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The Legacy of "The Pick Up Man"

Country Music legend, Joe Diffie passed away on Sunday, March, 29th due to complications that were related to the viral epidemic of COVID-19. Just two days before, the Grand Ole Opry member released that he had been diagnosed with the virus and was obtaining treatment. He was 61.

The Oklahoma native was born on December 28, 1958. Throughout his childhood, the family lived in Texas, Washington state, and Wisconsin. Throughout his early years in life, Diffie worked in gospel and bluegrass groups to learn the importance of harmony while also learning how to perform in bars, VFW's, and honky-tonks. In 1986 when he moved to Nashville, TN, his life was going to change forever. In just three years, Diffie had already had success on the charts. He sang backup vocals and co-wrote Holly Dunn's “There Goes My Heart Again” which peaked at number four in the United States and number eight in Canada.

By 1990, four years into a ten year town, Joe signed a record deal with Epic Records and on September 7th of that year A Thousand Winding Roads was released. This album fast tracked his career in the music industry. The ten track album included singles that topped the charts. One of those singles, was his leading single “Home” This single reached the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It also went number one on the charts published by Radio & Records and Gavin Report. This made him the first country music artist to have a number one debut single on all three charts as well as the first artist to have a debut single spend more than one week in the number one spot. Diffie co-wrote the album’s second and fourth singles that were released. These two songs were entitled “If You Want Me To” and “New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame)” and they both peaked at number two on the Billboard Chart. But, the third single Diffie released “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).” This song quickly became his second number one. The album peaked at number 23 on the Top Country Albums. In the same year, Cash Box named him Male Vocalist of the year and he started touring with George Strait and Steve Wariner.

In 1992, he released his second album Regular Joe, and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The singles from this album included “Is It Cold in Here,” “Ships That Don’t Come In,” “Next Thing Smokin’,” and “Startin' Over Blues.” “Ships That Don’t Come In” went number one on Radio & Records and was co-written by Dave Gibson. During this year, “Not Too Much to Ask,” a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter was released. This duet was nominated for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at the 35th Grammy Awards in 1993.

By the end of 1993, Joe Diffie was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and won a Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year for guest vocals on George Jones’ “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair.” He also released his album Honky Tonk Attitude.This was followed by 1994 Third Rock From the Sun, which was also certified platinum. Diffie had the opportunity to co-produce this album with Johnny Slate. This album quickly was certified platinum and the first three singles off of the album reached top ten on the charts. Included in those singles was “Pick Up Man.” This song was Diffie’s stayed at the number one spot four four weeks. It also peaked at number 60 on the Hot 100.

After these three albums and a few label changes, he signed a deal with Rounder and returned to his bluegrass roots with Homecoming. Then in 1998, he won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for the all-star recording “Same Old Train” with country music legends Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, and more.

Joe Diffie will forever be a household name. His legacy will live on forever. This became apparent in 2013 when Jason Aldean released a single entitled “1994.” Within the lyrics, it name drops several of his songs. Even in the video, there are many references to Diffie including shirt that say “Teach Me How to Diffie,” which is a play on the dance “Teach Me How to Dougie.” Throughout this video there are many country music stars singing to the line “Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie!” This lyric ended up becoming the title to the final album Diffie released in 2019. With 35 singles that charted on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and 5 number ones. He will always be loved as the “Pick Up Man.” Rest easy, Mr. Diffie.

Written by Brooklyn Beccue


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