In fact to start with a definition would be in order.
They seem mostly to have 1 string but 2 strings are not unknown.
Some seem to be played by "striking/drumming" some by strumming/picking.
The bottle is almost part of it.
In my nievity i thought it might have had something to do with Bo Diddley, the great Rock and Roller. Of course it is not, people have been rigging these up and playing them for a long long time.
So you knowledgeable guys, talk to me (us) about them. Better still beat me to writing an article about them. :)
The diddley bow is of African-American origin, probably developed from instruments found on the Ghana coast of west Africa. The diddley bow is rarely heard outside the rural south. Other nicknames for this instrument include “jitterbug” or “one-string,” while an ethnomusicologist would formally call it a “monochord zither.”
The Ghana coast instruments are made from raffia plant stem/trunk with a small piece of the bark slit along the length of the stem and supported off the stem with a couple of pieces of wood, slipped under the slit bark and slid towards the ends. This is the string. The instrument is played by two people. One person plays a rhythm on the string with two sticks, while another changes the pitch of the string with a slide of some sort.
How the instrument came to America and was transformed from a two person instrument to a one-person instrument and from using a plant fiber "string" to broom wire is lost to history. It is likely that a monochord zither of some form was always in the background, but was considered unimportant or perhaps was not even recognized as a musical instrument by the people who were writing about these things at the time. Since it is mostly played by children, this would further reduce its apparent importance.
A good book for further reading about this topic is Kubik, Gerhard, Africa and the Blues, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson MS (1999). This book includes discussion of origins of diddley bow from western Africa and its development and evolution in the southern United States. As I mentioned before, much of the 19th century history is lost/conjectural.
David Evans also has a good article on diddley bows in "Afro-American One-Stringed Instruments," Afro-American Folk Arts and Crafts, ed. William Ferris, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson MS (1983), pp 181-196. This is a reprint of Dr. Evans' article in Western Folklore29 (1970), pp 229-45.
Wille, that is great. You will have seen that I have put an article on the "development" of the the Diddly Bo in "Wot no articles" But this is the sort of information I am very short of. Thanks too for the references.
PS I think you are in my article playing a duet with Pythagoras! :)
Yep, Bo Diddley definitely stole his name from the instrument, played them like other poor folk, built his own guitar in the shape of a cigar box. Even if it's clouded in mystery, when looking at one, you can clearly tell that it's a simple poor man's guitar. Listen to Lightnin Hopkins lately? He's the one string champ in my opinion. I hate to be Captain Obvious, but when you own nothing, necessity truly is the mother of invention.
Yep, Bo Diddley definitely stole his name from the instrument ...
The origin of the name is somewhat unclear, as several differing stories and claims exist. Bo Diddley himself has said that the name first belonged to a singer his adoptive mother was familiar with, while harmonicist Billy Boy Arnold once said in an interview that it was originally the name of a local comedian that Leonard Chess borrowed for the song title and artist name for Bo Diddley's first single.