I was reading a great article yesterday about Bo Diddley. As a young kid he was fascinated with his mom's big tube radio. He thought to himself on many occasions there's got to be a way to get the radio to amplify his guitar.
So he started playing with the wires in the back of the radio. Unhooking 2 at a time until he figured out how to tap in to the signal path between the tuner part and the amplifier section. After many trial and errors he figured it out. And I guess luck he didn't blow anything up including himself.
So once he figured that out he made a pickup out of an old Victrola record player cartridge. I'm assuming he somehow put it against the wood to pick up the vibration like a lot of piezo acoustic pickups today. If anyone knows more please feel free to leave a post.
I find this fascinating how Bo Diddley not knowing anything about electronics just kept fooling around until he got it.
He went on to explain in the article he didn't have a choice. He knew what he wanted but didn't have the money to get it so he figured it out for himself!
He was also designing his own guitars about the same time Leo Fender was designing the Strat. One he was very famous for was the one that looked like the tail fin on a Cadillac car at the time and of course the famous square body look. Bo Diddley was definitely a trail blazer in this area, designing his own guitars in the early 50's.
Friends say he was always collecting all kinds of electronic and guitar parts trying to come up with something new and exciting in his act.
He also pioneered tremelo by using old clocks. I don't have enough info on that, wish I did. Something how he used two clock circuits against each other and his strumming figured into the equation somehow. I'll see what I can find.
Every once and awhile a rare Bo Diddley guitar shows up on eBay: