Diamond Rio Biography

This highly successful country band comprises Gene Johnson (10 August 1948, Jamestown, New York, USA; mandolin/fiddle), Jimmy Olander (b. 26 August 1961, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; lead guitar/banjo), Brian Prout (b. 4 December 1955, Troy, New York, USA; drums), Marty Roe (b. 28 December 1960, Lebanon, Ohio, USA; lead vocals/guitar), Dan Truman (b. 29 August 1956, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA; keyboards) and Dana Williams (b. 22 May 1961, Dayton, Ohio, USA; bass). Lead singer Roe was named after Marty Robbins and was singing country songs from the age of three. Johnson had played with David Bromberg and J.D. Crowe And The New South, while Olander was a veteran of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Williams is a nephew of the Osborne Brothers, making a great many interesting musical connections in Diamond Rio. They began playing as the Grizzly River Boys and by the time they were signed to Arista Records, they were the Tennessee River Boys. The band was told to change its name because it sounded too much like a gospel outfit. Two American truck manufacturers, Diamond T and Reo, merged as Diamond-Reo and with a little misspelling, Diamond Rio was born (so, incidentally, was REO Speedwagon).

In 1991, Diamond Rio became the first band to top the US country charts with their debut single, the love ballad ‘Meet In The Middle’. Their first album went platinum and yielded several more hit singles. They added a powerful rhythm section for their second album, an unusual move for country music. With singles such as ‘Mirror, Mirror’, ‘Mama, Don’t Forget To Pray For Me’, ‘Sawmill Road’ and ‘In A Week Or Two’, the band went from strength to strength. They developed their good humour with the catchy ‘Norma Jean Riley’ (‘Fool, fool, nothing you can do/Never going to see her with the likes of you.’) and ‘Bubba Hyde’. With the addition of Lee Roy Parnell and Steve Wariner, they become Jed Zepplin for a new treatment of ‘Workin’ Man Blues’ on the Merle Haggard tribute album, Mama’s Hungry Eyes. They also performed ‘Ten Feet Away’ on a tribute album to Keith Whitley. Prout’s wife, Nancy, is also a drummer, playing with Wild Rose, the all-female country band. In 1997, Diamond Rio won a Country Music Association Award for Vocal Group Of The Year, a deserved accolade as they blend state-of-the-art modern country rock with high harmonies and bluegrass instruments. They celebrated by releasing Unbelievable, a near faultless collection. Early in the new millennium they were riding high with smash hits such as 2002’s ‘Beautiful Mess’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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