Bo Diddley & The Duchess (AKA Norma-Jean Wofford)
One of the first female rock ‘n’ roll guitarists was a tall, stunning black woman with a towering bouffant hairdo, a skintight gold lame dress (or black leather pants), high heels, and a custom Gretsch electric guitar, designed by the man usually standing next to her onstage, Bo Diddley.
Having a woman in a rock ‘n’ roll/R&B band who was not simply a back-up singer was unheard of at the time. The Duchess, originally from Pittsburgh, was said to be Bo’s sister or half-sister, a rumor he started himself, partly because he considered her close enough to qualify as family but also because he didn’t want the other band members to make a move on her. He told his biographer, “Part of the reason I decided to go with that little lie was that it put me in a better position to protect her when we were on the road.”.
The Duchess recorded and toured with Bo for four years and was the band member he entrusted with his money. She sang back-up with the Bo-dettes (then comprised of Gloria Morgan and Lily Jamieson, a.k.a. “Bee Bee”), managing simultaneously to sing with them, play rhythm guitar, and not miss a single dance move. The Duchess appeared on several of Bo’s albums, recorded for Leonard Chess’s Checkers label, such as Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley and Company, Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (a live album recorded at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), Hey! Good Lookin’, 500% More Man, and The Originator.
The Duchess left Bo Diddley’s band in 1966 to get married and raise a family in Florida. The Duchess showed up at a Bo Diddley concert to say hello to her old friend in July 2004 in California, where she was then living. She died the following year in Fontana, California. (via)
Yay new blog design! It’s pastel perfection full of sixties influence.