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Diffie plans ‘country ’n’ roll’ show

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published January 31, 2013 at 2:21 a.m.

— Country singer Joe Diffie might seem like an unlikely booking at the new Juanita’s in the River Market, but Diffie has a good explanation for how it all came about.

“They offered to pay me, so I said I’m coming,” the affable Oklahoma native says, laughing. “My band and I will play a little country ’n’ roll, so I think it will all work out fine.”

Born in Tulsa in 1958, Diffie grew up in San Antonio; Washington state; and Wisconsin before getting back to Oklahoma for his high school years. There he excelled in football, track, baseball and golf. He first arrived on the Nashville, Tenn., scene in the 1980s, singing demos after trying out careers working in oil fields, driving a truck and going to college to study medicine before dropping out.

“I credit Hank Thompson with getting me started,” Diffie says. “He recorded a song I wrote, ‘Love on the Rocks,’ and after that, I got a job at the Gibson guitar factory and learned a lot that has come in handy about the instrument that so many of us rely on.”

Diffie kept on writing or co-writing songs. Some of them have been recorded by Alabama, Billy Dean, The Forester Sisters, Holly Dunn, Jo Dee Messina and Ricky Van Shelton.

Diffie has released sevenstudio albums, a Christmas project and a greatest hits package and is perhaps best known for his No. 1 hits “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than The Beatles.”

He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1993, and still finds himself awed by the honor.

“We just played there Jan. 18, and this time of the year,they move back to the old Ryman Auditorium, the original home,” Diffie says. “Back when I got inducted, it was so cool, and my parents and kids were there, and the show featured Hank Snow and Porter Wagoner.”

Now living in Brentwood, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville, Diffie ventured into the world of bluegrass in 2010 with Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album, aided by Perryville native Shawn Camp, a veteranbluegrass and country picker and songwriter.

“That was a very good experience for me, working with Shawn,” Diffie says. “It proved to be logistically difficult to tour, however, keeping a bluegrass-oriented band around, plus a country one, so I’ve gone back to the country side of life, basically, rather than trying to have two bands at the ready.

“I’ve also been doing some touring with Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin, on what we all call the ‘Roots & Boots Tour.’”

Diffie’s voice has frequently been compared with George Jones, so it was a special experience for Diffie when he and Jones did a duet on “What Would WaylonDo?” in 2003.

“I stole all of George’s licks that I could,” Diffie says, laughing. “The coolest part was we became friends and he and his wife, Nancy, and my wife and I now go out to dinner together.”Joe Diffie

Opening: Hillbilly Vegas,

Ashley McBryde, Big

Shane Thornton

8:50 p.m. Saturday, Juani

ta’s, 614 President Clinton

Ave., Little Rock

Admission: $20 advance,

$25 day of show

(501) 372-1228

Weekend, Pages 36 on 01/31/2013

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