The Bo Diddley Interview
The Payola Scandal
BD: Ainít enough people saying the right things. Theyíre hiding too much.
SG: What was the payola scandal about?
BD: Payola was a form of paying-off. This was the beginning of my decline. My records started getting played less and less when the payola trip came up.
I never knew anything about if anybody was getting paid to play Bo Diddley records. This never dawned on me as far as the disc jockey. The DJ held the
public, he had the key to the public. It looked like it was really what was happening. I never knew it as an artist. I knew we had this moral thing about the lyrics.
Lyrics couldnít be too strong. That was the only thing I knew about as far as things that were going out to the public in that area of the record business.
When people were listening and buying Bo Diddley records I thought it was the job of the record company to make the record. Iím just showing you exactly what
I thought and Iím pretty sure a lot of other entertainers thought the same way. I have never said this before! You are the first guy Iím saying this to, in this way.
I thought it was the job of the record company to record me as an artist, or anybody else, and give it to the radio stations. The radio station play it for the public.
The public in turn show whether they like it by buying it. But! When a good record went into a radio station and didnít get played and was a potential two or three million seller,
or a good record, you got some guy sitting there saying :ĒWell hey, Iím not going to play the record unless you lay a couple of C notes on me.Ē
But the artist donít know anything about this. Then when somebody blew the lid off of the whole scene catís like me, and other artists I know about. Records started getting played
less and less because the DJís at the time had no particular liking for Bo Diddley. They just played the record because probably somebody walked in and said ďHey man, hereís a box of
candy play my new releases.í, But he had a record company, like probably Chess Records went in and said ďIíll get Bo Diddley to come by and do a record hop if you play his new record.
You scratch my back and Iíll scratch yours.Ē This is the way it was. Later I found this out.
SG: So your record company executive was doing this behind your back?
BD: But he wasnít doing me any harm. He was getting his product played by saying ďOK Iíll send your wife a box of candy.Ē Now I donít know if it was candy or not.
He might have sent the dude some bread for all I know. But I donít know this. Then all of a sudden the radio stations started freaking out and saying things like, Iím quoting from what
I heard from some DJís who are no longer DJís because of the payola system ďI was accused of taking money and giving none of it to the radio station and weíre not allowed to accept presents
from anybody.Ē I said ďIf you play my record and I come by and say, hey man I brought you a shirt and tie with your initials on it, thatís my business if I give it to you. You played my
record.Ē And the DJ says ďWell wait a minute you canít do that.Ē Whether people know it or not back in the sixties it became a type of dictatorship and you have almost the same thing now.
Because if a program director donít like Bo Diddley my record will never get played on that station and I donít think thatís right. Itís not for him to say as long as the music is in the
Rock and Roll vein. If Iím one of those artists I should be given a chance if thereís time.