Joey Diggs - Performer
BMHOF Class of 2016
Joey Diggs has been a constant presence in the Buffalo music scene for over 40 years now, but he hasn’t always been in the spotlight.
In fact, some of his biggest jobs have been behind the scenes.
For instance, Diggs did vocal arrangements and some of the vocals on Rick James’ breakout album on Motown Records, “Come Get It,” although he and the other backup singer are still waiting to get their gold record for it.
“When Rick got his contract with Motown, he came back to Buffalo and would watch all the bands,” said Diggs. “He focused in on my group, UST, and another one, The Cause, and asked us to help him with the album.
“We went over to his mom’s house and worked out all the arrangements and all the vocals there. Then we went down to the Record Plant in New York to record it.”
Diggs also did ghosts vocals as well as background vocals and arranging on one of James’ last tours before his death in 2004.
He was Lance Diamond’s vocal coach and did the vocal arrangements on Diamond’s recordings as well.
He also co-wrote nine songs, sang back-up and did vocal arranging on Tanya Diona’s debut CD, “Nothing to Prove … Something to Say,” in 2010. He has collaborated with Diona and her husband, Russell Graham, on a second album that has been completed and is due out soon.
Diggs has coached Diona since her years with Taylor Made Productions, even prepping her for her audition for “American Idol,” where she was in the band for three years.
“She was singing a lot of rock ‘n’ roll then, and I knew she could do more,” Diggs said, “so I got her started singing some reggae and R&B things.”
And those are just some of his work outside the stage lights.
Diggs has been on stage plenty through the years. In the mid-1970s, he was lead singer for a group called Topaze, which then merged with Van Taylor’s group Unique Sound to create U.S.T.
The group toured East Coast colleges and military bases and recorded on Tommy Calandra’s BCMK, producing two extremely rare funk singles in 1980 and ’81.
After that, Diggs’ part of the group morphed into Just Topaze. He also produced the group Twin Force, along with Steve “Stony” Dixon. They wrote and produced the song “Just A Matter of Time,” which was performed by Mark & Martin Paulk on the TV music competition show “Star Search.”
He was in a group Transatlantic with Stacey Lattimore before Lattimore became one of he lead voices of Process & the Doo Rags. Then in the mid-‘90s, Diggs formed the studio group Momentz Notice with Lattimore. They won the best new group at the Buffalo Music Awards, with Diggs being nominated for best male vocalist.
Diggs has also been lead singer for Taylor Made Jazz, led by Van Taylor.
He has contributed his efforts to many charities, including the Variety Club Telethon, AIDS Research, Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, Cancer research for Roswell, Feeding America, Food Bank of Western New York, Heart Strings.
More recently he worked with Tom Lorentz and The Doo Rags on the song “No Age in Love” to benefit Special Olympics.
Diggs also participates in the Music in the Schools Program, “Peace and Harmony through Music.”
The singer built a recording studio with partners Charles Montgomery and Vernon Bunch on Bailey Avenue in 2004, forming a music production company “Da Hitmakaz.” They sent three acts to compete at the Billboard Magazine Awards new artist seminar that year.
That studio closed with Montgomery’s move to Seattle a few years later, and Diggs and Bunch had another studio on Elmwood Avenue near Hertel.
In recent years Diggs has focused more on his own performances, singing with many bands of varied music styles. Among those groups is Haiku, the jazz fusion rock band with guitarist George Puleo, bassist Jim Wynne and drummer Hugh Arthur.
Diggs has been onstage for two Kleinhan’s Music Hall shows, the “Concert from the Heart” fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western New York, and the 2016 tribute to Lance Diamond.
Diggs is also a member of the writing and producing team Red Queen Enterprises, which consists of singer-songwriter-actress Diona and Graham. The three of them composed an original song to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital entitled “Superhero.”
Diggs is currently working on a solo project, his first ever.
Asked what sets him apart, Diggs said it is his ability to be “fearless” on stage.
“That means I feel like I’m the baddest M-F in the world,” Diggs said. “You have to own your stage if you want the audience to do what you need them to. I don’t believe in cheating the audience, so I give 150 percent every time I’m on stage.”
That’s clear to the audience every time he performs.