“Meet in the Middle”
Written by Jim Foster, Chapin Hartford, and Don Pfrimmer
#1 (2 weeks)
June 1 – June 8, 1991
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
May 17, 1991
Diamond Rio becomes the first country band in history to top the charts with their debut single.
The Road to No. 1
Like Alan Jackson and Pam Tillis before them, Diamond Rio was another example of Arista Record identifying a long-gestating act perfectly primed for breakthrough success. Diamond Rio began in 1982 as the Grizzly River Boys, named after the Opryland amusement park area that they were created to play in. They disliked the name, and eventually changed it to the Tennessee River Boys.
The band rotated through several lead singers, including future country star Ty Herndon, before settling on Marty Roe. After leaving the park in 1985, the band played local venues, their lineup changing multiple times. They competed on Star Search, but were eliminated early on. However, the band continued to circulate demos until finally capturing the attention of Arista’s upstart Nashville division. He wanted to sign Marty Roe as a solo artist, but seeing the band open for George Jones convinced him to sign them as a unit.
Diamond Rio’s debut album was recorded before they had changed their band name or performed under the new moniker. Their lead single went to radio in February of 1991.
The No. 1
Diamond Rio started hot, topping both industry charts with “Meet in the Middle.” Debut No. 1 hits were becoming more commonplace, and eventually they wouldn’t be much of an indicator of quality or longevity.
But “Meet in the Middle” indicated right away that Diamond Rio had the talent and good taste in material to last. It’s a perfect record. Beautifully written and pristinely produced, with Marty Roe immediately establishing himself as a stellar lead vocalist, and their bluegrass-laden harmonies standing out among the crowded field of vocal groups that were still cripping most of their sound from Alabama.
You’d never know by listening to it that this was a band that had undergone so many lineup changes before the final sextet was in place. They sound like they’ve been singing together forever.
It really doesn’t get any better than this.
The Road From No. 1
Diamond Rio’s debut album would produce five major hits. The next two, “Mirror Mirror” and “Mama Don’t Forget to Pray For Me”, were top five hits. The fourth single returned the band to the penthouse. We’ll cover it when we get to 1992.
“Meet in the Middle” gets an A.