The Duchess by JOtwell (click to buy)

From The Desk… Something in the Way They Play: Legendary Female Guitarists Part 5

The Duchess by JOtwell (click to buy)
The Duchess by JOtwell (click to buy)


Continued from:

As rock ‘n’ roll grew in popularity and visibility, another very visible lady guitarist showed up: Norma Jean Wofford a/k/a The Duchess, who was a staple of Bo Diddley’s band. Although not the first distaff guitar slinger that Bo had used (the first being Peggy Jones, known as “Lady Bo”), The Duchess became his iconic sidekick, with her sprayed-on outfits, sky-high heels, and a wig for every occasion. She usually played an exact double of whichever of his self-designed Gretsch guitars Bo chose for the show:  a Jupiter Thunderbird, Cadillac, or the famous Cigar Box.

With Bo’s background as a street performer, there’s no way of figuring whether he used her as a sideshow attraction on stage, where she also sang background, or if she was an integral part of the whirling rhythmic maelstrom that was the Bo Diddley sound. She was, however, credited with appearing on at least five Bo Diddley albums before retiring in 1966 to raise a family, so she must have been doing something right.



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