Theme parks are full of aspiring musicians hoping to make it big. Most of them never do, but Diamond Rio did, and in a very big way.
The nucleus of the band was formed in 1984, when lead singer Marty Roe met keyboard player Dan Truman while both were working at Opryland U.S.A., a now-defunct theme park adjacent to the Grand Ole Opry theater.
First billed as the Grizzly River Boys, they changed their name to the Tennessee River Boys before settling on Diamond Rio. Along the way, they picked up four more members: Gene Johnson, Jimmy Oleander, Brian Prout, and Dana Williams.
They quickly settled on a mainstream country sound that was tinged with bluegrass. Though they signed to Arista in 1988, health issues with several band members delayed the recording of their debut album. When they finally hit the marketplace in 1991, their debut single, “Meet in the Middle”, became the first ever by a country group to go to #1.
Over the next decade, they would be the most consistently successful country band. Their debut album sold platinum, and nearly every other release would sell at least gold. They dominated at the country award shows, winning the CMA Vocal Group trophy four times. Though they were regular fixtures on the radio from their first hit, it wasn’t until 1997 that they topped the charts again, this time with the catchy “How Your Love Makes Me Feel”, which earned an ACM nomination for Single Record of the Year.
Toward the end of their hit run, they became more known for their ballads. “One More Day” became an anthem in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies, and “I Believe”, their final #1 hit, foreshadowed their transition into Christian music.
Even though all of their studio albums for Arista had gone at least gold, the label refused to release their eighth set, Can’t You Tell, which was recorded in 2003. Radio hadn’t embraced the two singles sent to them from the project. Instead, the label released a second hits collection in 2005, which would be their final release for the label that featured new material. “God Only Cries”, the single from that set, became their last radio hit, peaking at #30.
Not content to play out their twilight years as a has-been country band, the group successfully embraced its Christian roots and re-emerged as a successful Christian country band. After the warm response received for a Christmas album, they released the critically-acclaimed The Reason, which earned them a Dove Award for Country Album of the Year.
- Meet in the Middle, 1991
- Norma Jean Riley, 1992
- How Your Love Makes Me Feel, 1997
- You’re Gone, 1998
- One More Day, 2000
- Beautiful Mess, 2002
- Diamond Rio, 1991
- Love a Little Stronger, 1994
- One More Day, 2000
- The Reason, 2009
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