Theron Denson, West Virginia’s own “Black Diamond,” hasn’t been back to the Mountain State in a while.
The world’s only black Neil Diamond tribute artist, who plays a pair of shows Dec. 30 and 31 at the Wyndham Hotel in Cross Lanes, said, “I’ve been back a couple of times to visit my mother, but I haven’t performed back home since 2014. That’s a long time.”
The past three years have been eventful for the former Charleston resident. He’s had to navigate a couple of moves, all while playing a slew of shows.
In the fall of 2016, Denson said the place he was renting in Nashville got sold out from under him.
“It’s something that has happened to everybody in Nashville. With things like Air BnB, housing wasn’t really stable for anybody,” he said.
So, he decided to try his luck in Florida.
He lived in Orlando for a while, but worked all over the state.
“I sang my head off,” Denson said.
But he kept playing shows in Nashville. In fact, an indie music club called the Exit/In brought Denson back for a show April 12, a week before Neil Diamond was scheduled to perform at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Denson and his band performed. Things were going great and then they took a break.
“So, management comes to me and says there’s somebody named Chester Thompson who’d like to come back and meet you,” he said.
Chester Thompson played drums for Frank Zappa and was the touring drummer for Genesis and Phil Collins for 30 years.
“He said he’d heard about me and wanted to see The Black Diamond Experience,” Denson said.
The tribute artist invited him to come out and play with them.
“Do anything,” Denson told him.
Thompson thought for a moment and asked him, “Do you guys do ‘Forever in Blue Jeans?’ Because I’d kind of like to mess around with that one.”
“So, he came out, we did the song and he went off and did about a two-minute drum solo. It was totally unrehearsed,” Denson said. “He brought the house down.”
Someone shot video with their phone. It’s on Youtube, but the following week, after the other Diamond got to Nashville, Denson was having dinner with King Errisson, the pop icon’s longtime percussionist.
Errisson told him, “We saw that video and I’d like to get it to Mr. Diamond. You guys rocked that song and were having so much fun. That’s how we used to do it.”
That sounded fine to Denson.
A short time later, the singer asked him the percussionist about it, whether Diamond ever saw the video.
“He saw it,” Errisson told him. “He didn’t say anything about it, but he called us up the next day and had us rehearse ‘Forever in Blue Jeans.’”
Denson thought that was wonderful, that his one-off club performance with a big-league rock drummer might have breathed some new energy into a song.
Neither Errisson, Thompson or Neil Diamond will likely be at Denson’s shows at the Wyndham Hotel December 30 and 31, but The Black Diamond promised it would be a lot of fun.
“It’s just great to get to come back home and perform up this way again,” he said.