Last Updated on Thursday, 6 October 2011 8:59pm
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I was born in Philadelphia, PA at the height of the music revolution. Born next to the baby in a family of twelve (7 boys & 5 girls).Music was like rice in the south, plentiful. All of my brothers and sisters either played an instrument or sang. Needless to say, we all danced enough to keep up with the dances of the era. Through they had no interest in the “business”, it was obvious that we inherited our skills from Mom & Dad, It was their love for gospel, blues, jazz r & b/soul and being entertained that created a harmonious environment for us back in the day. Watching my brothers make and play conga and bongo drums, I learned rhythm and began my musical journey. As my interest in music grew, I started to take violin lessons, only to find out that the cello had more appeal (and it squeaked a lot less ).
I played cello all through my school years. Becoming a magnet student and attending Overbrook High School in the early 70s, I had developed good listening and practice habits that ultimately placed me in the “ All City Orchestra”. During this period in my musical development, I discovered that I really liked the bass. Since we couldn’t afford a bass, I got creative an tuned the cello to bass tones and learned to play the bass lines to every song I heard. Eventually, I was allowed practice time during school which enabled me to become proficient and my repertoire became quite extensive. I took my music seriously and practiced at least twelve hours a day. From the time I woke in the morning until I went to bed at night. Learning the concepts of theory, composition, arranging and acoustics I became a well rounded musician.
With the influences of artists like Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham, Quincy Jones, Earth, Wind & Fire, Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Ellington, Basie, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, T.S.O.P., Jimi Hendrix, Motown, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, War, The Isley Brothers, The Brothers Johnson, Otis, Redding, James Brown, Mandrill, New Birth, Ashford & Simpson, James Taylor, Chicago, and a host of wonderful musicians, singers and songwriters, I was blessed to be able to play with such acts as “The Dream Lovers, “ (When We Get Married), “The Blue Notes”,(without Harold and Teddy),”and Philadelphia’s own, “Ambassadors”,( later changed their name to” Cream de Cocoa”).
I really learned to play guitar from their music director and a dear friend, Gary Cooke. He became a member of the “Sister Sledge” organization before he passed from Lupis.
I had many teachers that were not only gifted, but patient with me. To them, I say “Thank You” and God Bless You!!
During my public school education, I also experienced the work ethic. I became quite the cook with the complete understanding of “an honest days work for an honest days pay”. A philosophy that haunts me to this day. Pursuing this ideal, lead me to a search for stable employment, so I joined the U.S. NAVY. I heard the question, “WHY ARE YOU HERE?” many times after I played in a few clubs after basic training. Eventually, my duty to my country came to an end and I got married, became a single parent, attended Community College of Philadelphia and lived the life of a musician. THAT SPEAKS FOR ITSELF!
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Coming full circle, I left the Blue Notes in 1988 and relocated to S.C. with my son. While there, I’d been fortunate to have performed with The Wise Guys, William Bell, The Educators, Charlie Jones, The Majestic Gospel singers, The Singing Angels, The Uptown Players, Bill Pinkney and The Original Drifters along with a myriad of local musicians.
I have once again relocated to Winston-Salem, N.C.. and I am very fortunate to have been able to continue on a course plotted 10 years ago. It has not been an easy time but , it has been fruitful. I wish to thank all that helped me get here in advance.
A.J. (Poppie) Diggs