Peggy Jones, later known as Lady Bo, was an innovative and expressive guitarist who was an original part of Bo Diddley’s sound from 1957 to 1962 and influential in her own songwriting and musical endeavors thereafter. Although there is no obituary currently published, a few hours ago today, Ponderosa Stomp Foundation—an annual music festival taking place in New Orleans, LA—who hosted Lady Bo in 2011 announced her death. A few days prior, husband and bass player Wally Malone wrote on his Facebook page, “Today is one of the saddest days of my life. My wife and partner of 47 Years has been called up to that great rock & roll band in the heavens to be reunited with Bo Diddley, Jerome Green and Clifton James”. Peggy Jones played a pivotal role in rock and roll and remained a main source of inspiration for hundreds of musicians to follow. Her immense dedication, passion and talent will forever be remembered and influential in the history of music. Rest in peace Lady Bo. We love you.
A brief history of Peggy Jones A.K.A Lady Bo
Peggy Jones was born on July 19th, 1940 in New York City where she grew up and attended Manhattan’s High School for the Performing Arts. She trained in opera, tap dancing, and ballet. Her life and music took a new direction when she met Bo Diddley for the first time; Diddley was so shocked to see a young woman with a guitar that he initiated conversation, eventually inviting her to play with him in his dressing room after a show. Jones quickly became a session musician in Bo Diddley’s band before officially joining as a full time member. During this time, Diddley taught her how to play in his distinctive open tuning and she began to make bold use of effects which contributed greatly to her style. Jones and Diddley traded back and forth between rhythm and lead guitar so effortlessly that it often sounded like one player. Jones herself once said, “You couldn’t tell one guitar from the other unless you were there.” Together they created the sound that would define rhythm and blues guitar in the sixties. During her first stint with Diddley’s band she contributed guitar and vocals to recordings such as “Road Runner” and “Hey Bo Diddley.” She demonstrated her skill and animated style on the 1961 recording “Aztec,” which she played all of the guitars, but is often mistakenly attributed to Bo Diddley.
In addition to her work with Bo Diddley’s band, Jones had a rich solo career. She formed her own band, The Jewels (also known as The Family Jewel, Lady Bo and the Family Jewel, The Fabulous Jewels, Little Jewel and the Family Jewel, and Lady Bo and the BC Horns). Jones left Diddley’s band in 1961 to focus on her work with the Jewels which went on to become one of the most popular touring bands on the East Coast. During this time she also released singles with groups such as the Bop Chords and the Continentals and even briefly joined James Brown’s backing band. When Jones rejoined Bo Diddley in 1970 her entire band came with her and became his new backing band. At their first show back together the crowd was so excited to see them back on stage together that they chanted “Lady Bo”—thus creating Jones’s famous nickname.
Peggy Jones always displayed a wonderful willingness to experiment with new guitars, effects, and sounds. Her enthusiasm for new guitar technologies helped balance out Diddley’s reliance on the cigar box guitar that made him famous, and allowed the band to evolve sonically over the course of time. Though she typically favored Gibson guitars, Lady Bo also played more experimental instruments such as the Roland guitar synthesizer and used their unique sounds in ways not often heard in rhythm and blues guitar. Lady Bo is seldom given the recognition she deserves for helping create the sound that would define rhythm and blues for decades, but her sonic influence will remain a significant part of music history.
UPDATE: Since it’s not 2016, like we thought for a brief moment, Peggy Jones actually passed away at 75 years-old.