A Birthday Flashback

Today is the birthday of my long-time boss, bandleader, vocalist and chum, Neil Leslie Diamond. 

When I was very new in town, I somehow was invited to audition to join his band. On a warm summer afternoon, I drove to Modern Musical Services, on Cole Place, just off Sunset Boulevard. Cole Place had a tiny left-turn lane and I got my first and only LA traffic ticket for not negotiating it skillfully enough. So I was admittedly a little grumpy when I arrived (at the appropriate time, thank you) and was told that Neil was listening to someone else, so I was asked to come back later. 

When I returned later, I was again told Neil was listening to another pianist, and told  to come back again in a half hour. When I returned a half hour later, I was told that Neil wasn’t happy with what he’d heard and had gone home. And that was the end of it. 

I went back to our small rental in Van Nuys, and with amazingly inexplicable moxie for a new guy in town, I prepared a bill for my waiting time that afternoon (it was about $35, as I recall), and sent it, along with what I imagined was a witty note, to Neil’s office. 

To my surprise, a few days later, the bill was paid. 

When I received the check, I remember thinking okay, this guy is all right. When the check cleared, I remember again thinking okay, this guy is all right…and solvent, too. 

I returned to my newcomer routine of subbing on others’ gigs, rehearsals, casuals, and jam sessions, all of which eventually led to my beginning to get real recording work. I played on my first hit record—Chick-a-Boom, by Daddy Dewdrop, in case you were wondering— which in turn eventually led to a lot of other recording, including a couple of Neil Diamond albums—Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Serenade, in case you were wondering—which in turn led to a phone call asking me to come over to Neil’s house and talk to him about joining the band and going on tour. 

Which in turn led to 40 years of wonderful times touring and playing with a great singer and band. 

One more thing about Neil’s birthday: 

The telecast of the Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 included a legendary commercial for Apple Computer which ended with this tag line: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984.” The mention of his birthday in that ad obviously got his attention, because later, on February 16, while we were in Cincinnati to play at the Riverfront Coliseum, our vocalist said to me, “Let’s go look at that Macintosh.” 

We went to a Cincinnati Computerland store and played with the new device and ran it through its tricks—Macwrite, Macpaint and the like. Before we left, he ordered a dozen of them for people in our company. The surprised Computerland employees must have surely thought “Wow, these Macintosh things are going to be selling like hotcakes!” (I’m guessing that sales dropped precipitously the next day, when we left town.)

By the way, we continued to use Macs everywhere, onstage and backstage, on our tour for the next 34 years. 

One result of this, and the reason why I’m writing this, is that since then have I never forgotten the date for Neil’s birthday. 

Happy birthday, pal.

2 comments

  • Deborah

    Deborah Sacramento

    Awesome story

    Awesome story

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous Napa, ca

    Great story, in a time we need to be reminded of good things!

    Great story, in a time we need to be reminded of good things!

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