Joe Diffie hit the country music scene just months after the fabled Class of ’89, and like several of the 1989 alumni, Joe’s first releases to country radio shot right up the charts, and he was on his way to a decade-long run of success that includes 16 top 10 hits, five of which went to #1. In the meantime, Joe Diffie racked up 4 consecutive gold-selling albums, with two of these going all the way to platinum for shipments of over 1,000,000 copies. Best known today for his sometimes clever, always fun, novelty songs, mostly about the joys and simplicity of rural life, Diffie was also an able balladeer, and his best performances come from not the lightweight charm of songs like ‘Bigger Than The Beatles’ or ‘Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox’, but from his neo-traditional offerings like ‘Home’ and ‘A Night To Remember’.
Joseph Logan Diffie was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on December 28, 1958, but his family would make several moves across country before settling back in Oklahoma for Joe’s high school years. His father was a guitar and banjo player and his mother a singer. The family also performed together regularly, and as part of Joe’s aunt’s country band. It was in this band that Joe made his first public performance, at age 4. Joe would go on to college to pursue a degree in medicine, but dropped out after marrying for the first of three times in 1977. While working several blue-collar jobs on the side, Joe continued to pursue his music career, performing in the gospel group, Higher Purpose. Later, he would front a bluegrass band billed as Special Edition.
In 1986, following a divorce from his first wife, and and after some initial songwriting success, Joe made the move to Nashville to follow his musical ambitions full-time. The legendary Hank Thompson had recorded Joe’s ‘Love On The Rocks’. In Music City, he found work as an in-demand demo singer and continued to hone his songwriting skills. In 1989, Holly Dunn had a top 5 hit with ‘There Goes My Heart Again’, a song Joe had co-written with Lonnie Wilson and Wayne Perry. A recording contract with Epic soon followed, and Joe issued his debut for the label in September of 1990. The album’s first single, the unforgettable ‘Home’, quickly shot to the top of the country singles chart, and the album produced another chart-topper and 2 #2 hits as well.
Following the success of his debut album, Joe went on to release a string of highly successful albums for the Epic label between 1990 -99. His years at Epic would ultimately prove to be his most commercially successful. Shortly after his exit from Epic, Joe moved over to Monument Records and his only album for the label, In Another World, earned him another top 10 hit in the title track. Subsequently, another label change to the independent Broken Bow netted him another top 20 hit in 2004.
Recently, Joe has signed to Rounder Records, and the label first issued a live album, recorded at the famous Billy Bob’s in Fort Wort, Texas, on the singer in 2008. Last year saw The Ultimate Collection, which consists of re-recordings of his Epic hits for the Rounder imprint. Joe now plans to release his first new music in 6 years. Also from Rounder, Homecoming: A Bluegrass Collection arrives August 24.
Joe Diffie, to me, was always a bit of a double-personality artist. There was the goofy, fun-loving moustached and mulleted singer of up-tempo ditties. And then, even with the same look, Joe could be just as convincing while nailing you to the wall with a great country lyric, as he does with ‘Is It Cold In Here’. But the interesting aspect about Joe was that he seemed to have a firm grasp on both personas and maneuvered them both very well. This month, we’ll be taking a look back through the catalog of Joe Diffie, and offering our own take on both sides of Joe Diffie’s musical personality. We hope you enjoy reading our thoughts, and that we re-discover some of our old favorites, and maybe introduce some of you to some great music along the way.