By David Knox
Joe Diffie had his first No. 1 hit on the country music charts in 1990, but he’s still going strong and he has as loyal following of fans – including other artists.
When Lynchburg Music Fest promoter Jonny Hill first was talking about the type of top artists he would be bringing in, Diffie’s name was the first one mentioned. It wasn’t supposed to be leaked out, but soon the news spread like wildfire. His name gave the event instant credibility and buzz.
Diffie has had five No. 1 hits on the country charts and 17 Top 10 songs in all. He hasn’t released a studio album since 2013’s All in the Same Boat, a collaboration with Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin, but he has new music in the offing.
“That’s a project I did, didn’t have the constraints of trying to find hits, so I just found some songs I liked. I’m really proud of this project. It’s kind of laying there right now. I’m hoping someday we’ll get it all out there, we’ve released two of the songs, ‘Quit You’‘ and ‘I Got This.’ I loved doing ‘I Got This,’ we do it live and it’s gotten great response from the crowds. So hopefully, we’ll get the whole project out sometime.”
Diffie has received shout outs over the years from artists who have been inspired by him – not just in an interview, but in song. Jason Aldean recorded “1994” in 2012, a song that had which is built around a farm boy in ’94 listening to his role model Joe Diffie, and calls out several Diffie song titles. This year, Chris Young released “Raised on Country,” which says in the chorus, “I got my honky-tonk attitude from Joe Diffie.” Others mentioned in that song include Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Pretty good company.
Diffie said he’s flattered, but was taken by surprise when those songs came out.
“Man, it’s a little weird,” he said, “because to be honest, I just never considered myself like that, so it’s weird. I just said, ‘Oh really? Wow! Cool! I did not know this.’
“But it’s an honor you know, obviously, to be thought of in those terms, so I’m just trying to compare like how I felt about my heroes, you know – George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash – and to think that some of those might think of me in those terms, it’s just really kind of weird … I’m not worthy,” he laughed.
Diffie, over a nearly three-decade career, is best known as a traditional artist, carrying on the tradition of his heroes.
“I’m traditional, I guess, but venturing out here and there kind of thing. It’s hard to categorize. I’ve always tried to do different kinds of songs. It’s probably a little hard for somebody to nail it down, but probably traditional.’
“I was in a bluegrass band in Oklahoma, where I came from, it was called The Special Edition, and, man, I just had a blast doing it. We didn’t make any money but we just did it because we loved that music and it was just fun.”
That abiding love of bluegrass led to 2010’s Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album.
“I always wanted to do a bluegrass album, just never had the opportunity because obviously I was busy with the country career, and doing all that stuff. It was fun to do, man, it was like no pressure to try to find a hit song, you know what I mean? I just did songs that I found and I liked, with no consideration of is this gonna play on the radio, will the fans like it, will it sell records, none of that stuff went into it. It was pretty cool.”
Diffie is looking forward to playing the Lynchburg Music Fest Aug. 23-24. Diffie has been by Lynchburg, he said, but he’s never stopped, never done the Jack Daniel’s tour.
“I thought it would be a really cool gig. For one thing it’s fairly close to the house and be nice to see some of our friends that will be able to come down there ’cause they’re are always asking ‘When are you playing near Nashville?’ So I thought it would be kind of a cool thing to do.”
Diffie will play Friday night, probably the next-to-last act before headliner Easton Corbin.
The two-day multistage event, with 40 bands now lined up, will be hosted in downtown Lynchburg and Wiseman Park Aug. 23-24.
The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. There will be music on the stage in the Historic Square with some of the newer artists, for free.
Friday’s lineup will be headlined by Easton Corbin. Others on the Friday main stage are Joe Diffie, Cassadee Pope, Craig Campbell, Keith Anderson, Taylor Phillips, Zach Donegan, Logan Wheat, Vending Machine Bandits and Macy Tabor. One more act for that night is still expected to be added.
Saturday’s lineup will be headlined by Jamey Johnson. Others on the main stage Saturday are Montgomery Gentry, RaeLynn, Sam Bush, David Lee Murphy, Lee Gibson, Michael Allen, Matt Dillon and Becky Buller Band.
Sponsors for the event include Lynchburg Winery, Flex Up Fitness, American Craft Distillers, CrossFit 931, Lynchburg Cigar Co., Adventurous Soul Travel Agency, Barrel House BBQ, Henry & McCord Law Offices and Miltec Rapid Manufacturing Systems.
Price is $120 for a General Admission two-day ticket. There are discounts for military and First Responders. Two-day VIP tickets are available. Single-day tickets are also available and they are now on sale online and at the Lynchburg Winery. Go to www.lynchburgmusicfest.com for more information and to buy tickets.