Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Jim Diamond
For thirty plus years, Jim Diamond has been a force in the Ohio / Tennessee Valley blues scene. Leading The Groove Syndicate since 1989 he’s released four albums that showcase a rocking, soul-blues sound. His latest album, Friends & Family, sees a subtle shift in band name to The Jim Diamond Revue (featuring The Groove Syndicate) as he expands the playing field and augments the Syndicate’s traditional five-piece lineup with an array of special guests. Peppered with elements of everything from second line swing to rockabilly to ’70s funk-rock, it makes perfect musical sense. Despite the wide variety of styles the band displays on the record, Diamond never loses sight of his core blues roots or his own musical history. Friends and Family is a seamless entry in his catalog, complementing the past and paving the way for the future.
The blues haven’t always been so rosy for Diamond though, he’s had to develop a truly one-of-a-kind technique based on limitation — after severing the tendon in the ring finger of his fretting hand at age 17 he had to completely re-learn how to play using only three fingers (with one in the way). But the story starts well before that….
Jim Diamond grew up in a musical family. Moving all over his native Canada as child, the one constant in every place he lived was music. Live or on a record player it was a permanent presence and a formative influence. Even as a little kid he would bang on his dad’s guitar, beat on the walls and just, in general, always try to make a musical racket. It wasn’t until the summer of 1970 (at age 12), when he saw B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix on TV (separately), that he knew that he wanted to play guitar. Soon he was spending his entire allowance on records every week and reveling in the works of every guitar hero he could find; blues, rock, jazz and country all got equal play on his turntable. And he wasn’t just listening, he was paying attention. Soon after, he “borrowed” his father’s acoustic and began teaching himself how to play. Once he started playing electric, a couple years later, his first band soon followed. Just as he was beginning to develop as a player he lost the use of his left ring finger. Disillusioned, he set the guitar aside and, like so many other Canadian teens, focused on hockey. While he went so far as to be a top 40 pick in the 1976 minor league draft, a career on skates did not pan out and music reemerged front and center under the guise of a college education. While attending school, he began to attend open jams at local clubs, re-learning to play using only three fingers on his left hand.
A move to Cincinnati, OH in 1989 led to re-kindling his passion for the blues, and he realized there was no turning back. He’d found his niche and began to really play and (for the first time) write. “My connection to Blues was overwhelming. Once I dialed in to that muse it was like the floodgates had burst open; I wrote 30 songs that year alone.” The following year he formed The Groove Syndicate and began playing full-time. Hundreds of shows and a handful of lineup changes followed and, in 1995, Diamond met his last drummer (and life-long soul mate), his wife Beth. The pair form the foundation of a formidable team that recorded the first Groove Syndicate album, Angel Child, in 1997 after the lineup had only been together for four months. A third of a century, a fistful of albums and 2000+ gigs later, The Groove Syndicate had become an award winning international blues band, with tours of Canada, Switzerland, Italy, England, Wales, and the United States to their credit. Now, with the script being rewritten and the emergence of The Jim Diamond Revue, the possibilities are limitless. “The key to our success is our diversity in the blues. You never know what’s next… and sometimes neither do we!”