Diamond Rio is an American Country music/Christian music band formed in 1984 in Nashville, Tennessee. The band consists of Gene Johnson (mandolin, guitar, fiddle, tenor vocals), Jimmy Olander (lead guitar, Dobro, banjo), Brian Prout (drums), Marty Roe (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Dan Truman (keyboards, organ, synthesizer), and Dana Williams (bass guitar, baritone vocals).
Diamond Rio was signed to Arista Records in 1988. Due to a series of health issues affecting three of its members, however, the band did not make its debut until 1991, with the release of the single "Meet in the Middle". It reached Number One on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs) charts, making Diamond Rio the first country music group in history to reach Number One with a debut single. "Meet in the Middle" was followed by 32 more chart singles throughout the band's career, including four more Number Ones: "How Your Love Makes Me Feel" (1997), "One More Day" (2001), "Beautiful Mess" (2002), and "I Believe" (2003).
Diamond Rio has recorded seven studio albums, two Greatest Hits compilations, and an album of Christmas music. Three of the band's albums have achieved RIAA platinum certification in the United States. In addition, Diamond Rio has received four Group of the Year awards from the Country Music Association, two Top Vocal Group awards from the Academy of Country Music, and thirteen Grammy Award nominations.
Most of the members of Diamond Rio had previous experience in music. Marty Roe, who was named for country music artist Marty Robbins, began singing country music at the age of three, Gene Johnson had previously played with David Bromberg, Jimmy Olander was a former backing member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Dana Williams was a nephew of the Osborne Brothers.
In 1984, Truman (who had just received a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University) and Roe met for the first time at Opryland USA, a theme park in Nashville, Tennessee. The two soon formed a bluegrass group which was named the Tennessee River Boys. Olander and Johnson, who previously worked with Keith Whitley, joined a year later, followed by Prout and Williams. The band's name was finally changed to Diamond Rio, because others had thought that the previous name made the group sound like a gospel music band. The name Diamond Rio came from truck manufacturer Diamond Reo, a merger of two truck manufacturers, Diamond T and Reo (the latter of which became misspelled in the band's name).
After assuming their new name of Diamond Rio, the band was discovered by Tim DuBois (a record executive at Arista Records) in May 1989. DuBois, who had just opened the label's Nashville division, signed Diamond Rio to a record deal that same month. Shortly after the band received its record deal, however, Olander, Johnson and Williams came down with health problems. On August 9, 1990, Johnson was injured in a carpentry accident at Arkansas a day before his 41st birthday. Johnson was finishing display cabinets for a local computer store when he rushed a cut, injuring his left thumb in the process. Robert Bolin substituted for Johnson during Diamond Rio's tour in Brazil. On September 6, four weeks after Johnson's accident, Williams was water skiing with his family in Cookeville as his boat came forward at high speed when his wife was picking him up. The propellor slashed Williams' legs and he was rushed to a hospital for his injuries. Brian Helgos and Paul Gregg substituted for Williams. Meanwhile, Olander discovered that he had a tumor. Five years later, after undergoing numerous tests, Olander's tumor was never diagnosed and it disappeared.
First two albums:
In 1991, after Olander, Williams, and Johnson had recovered, the six musicians set to work on their self-titled first album. Its first single, "Meet in the Middle", was released early that year; peaking at Number One on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, the song made Diamond Rio the first country music band in history to reach Number One with its debut single. The song served as the lead-off to their debut album, also titled Diamond Rio. In addition to "Meet in the Middle", it produced the Top 10 hits "Mirror, Mirror", "Mama Don't Forget to Pray for Me", "Norma Jean Riley" and "Nowhere Bound". Also included on the album was a bluegrass instrumental track entitled "Poultry Promenade", which earned the band its first Grammy nomination.Diamond Rio was later certified platinum by the RIAA for selling more than one million copies in the United States.
Close to the Edge, the group's second album, was released in 1992. Although the album was certified gold for U.S. sales of 500,000 copies, only two of its four singles -- "In a Week or Two" and "Oh Me, Oh My Sweet Baby" -- reached the Top 10, followed by the No. 13 "This Romeo Ain't Got Julie Yet" and No. 21 "Sawmill Road". According to Marty Roe, Close to the Edge was a weaker album than its predecessor because the band only had one month to pick the songs for it; in a 1994 interview with New Country magazine, he stated: "There aren't ten great songs out there for everybody, certainly not that you could find in a 30-day period of time." Also in 1992, lead singer Marty Roe recorded a duet with Pam Tillis entitled "Love Is Only Human" on her album Homeward Looking Angel.
In 1993, Diamond Rio also contributed to Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, a tribute album to the Eagles, on which various country music acts performed covers of the Eagles' songs. They performed a cover of "Lyin' Eyes" on this compilation.Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles went on to earn a 3× Multi-Platinum certification for shipments of three million copies.
Love a Little Stronger and Jed Zeppelin:
Love a Little Stronger, Diamond Rio's third album, was released in 1994. The album was recorded on a more relaxed schedule than the previous album; as a result, they did not have a single on the charts for three months after "Sawmill Road" (the last single from Close to the Edge) fell off the charts. The title track to Love a Little Stronger, co-written by Billy Crittenden of 4 Runner, reached a peak of No. 2 on the Billboard country singles charts; it was followed by the No. 9 hit "Night Is Fallin' in My Heart" and the Top 20 hits "Bubba Hyde" and "Finish What We Started". Because the band had taken a longer period of time to choose songs for Love a Little Stronger, it was considered by critics to be a superior album to its predecessor. This album also earned the band its second platinum certification.
Later in 1994, Diamond Rio teamed up with country guitarists Lee Roy Parnell and Steve Wariner. Crediting themselves as Jed Zeppelin, the eight musicians recorded a cover of Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man's Blues" for a tribute album entitled Mama's Hungry Eyes, which featured other country artists' renditions of Haggard's songs. In addition to peaking at No. 48 on the Billboard country charts, Jed Zeppelin's rendition of "Workin' Man Blues" was made into a music video, which aired on the television networks CMT and TNN (now Spike TV).
IV, Greatest Hits, and Unbelievable:
Titled IV, Diamond Rio's gold-certified fourth album was released in 1996. It produced four singles in "Walkin' Away", "That's What I Get for Lovin' You", "It's All in Your Head", and "Holdin'", all of which except "It's All in Your Head" (which was co-written by Van Stephenson of Blackhawk) were Top Ten hits. The music video for "It's All in Your Head" featured Martin Sheen and Ramon Estevez, the former playing the part of a snake-handling preacher.
In 1997, Diamond Rio contributed a recording of the gospel standard "Walkin' in Jerusalem" to a compilation entitled Peace in the Valley: A Country Music Journey Through Gospel Music. That same year, they released their first Greatest Hits package, which included two new songs as well as the greatest hits from their first four albums. One of these new songs, "How Your Love Makes Me Feel", was released as a single in 1997. It went on to become not only the band's second Billboard Number One, but also the biggest chart hit for any country group that year. "Imagine That", a Bryan White co-write also included on the Greatest Hits package, was a Top 5 hit in early 1998. Greatest Hits became the band's third platinum album.
Unbelievable was the title of the band's fifth studio album. Released in 1998 and certified gold, the album produced consecutive Top Five country hits in the ballad "You're Gone" and the title track. An up-tempo song co-written by Jeffrey Steele and former NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson, "Unbelievable" peaked at No. 2 on the country charts and crossed over to Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Diamond Rio its first appearance on that chart. However, its followup ("I Know How the River Feels") peaked at No. 33 on the country charts. This song was originally recorded by Ty Herndon and would later be released as a single by McAlyster as well.
By the end of 1998, Diamond Rio was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, becoming the first band in fourteen years to be inducted. In 1999, TNN also filmed a television special about the band, entitled The Life and Times of Diamond Rio.Kenny Chesney charted in 2000 with the Top 10 single "I Lost It", which band member Jimmy Olander co-wrote with Neil Thrasher. Olander also co-wrote Marshall Dyllon's 2001 single "You".
One More Day and Completely:
One More Day, Diamond Rio's sixth studio album, was released in 2001. Although "Stuff", its first single, barely made Top 40, the album's title track went on to become a Number One single. "One More Day" first went into rotation in February 2001, shortly after the death of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. A radio station in New York began playing the song as a tribute, and other stations soon followed suit. "One More Day" also gained heavy rotation after 9/11 as a tribute song to the victims of the attacks. Overall, the song also peaked at No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, in addition to reaching Top Ten on the Adult Contemporary charts (the band's first appearance on that chart). The song's success helped boost One More Day to gold certification, making it the band's fourth album to achieve that certification. The third and fourth singles from One More Day, were less successful, however. "Sweet Summer" made Top 20, while "That's Just That" failed to make Top 40.
In 2002, the band released its studio album, entitled Completely, and later that same year, Brian Prout married singer-songwriter Stephanie Bentley, a one-time solo singer who co-wrote Faith Hill's 1999 crossover single "Breathe" and charted four singles of her own between 1996 and 1997. (Prout had previously been married to Nancy Given Prout, drummer for Wild Rose, an all-female country band from the late 1980s-early 1990s.)Completely, which was certified gold as well, produced two consecutive Number One singles in "Beautiful Mess" and the Skip Ewing co-write "I Believe", the latter being the band's final Number One. As with its predecessor, however, Completely produced less successful hits in its third and fourth singles (the Top 20 hit "Wrinkles" and "We All Fall Down", which peaked outside Top 40.)
2005-2007: Can't You Tell and Greatest Hits, Volume 2:
A seventh album, tentatively titled Can't You Tell, was recorded in 2003. However, it was cancelled after its first two singles -- the title track and "One Believer" -- both failed to make Top 40. Diamond Rio's second Greatest Hits package, Greatest Hits, Volume 2, was released in 2006. Like their first Greatest Hits album, this compilation included several new songs as well as the band's greatest hits; one of these new songs, "God Only Cries", was released as a single, peaking at No. 30. Shortly after the album's release, Diamond Rio parted ways with Arista Nashville, marking the end of a fifteen-year relation with that label. Roe and Williams, along with bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley, were also featured on Josh Turner's 2006 single "Me and God" (from Turner's Your Man album).
2007-present: New record label and The Reason:
On August 31, 2007, Diamond Rio signed with Word Records, a Christian music label based in Nashville. Their first album for Word was a Christmas album entitled A Diamond Rio Christmas: The Star Still Shines.
The group released their very first contemporary Christian album, The Reason, on September 22, 2009. The first single released from the album was "God Is There".
In 2014, Jimmy Olander told The Arizona Republic that the group was no longer signed to Word Records and planned to release new material independently. "I will say that I was proud of the material, but maybe it's not the best version of Diamond Rio," Olander told the publication. "We were kind of in a no-man's land. We didn't fit in with country radio and we didn't fit with Christian radio. It was something that wasn't fully realized."
Diamond Rio received the Academy of Country Music's award for Top Vocal Group in 1991 and 1992. In 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1997, they also received the Country Music Association's award for Vocal Group of the Year (an award for which they received fifteen total nominations, more than any other country music group). In addition, Diamond Rio has received thirteen Grammy Award nominations. In 2010 they received 3 nominations for the GMA Dove Awards, and on April 22 won the award for Country Album of the Year. In 2011 they received their first Grammy Award in the Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for The Reason.
In the country music industry, Nashville record producers hire mostly session musicians to record tracks for an album for solo artists. And contrary to popular belief, this also applies even to self-contained country bands, as opposed to rock bands who record their own instrumental and vocal tracks on their albums. Diamond Rio has been one of few self-contained country bands to have followed the practice of each member playing their own instruments and singing their own vocals on all their albums themselves without any additional input from outside musicians; starting with the One More Day album, however, some of their songs have occasionally featured accompaniment from a string section, but the actual band members still perform their own parts nonetheless.
Their early music blended neotraditionalist country with occasional traces of country rock, primarily in the song's rhythm sections. A bluegrass influence has also been shown, primarily in the three-part harmonies among lead vocalist Marty Roe, baritone vocalist Dana Williams and tenor vocalist Gene Johnson. Bluegrass influences are also shown in the band's prominent use of the mandolin, as well as in the bluegrass instrumentals featured on many of their albums. The band's later material has tended towards pop-oriented ballads, such as "I Believe" and "One More Day" -- songs which received critical acclaim for their often religious-themed messages, but were considered departures from the more traditional material of their first four albums.
Another trademark of Diamond Rio's sound is the custom-built B-Bender guitar played by Olander. He refers to this instrument as the Taxicaster because of its yellow body and black-and-white checkered pickguard, which give it the coloration of a taxicab.
Several of the members of Diamond Rio had experience in other bands before Diamond Rio's foundation. Lead vocalist Marty Roe was previously a member of a band called Windsong, which toured nationally in the early 1980s. Dana Williams, the band's bass guitarist, is a nephew of the Osborne Brothers, a bluegrass group which is a member of the Grand Ole Opry; Williams also played in a bluegrass band, and served as a backing musician for Cal Smith, Vassar Clements and Jimmy C. Newman. Dan Truman is a classically trained pianist who had previously toured with Brigham Young University's Young Ambassadors musical troupe. Gene Johnson, the oldest member of the group, plays mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, had previously worked with David Bromberg, Keith Whitley and J. D. Crowe before joining Diamond Rio in 1985. Drummer Brian Prout was previously a member of the Hot Walker Band, before joining Heartbreak Mountain, a band whose lineup also included Marty Raybon (who would later become the lead singer of the band Shenandoah). Jimmy Olander, the youngest member of the band, had previously been a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Gene Johnson - (born August 10, 1949; mandolin, guitar, fiddle, tenor vocals),
Jimmy Olander - (born August 26, 1961; lead guitar, Dobro, Danelectro, banjo),
Brian Prout - (born December 4, 1955; drums),
Marty Roe - (born December 28, 1960; lead vocals, rhythm guitar),
Dan Truman - (born August 29, 1956; keyboards, piano, organ, synthesizer),
Dana Williams - (born May 22, 1961; bass guitar, baritone vocals)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license