviewed Barry about this for “America’s Lost Band”–although it didn’t make it into the final cut–and he later wrote about it in Mark Smollin’s “The Real Rock & Roll High School” (an ebook that can be obtained through Mark’s website). It was a really inspirational experience for Barry as he got to chat with Bo a little bit prior to the show and then got to watch him close up right by the front of the stage during the performance.

  14. Do they still have the Longsore and Y dances for the kids today? They were what we all looked forward to during the week. Lots of great memories. Except that one night Bill Banks had an altercation on the steps of the Y and ended up at Norwalk hospital. But that’s another story…