On November 20, 1955, famed R&B singer Bo Diddley infuriated legendary TV personality Ed Sullivan, when he performed his song “Bo Diddley” instead of the planned number, “Sixteen Tons,” from his album Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger.
Bo Diddley wasn’t attempting to rile up the powerful Ed Sullivan, but he was caught between the wishes of his label, who wanted him to perform “Bo Diddley,” and Sullivan, who requested “Sixteen Tons.”
“I did two songs and he got mad,” Bo Diddley later recalled. “Ed Sullivan said that I was one of the first colored boys to ever double-cross him. Said that I wouldn’t last six months”.
The comments didn’t go over to well with Bo Diddley, who was prepared to assault Ed Sullivan.
“I was ready to fight, because I was a little young dude off the streets of Chicago an’ him callin’ me ‘black’ in them days was as bad as sayin’ ‘nigger,'” Bo Diddley said. “My manager says to me ‘That’s Mr. Sullivan. I says ‘I don’t give a sh**t about Mr. Sullivan. He don’t talk to me like that!’ An’ so he told me, he says: ‘I’ll see that you never work no more in show business. You’ll never get another TV show in your life!”
Bo Diddley never appeared on Sullivan’s show again and didn’t have any TV appearances again until the early 1960’s, but despite Ed Sullivan’s predictions, the singer went on to have a very successful career.
Between 1958 and 1963 alone, Diddley’s label Chess Records released 11 full-length albums by the singer.
Bo Diddley died on June 2, 2008 from heart failure in Archer, Georgia.
B.B. King’s November, 20, 1955 performance that got him banned from The Ed Sullivan Show is below.