Three days after Christmas in 1958, Joe Diffie was son to a musical family as young Diffie followed in his father’s footsteps, playing banjo and guitar, as well as listening to his music collection. Although born in Oklahoma, Diffie and his family moved to Texas, then Washington, then Wisconsin, then back to Oklahoma. It would be while in Oklahoma he graduated from high school. After graduation, he attended Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, earning himself enough credits to enter medical school. However, instead of going into medicine, he first married, then entered the workforce in the oil industry. All the while, he worked on his music that was mostly bluegrass and gospel. When he earned enough money to do so, he built his own recording studio and began to tour with a bluegrass band known as Special Edition. It would be during this time Diffie recorded and sent demos to publishers in Nashville. Hank Thompson recorded one song Diffie wrote, “Love on the Rocks.”
From Workforce to Stardom
In 1986, hard times fell upon Joe Diffie and he had to declare bankruptcy, which resulted in the sale of his recording studio. This also led to his first divorce from his wife as she, and their two children, left him. Due to the series of unfortunate events that seemed to blindside Diffie, he fell into depression for a number of months before making a move to Nashville, Tennessee. While there, he took up a job at the Gibson Guitar Corporation. This road led to Diffie recording more demos that included songs that were recorded by artists such as Alabama, Billy Dean, and Ricky Van Shelton.
Realizing his success at recording demos, he quit his job with Gibson to pursue songwriting full-time. It was also at this time he met his second wife, as well as earning his first record deal as a singer-songwriter. In 1990, he signed with Epic Records after his co-written single, “There Goes My Heart Again,” was recorded by Holly Dunn and became a chart hit on the music billboards.
Near the end of 1990, Joe Diffie released his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads. It produced four hit singles that officially became the start of the country artist’s trek into nationwide, as well as international, stardom. In 1992, he released his second debut album, Regular Joe. It later became a certified gold seller by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This album was followed up by 1993’s Honky Tonk Attitude, which became certified platinum by the RIAA. In that same year, Joe Diffie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. As brilliant as 1993 was for Joe Diffie, the best was yet to come.
For Joe Diffie, his fourth studio album, Third Rock from the Sun, became his highest-charting country album of his career after it was released in 1994. It also earned him platinum certification from the RIAA. In 1995, Joe Diffie saw three more albums released, namely Runnin’ Wide Open that served as a NASCAR-themed collaboration album, and Mr. Christmas, which featured a mix of new and traditional holiday-themed songs. In the midst of this, Diffie’s fifth studio album, Life’s So Funny, was released. After this, there were two more studio recordings by Joe Diffie, namely 1997’s Twice Upon a Time and 1999’s A Night to Remember. After these releases, Joe Diffie’s contract with Epic Records ended.
From Stardom to COVID
After Epic Records, Joe Diffie recorded four additional studio albums. The final studio recording was 2013’s All in the Same Boat, which was a collaborative effort between himself, Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin. In addition to Diffie’s thirteen studio albums, he also has six compilation albums to his credit, and thirty-eight singles. There are also twenty-four music videos that were shot from his musical performances. As an artist, Joe Diffie was regarded as a comedic genius, blending humor with country music like no other recording artist in the genre could. He was also regarded for rocking up novelty classics, yet provide heartfelt ballads. When complications from COVID-19 resulted in the sixty-one year old country star’s death on March 29, 2020, it shocked and saddened the entire entertainment industry, as well as music fans everywhere that saw more than just some country singer-songwriter in the iconic Joe Diffie.
#10 – New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame)
On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame)” became a number two hit for Joe Diffie, and on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart in 1991. It was the fourth single released from his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads. It also became the first occasion Diffie experienced a hit single on the US Billboard Hot 100 as it peaked at number sixty-nine there, thanks to the catchy, toe-tapping romantic tale of a narrator wanting to rekindle a flame that may have been snuffed out once upon a time but not anymore.
#9 – If You Want Me To
“If You Want Me To” was the second single released from Joe Diffie’s debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads. In 1991, it peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and it was number one on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. It was also the first single that saw Joe Diffie produce a music video as this beautiful ballad illustrated the desire of the narrator wanting to stay in the life of his love interest, if she’s willing to allow it.
#8 – If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets)
“If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) became Joe Diffie’s second number one hit single from his debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads. In addition to topping the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it also peaked as high as number four on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart in 1991. In a humorous manner, Diffie’s lyrical excuse that all the bad that happens is the devil’s fault and that he shouldn’t be held personally responsible for wrongdoings.
#7 – It’s Always Somethin’
In the number seven spot on our top 10 Joe Diffie songs list we present the grand song “It’s Always Somethin.’ The song appeared on the album A Night to Remember. The album was released in 2000. The song “It’s Always Somethin.’ was the third single released from the album. The song did very well on the US Billboard Country Charts peaking at number five.”It’s Always Somethin,’ was composed by Aimee Mayo and Marv Green.
#6 – Home
From Joe Diffie’s debut album, A Thousand Winding Roads, “Home” was his first single, which also became his first number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as on the Radio & Records chart, and the Gavin Report chart. This put Joe Diffie into the record books as the first country artist to have a number one debut single on all three of this charts. It was also his first number one hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. His lyrical, country music style approach to no place like home easily won over country music fans and critics that could relate to the tale.
#5 – I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair (featuring George Jones)
As one of the many artists that contributed to “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” Joe Diffie’s addition to yet another hit produced by George Jones earned him a Vocal Event of the Year award in 1993 by the Country Music Association. The refuse-to-retire song marked as a milestone for the legendary Jones as his contribution to the music industry, especially in the country and western genre, deservedly earned him the right to be called a country music icon.
#4 – Bigger Than the Beatles
“Bigger Than the Beatles” served as Joe Diffie’s final number one hit single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. It came from his fifth studio album, Life’s So Funny, which was released in 1995. It served as a spin from John Lennon’s controversial comment “bigger than Jesus,” which he made in reference to the Beatles single, “All You Need is Love.” According to Diffie’s lyrical narration, the love he shared with his special woman was “Bigger Than the Beatles.”
#3 – Not Too Much to Ask (featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter)
The duet of “Not Too Much to Ask” was a collaborated acoustic-style ballad between Joe Diffie and Mary Chapin Carpenter for her 1992 album, Come On Come On. The quality and popularity of this mutual plea to keep love alive between the two artists earned a 1993 Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. However, that win went to Linda Davis and Reba McEntire for “Does He Love You” instead.
#2 – Pickup Man
“Pickup Man” became another number one hit for Joe Diffie in 1994 on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at number sixty on the US Billboard Hot 100 as a crossover hit. On the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart it peaked at number nine. “Pickup Man” was released from his fourth studio album, Third Rock from the Sun. The narrative behind the song revolved around picking up his dream woman in his pickup truck. In 2005, a slight edit to this song became an advertising slogan for the Applebee’s chain of family restaurants.
#1 – Third Rock from the Sun
In 1994, the title track from Joe Diffie’s fourth studio album, Third Rock from the Sun, earned him yet another number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. This became more than just a country song hit, but partly triggered the inspiration behind the 1996 comedy sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun. It also peaked at number eighty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100. “Third Rock from the Sun” depicted a humorous take on the lives of certain individuals that caused a chain of events that served as comedic illustrations how the human race can be.
Feature Photo: Republic Country Club, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Joe Diffie Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at end of article.