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Bo's Brisbane guitar tours world -

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Bo's Brisbane guitar tours world

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 June , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Donna Field

ELEANOR HALL: Workers at a Brisbane guitar factory are today particularly touched by the death of
one of rock and roll's founding fathers.

The business provided Bo Diddley with one of his signature rectangular guitars in the late 1970s.

The Brisbane guitar became known as the "Mean Machine" and the Mississippi legend took it with him
around the world.

In Brisbane, Donna Field spoke to the guitar's craftsman Chris Kinman.

(Excerpt from a Bo Diddley song "Mona")

CHRIS KINMAN: I was in my factory, a guitar factory, cleaning up one Sunday afternoon and the phone
rang and this voice says "Bo Diddley here". I nearly dropped dead because he had been an icon of
mine, a rhythm and blues icon and had a lot of his records and we used to play a lot of his songs
in a previous band I was in and apparently he had seen one of my guitars when he was in Brisbane
here and he quite liked it.

He liked the look of the timber. I was using New Guinea walnut and it had this thick stream kind of
figure in it. It is very pretty timber and he really liked it and he asked the guitar player where
he got it and got my number and called me up and I went in to his hotel that day and met him and we
worked out - he wanted a guitar built - so we worked out all the details and I went away and spent
the next four or five weeks making this thing.

DONNA FIELD: And it was quite a unique guitar. It became known as the "Mean Machine" I understand.
That is what he had dubbed it. What was so special about it?

CHRIS KINMAN: Well, apart from the shape. I mean there is not many rectangle guitars in the world.
He is probably the only one who plays a rectangle guitar or played. That was his trademark and it
was that particular guitar, he hadn't had a guitar made for maybe 20 or 30 years before that so the
one that he had was well and truly used and he wanted a kind of, more modern instrument I suppose
and he had me put various sound effects devices inside the guitar which had never been done before
- with these particular sound effects anyway and they contributed to his, what we call the Diddley

He had a special kind of sound and he used effects called tremolo and phase shifting to get that

(Excerpt from a Bo Diddley song "Mona")

DONNA FIELD: And what was it like - going back then, meeting someone who was a bit of an idol of

CHRIS KINMAN: Well, you know (laughs). My jaw just about dropped through the floor when I realised
it was him on the phone. I thought it was someone playing a practical joke to start with but he
quickly convinced me that he was the real McCoy and it was the thrill of a lifetime - you know, to
meet him.

He is a big black man who I had never met a black man before let alone a legendary blues singer and
he is a real icon in the rhythm and blues field. He is commonly known as one of the three
grandfathers of rock and roll.

There was Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. They were the three at the roots of rock and
roll apparently and he was a rhythm and blues legend in his own right and to meet such a legend was
just, well, it was just overwhelming actually.

DONNA FIELD: And what happened with the "Mean Machine"? Did he go on and play it for many years?

CHRIS KINMAN: Yes, I sort of got a bit of feedback over the years. I saw things in magazines,
foreign magazines that found their way to Australia and there was pictures of Bo Diddley playing
and you know, on the European circuit and in England and I recognised the guitar because it was
very distinctive on stage. You couldn't mistake it for anything else.

DONNA FIELD: So Bo Diddley has passed away overnight. What was you last contact with him and what
are your thoughts on his passing?

CHRIS KINMAN: Well, I am very sad personally and my staff here are very sad and wow, I guess it is
the closing of an era. You know, the passing of Bo. The last time I had anything to do with him was
some years ago. Someone had got in contact with me from America and they had set up a guest book on
the internet for his birthday and they invited me to go and sign in the guest book so I realised he
was getting old at that point and I made the comment that I hoped that he was going to be around
for a long time yet and that old guitar players never really die, their strings just go rusty so,
so it has come to pass now.

ELEANOR HALL: Chris Kinman the Brisbane guitar maker who made the "Mean Machine" for Bo Diddley
speaking to Donna Field.