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Joe Diffie

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Joe Logan Diffie was an American country music singer. After working as a demo singer in the 1980s, he signed with Epic Records‘ Nashville division in 1990. Between then and 2004, Diffie charted 35 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, five of which peaked at number one: his debut release “Home”, “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)”, “Third Rock from the Sun”, “Pickup Man” (his longest-lasting number-one song, at four weeks) and “Bigger Than the Beatles”. In addition to these singles, he had 12 others reach the top 10 and ten more reach the top 40 on the same chart. He also co-wrote singles for Holly Dunn, Tim McGraw, and Jo Dee Messina, and recorded with Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones, and Marty Stuart.

Diffie released seven studio albums, a Christmas album, and a greatest-hits package under the Epic label. He also released one studio album each through Monument Records, Broken Bow Records, and Rounder Records. Among his albums, 1993’s Honky Tonk Attitude and 1994’s Third Rock from the Sun are certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, while 1992’s Regular Joe and 1995’s Life’s So Funny are both certified gold. His album, Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album, was released in late 2010 through Rounder. His style is defined by a neotraditionalist country influence with a mix of novelty songs and ballads.

Early Life

Joe Diffie was born into a musical family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1958. His first musical performance came at age 14, when he performed in his Aunt Dawn Anita’s country music band. Diffie’s father, Joe R., played guitar and banjo, and his mother sang. Following in his mother’s footsteps, Diffie began to sing at an early age, often listening to the albums in his father’s record collection. Diffie has said that his “Mom and Dad claimed that [he] could sing harmony when he was three years old.” His family moved to San Antonio, Texas, while he was in the first grade, and subsequently to Washington, where he attended fourth and fifth grades. Later, he moved to Wisconsin for the years he was in sixth grade through his second year of high school, and back to Oklahoma, where he attended high school in Velma. In his last two years in high school, Diffie played football, baseball, and golf in addition to running track; in his senior year, he was recognized as Best All-Around Male Athlete.

After graduating, he attended Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. Although he initially earned credits toward medical school, he decided against a medical profession after marrying for the first time in 1977, and ultimately dropped out before graduation. Diffie first worked in oil fields, then drove a truck that pumped concrete in the oilfield in Alice, Texas, before he moved back to Duncan to work in a foundry. During this period, he worked as a musician on the side, first in a gospel group called Higher Purpose, and then in a bluegrass band called Special Edition. Diffie then built a recording studio, began touring with Special Edition in adjacent states, and sent demonstration recordings to publishers in Nashville. Hank Thompson recorded Diffie’s “Love on the Rocks”, and Randy Travis put one of Diffie’s songs on hold, but ultimately did not record it.

After the foundry closed in 1986, Diffie declared bankruptcy and sold the studio out of financial necessity. He also divorced his wife, who left with their two children. Diffie spent several months in a state of depression before deciding to move to Nashville, Tennessee. There, he took a job at Gibson Guitar Corporation. While at Gibson, he contacted a songwriter and recorded more demos, including songs that would later be recorded by Ricky Van Shelton, Billy Dean, Alabama, and the Forester Sisters. By mid-1989, he quit working at the company to record demos full-time. Diffie also met Debbie, who later became his second wife. That same year, Diffie was contacted by Bob Montgomery, a songwriter and record producer known for working with Buddy Holly. Montgomery, who was then the vice president of A&R at Epic Records, said that he wanted to sign Diffie to a contract with the label, but had to put the singer on hold for a year. In the meantime, Holly Dunn released “There Goes My Heart Again”, which Diffie co-wrote and sang the backing vocals. Following this song’s chart success, Diffie signed with Epic in early 1990.

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