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Loomis learned from a music legend

Bo Diddley protege to play at Olde Boston’s

November 27, 2011
By BARBARA WALLACE HUGHES, Messenger managing editor , Messenger News

Hamilton Loomis says he wanted to show Bo Diddley that even teenagers appreciated the icon's music and significance.

So during intermission at one of Diddley's shows in Houston, Texas, the then-16-year-old Loomis took his guitar backstage and played some of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's music.

"He asked for more," Loomis said.

During the second set, Diddley saw Loomis sitting up front and invited him on stage to play, which he did - with a guitar loaned to him by the group's rhythm guitarist. When they were done, Loomis said, Diddley "took off his signature hat ... and he put his hat on my head." symbolically passing the torch to the young man whom he would mentor for the next decade.

"He took a liking to me and took me under his wing," Loomis said of Bo Diddley.

Not only did he give Loomis professional advice, but he often invited the young guitarist and his band to barbecues at his Florida home, "where we would sit and shoot the breeze,"

"The experience was amazing, to be able to learn from somebody like that ... who had been in the business for 50 years, and listen to stories of hardships from that time," Loomis said. "It makes you appreciate what you have today and how different the industry is."

Bo Diddley and people like him "paved the way," Loomis said. "There were no standards. The rules hadn't been made yet. It was an explosive time for ... music. To be able to have experienced that with someone who was there."

A few years later, Loomis received a replica of Bo Diddley's signature red rectangular guitars - at the legend's insistence.

"I would check on him every few months after he developed diabetes," Loomis said. "I was talking to him one day and asked how he felt. He said, 'I feel pretty good because Gretch (Guitar Co.) just came out with my signature, tribute model.'"

Bo Diddley said he would have the company send Loomis one, and Loomis got a call the next day from a Gretch official. The next time the two did a show together, Loomis asked his mentor to sign the guitar.

"He did, and we played," Loomis said. "I played it with him whenever I was able to. It's one of my prized possessions. I'm going to feature it on my first live DVD, which we shot back in March."

The DVD will be released in December and was shot in Cedar Falls.

The relationship, which lasted until Bo Diddley died in 2008 of heart failure, provided "a lot of history, a lot of memories."

Loomis, who grew up in Texas, said there were always guitars around the house. His father was a bass guitar player, and Loomis learned to play as a child.

However, when it comes to playing rhythm guitar, his technique is uniquely his - and resulted from an injury that he decided wouldn't keep him off the stage.

"I have an interesting style of doing chords," he said, "as opposed to playing lead, when I'm playring rhythm guitar, I leave out a lot of notes."

"Basically, I burned my finger on a plate of fajitas - we have a lot of those in south Texas. It was a stupid thing ... a few days before a gig. I'm not going to cancel a gig, to hell with that. I'm not going to let one finger stop a performance. I have three more on my fretting hand," he said.

So Loomis began experimenting, paring the chords from six notes to only two or three. Then, he decided to tape up other fingers, and see if he could still play. He said he sees it as insurance.

"I will never have to cancel a gig if I have three good fingers," he said.

Local music fans can hear Loomis' blend of rock, blues, soul and funk at 9 p.m. Dec. 2 at Olde Boston's, 809 Central Ave. There is no cover charge.

Those attending can expect to hear a "fun, funky, all-original show," Loomis said. "I like to interact with the crowd."

Loomis said his music starts with a broth of the blues, and he adds a sprinkle of funk, soul and rock to make it a gumbo - then he "serves it up with hot sauce."

Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or



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