Gary James' Interview With Curt Di Domizio Of
Neil Diamond is so well known that people just can't seem to get enough of him. That being the case, it's easy to understand why there would be such interest in Real Diamond, a Neil Diamond tribute act.
Curt Di Domizio is Neil Diamond in Real Diamond. He spoke with us about his group.
Q - Curt, what made you decide to put a Neil Diamond tribute act together?
A - Because I could sing like him.
Q - That's a good enough reason.
A - As crazy as that sounds, I was in a Def Leppard / Queensryche tribute band.
Q - Oh, boy!
A - Yeah. What another end of the spectrum, but not much work out there for that type of thing. I was singing Karaoke one night at a club and the place went crazy when I did "Sweet Caroline". Then they said "Sing more!" And I sang a couple more and that was it. About two weeks later I put a band together and it became now the longest Neil Diamond tribute band in the country.
Q - How much work is there for a Neil Diamond tribute act?
A - We are booked probably all the way through August (2012), 'til September and they're comin' more and more, fast and furious.
Q - So, this band travels then?
A - Oh, we go to Connecticut, Maine, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey, New York. All over.
Q - That's surprising since Neil Diamond is still out there performing, isn't he?
A - Yeah. Absolutely. He's 71 years old.
Q - So, people must be looking for the younger Neil Diamond?
A - That's what they want. They want the younger sound and they want his music. He's written songs for everybody. One of his best friends is Robbie Robertson from The Band. So, they've written songs together. They love him. The thing is, he's older now. He's 71. So, you don't have that crisp, clean voice back when he was in the '70s and '80s, which was his biggest heyday. We fill that bill. We have a full twelve piece band. We have the girls, the horns. We have it all.
Q - That's got to be an expensive show to put together, isn't it?
A - It is, but thank God everybody in the band believes in it. They're not out to make top dollar. They're out to have fun and make a decent buck. We don't charge all that much because we just enjoy doing it. We're a good, happy family. We all get along. We love to go and do the casinos and hang out together and party afterwards. It's just a blast. We're having the time of our lives. Being in our 40s, we having the time of our lives.
Q - I don't hear that coming from a lot of musicians these days. Good for you! Before this group and before the Def Leppard tribute band, were you in a Top 40, cover band?
A - Yeah. I've been in Top 40 bands my whole life, playing bars and clubs in the local Philly (Philadelphia) area. Basically you just get to the point where you start getting burned out. I said, you know what? I'm tired of doing "Mustang Sally" and "Brown Eyed Girl". I want to try something different. I was always into Metal 'cause I was in another band in the '80s called Blacksmith. We never went anywhere, but always had the love for it. I always loved Dokken, Queensryche and Def Leppard. I thought, I love the music, why not play it? So, I found a couple of guys who were really good on guitar. We started out actually doing Queensryche. But people aren't going to come out to see Queensryche. Did hard fans will. And that would maybe be five. I said why don't we throw in some Def Leppard 'cause the girls love Def Leppard. But lo and behold, still it was tough to keep the band together. Half the time the guitar players wouldn't show. Half the time the drummer wouldn't show. I just got tired of it. I was driving home one night with one of the guitar players, who is actually my guitar player now. He said "What do you want to do?" I said "We should just do Neil Diamond." He goes "Neil Diamond?" I said "Yeah. If anything, I think people will come out and see it because it's Neil Diamond. You've got dance songs. You've got love songs." That was it. I put it together. Our first show we sold out in two weeks. Our second show was opening up for the Philadelphia Phillies. So, it just took off from there. Thank God, knock wood, just about every show, we sell out
Q - You don't play bars with this act, do you?
A - Oh, no. We'll do outdoor shows, big outdoor places in the summer only because I like that you get a few thousand people at these things and it builds your reputation, it builds your following. But no, we won't play bars. We played one bar in Pittsburgh and it was the worst experience ever. It was all kids and kids were like "Who the hell is this?" (laughs) We were going there under the impression that it was going to be a nice, indoor place where people come and sit down and watch a show, but it turned out to be a bar. And after driving four and a half hours and realizing that, we said "You know what? We're just going to put on one hell of a show, and it is what it is." And we did. We had a good time still. We had a blast. We were on the road. We're having a good time. We're all together.
Q - I'm surprised the club owner didn't pick up on the fact that it was material his audience may not have been familiar with. But I guess that's a common thing.
A - I think they were trying different things at this club. It had just re-opened. It was called Carson Street Live. I think they were trying different ideas to make different things happen.
Q - Is the club still open?
A - I have no idea.
Q - Did you have any assistance in putting this group together?
A - I basically did it all myself. I brought in different people, a drummer. I already had a guitar and bass player. They would say "we know somebody" and "they know somebody." We'd bring in the drummer's friend who is the bass player or the bass player's buddy knows a girl who can sing. Through word of mouth and referral, over time, I just hired, fired, hired, fired until I got the right mix of people. Now everybody gets along and I even have alternates because the band has gotten that big where I actually have to have alternates. When you have twelve people, if your bass player goes down sick, you just can't call a casino and say "Look, I can't play tonight." You have to show up. With our show, people have either paid to buy tickets to come or it's a huge, outdoor festival that they just can't get somebody at the last minute, so pretty much I keep it at "if I don't show, you know I'm really sick." (laughs) I'm the only one you can't really replace.
Q - Has that ever happened?
A - Thank God, knock wood, it has never happened except for once I did with Wolf's Den in Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. I went and I had the flu. I had a 103 degree fever and I still went out there and did the show. I apologized to people. I said "Look, if I crack or I'm not sounding a hundred percent, forgive me, I've got the flu." But there was no way I wasn't going to show up. I did the show. The show must go on.
Q - You just have to wonder how many times Neil Diamond has done a show with a 103 degree fever.
A - Well, I know he did a show in 2008, he was in Ohio and he was actually booed offstage because his voice was so hoarse he couldn't sing. People started booing him. He actually offered to give them all their money back, whoever wanted their money back, he offered them a full refund. But the poor guy. He did four nights in a row at Madison Square Garden. He was 69 years old. Now he's 71 and he's still touring. I felt it was kind of rough that they booed him. They should have cut him slack. God, he's a legend. He's an icon.
Q - He probably should have canceled that night's show and done a make-up gig.
A - Exactly. That's what I would have done. I would have done a make-up show some other time and just apologized and said "Look, I've lost my voice." But unfortunately, I don't get that luxury because I'm not Neil Diamond. (laughs) We love playing Mohegan Sun. It's one of our favorite places. The last thing I wanted to do was cancel on them and jeopardize ever being invited back. So, knock wood, we've been there five times now. Five years straight.
Q - How many gigs would you say you do a week, or do you base it on a yearly schedule?
A - I base it on I take what I can get. I take what comes. I turn a lot down. I have some places that will call me up and say "Look, we want to offer you this much," and I have to look at paying twelve people to take into consideration what's best for them too. My horn player is a school teacher, so it's tough for them to take off. They don't want to take off for nothing, for low pay. I'm respectful of everybody else. I'll call them up and give them the right of refusal. I'll say "Look do you want to do it or not? If you don't, I'll ask one of the other alternates." If they don't (accept) I just tell them forget it. You get a lot of casinos who try to get you in there for nothing. I just won't do that. I feel the band is incredibly well put together. It's got a great sound. We've got a huge following and I just can't settle for peanuts. At the same time, I'm humble and I know where I came from, so I try to be fair. I give them two straight hours of great music with a great band. At the same time, I won't demean the band and settle for peanuts.
Q - Sounds like you're also the manager and agent for the band as well.
A - Yeah. I'm actually going to be turning over... we have some agents now. I probably deal with about twelve agents in all parts of the country. Right now I've actually been using one out of Philly. It's funny, I went to him when I first put the show together and I guess he didn't believe in me. He said "Yeah, you know, not interested. You're booking your own shows." About two months ago (February 2012) he finally came through and said "Look, I got a show I want you to do. I want to come hear you guys and see what you're all about." He was blown away. He said "55 years in this business, I'm blown away!" His name is Frank Kelp. He's the same guy that managed Get The Led Out. So I can say exactly what they said, "God bless Frank Kelp" 'cause right now he's believing in us. He's got us some big shows lined up, which is great. He believes in us. He said "I'm not going to let you guys settle for squat. I believe in you. You've done a lot of hard work. It's a great show. You bring a lot to the table." We don't charge a lot. We may charge $20 to $25 a ticket, which in today's terms isn't expensive to have a great night out. I pay it all the time to see decent tribute bands. God, I saw Pat Travers not long ago and it only cost me fifty bucks. I love Pat Travers. There was maybe eighty people in the audience. I got to meet him and everything.
Q - Have you ever seen Neil Diamond in concert?
A - Yes. I went and saw Neil in 2008 on his tour.
Q - Did you study his onstage mannerisms from previous concerts?
A - Yes. I bought a couple of his old DVDs, Hot August Night. I bought the CDs, watched his mannerisms on YouTube. But the thing I realized I would never be able to do is try and look like him. I'm 6'2". I look like an Italian. He's a good Brooklyn Jewish boy. I said "I sound like him and they're not coming to see him, they're coming to hear him." That's how I base it. I wear his outfits. I wear the sparkly shirts just to give the audience a taste. Make it a little flashy, but I don't try to look like him. There's other guys out there that try to do their hair like him, make-up and everything they can to look like him. I said "You know what? The heck with that." I get comments all the time, "if you close your eyes, it's like Neil Diamond is right there." That makes it all worthwhile.