100 Greatest Men: #91. Diamond Rio

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February 7, 2011

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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.

Essential Singles:

  • 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

Essential Albums:

  • Diamond Rio, 1991
  • Love a Little Stronger, 1994
  • One More Day, 2000
  • The Reason, 2009

Next: #90. John Denver

Previous: #92. Gene Watson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


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  1. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Nice piece on Diamond Rio. I’ve enjoyed many of their hits such as “Meet In the Middle,” “One More Day,” and “Beautiful Mess.”

  2. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    Diamond Rio are one of the staple bands from the 90s. I couldn’t imagine country music without “Meet In The Middle,” “Love A Little Stronger,” and “In A Week or Two.”

    I have a personal connection to “One More Day” which came out at just the right time for me.

    Their harmonies were always distinctive and Marty Roe always had a great voice. It didn’t matter if they were recording a ballad or something uptempo, they could do it all. One of the best groups of that era.

    I had heard at one point that Faith Hill turned down “Beautiful Mess” when she was recording her CRY album. Considering the seriousness of that album, “Mess” would have been the lighthearted fun it needed.

  3. AndrewNo Gravatar says:

    Diamond Rio is easily one of my favorites from the ’90s. Unfortunately I found “The Reason” to be a disappointing crossover. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t fully get behind the production that made Marty’s voice so much louder than the rest of the group that the harmonies almost completely disappeared.

  4. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    The band Shenandoah owned the rights to the name ‘Diamond Rio’ (a name they were using until their label, CBS, decided that they needed a new name).Having just emerged from litigation by two other bands over the name ‘Shenandoah’, Shenandoah was not about to put another band through that agony and simply signed over the rights to the Diamond Rio name

  5. BobNo Gravatar says:

    I saw them in 2002 at the Bloomsburg Fair with Trace Adkins. Love DR’s harmonies. Some of my favorite songs not mentioned include “Walkin’ Away”, “Now I Know How the River Feels”, “The Love of a Woman”, “Til the Heartache’s Gone” and “She Misses Him on Sunday the Most”.

  6. Mike J.No Gravatar says:

    Thanks for including “You’re Gone” on the essential singles list. That should honestly be mandatory listening for anyone signing a Nashville record contract. Of their later work, my favorite is “One Believer”, which never saw the light of day at radio, but I believe is one of their finest works. I hope others have found a way to discover that song.

  7. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    This is my very favorite group of the nineties and among my favorite over all acts of the decade in general. Their harmonies are excellent and I always appreciated their organic sound and that they played their own instruments in the studio. I always knew it was a Diamond Rio song just from the instrumental intro. I agree about their Christian record though; most of their signature appeal was missing from it, if not all of it.

  8. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    “The band Shenandoah owned the rights to the name ‘Diamond Rio’ (a name they were using until their label, CBS, decided that they needed a new name).Having just emerged from litigation by two other bands over the name ‘Shenandoah’, Shenandoah was not about to put another band through that agony and simply signed over the rights to the Diamond Rio name.”

    I knew that Shenandoah were once engaged in a legal battle over their band name, but I had no idea they were the ‘original’ Diamond Rio, nor did I know they signed the name over to these guys. Thanks again for schooling us, Paul.

    Diamond Rio were one of my favorites in my teens during my introduction to country music, and they remain so today. Favorites for me include ‘Mama Don’t Forget To Pray For Me’, ‘It’s All In Your Head’ (essential listening that still makes me smile), ‘Beautiful Mess’, and the failed ‘We All Fall Down’ as well. But then again, I don’t recall disliking any of their single releases.

  9. Love Diamond Rio, they really do have some of the best harmonies ever. I’m with J.R. on this one, I don’t think there’s a single they released that I didn’t like. “That’s What I Get For Loving You” is my favorite though, and “Beautiful Mess” is one of my favorite love songs.

  10. RussNo Gravatar says:

    Complete aside, love the Opryland shout out. Can still remember the Screamin’ Delta Demon and the Grizzly River Rampage.

  11. Nice article on what is possibly the most talented band to ever become famous in country music.

  12. Senior SingerNo Gravatar says:

    I’m actually singing Diamond Rio’s song” One More Day” for a talent show at my school. I’m singing this song for my Grandfather who passed away 5 years ago. This song holds a lot of emotion for me. I grew up listening to this band I can’t imagine Country music without them. Thanks for all of the infomation I didn’t know. :)

  13. TomNo Gravatar says:

    “With the female list, fans of every major artist could expect for that woman to appear somewhere along the line.”

    Oh yeah? Where was Patti Page, Anita Carter, Susan Raye, Rosalie Allen, Texas Ruby, Jenny Lou Carson, Liz Anderson, Jody Miller, Wilma Burgess, Sue Thompson, Maxine & Bonnie Brown, Cristy Lane, Shelly West, Dorothy Shay, Molly Bee, Judy Lynn, Marie Osmond, Nanci Griffith, to name just a few.

  14. TomNo Gravatar says:

    Obviously the above was meant to be posted on the introduction board to the 100 greatest men, not on Blackhawk’s page – sorry. I didn’t realize I had clicked on a second page.

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