Music of the Fair: A gem — & more
That wasn't Neil Diamond on stage Saturday at the Lyon County Fair in Marshall. But if you covered your eyes, you'd swear it was. It was actually Denny Diamond and The Jewels that were performing several of Neil Diamond's hit tunes, as well as a few other popular songs.
“He sounds exactly like Neil Diamond,” said one woman to a friend next to her. “His last name is Diamond. I wonder if he is a relative.” Actually, Denny Diamond, 58, is really Denny Svehla from Rockford, IL.
“My last name was too hard to pronounce for most people,” he laughed. “So they just started calling me Denny Diamond.” Denny's son, Spenser, was with his father performing at the fair. Spenser plays drums and guitar; sometimes at the same time.
Lucas, Denny's other son, also performs with his father and sibling, but he was unable to make the Lyon County Fair performance. Lucas plays guitar.
“The fair schedule should have read Denny Diamond and 'A' Jewel instead of 'The' Jewels,” Svehla joked.
Denny Diamond and “A Jewel” entertained the county fair audience for two sessions on Saturday.
“This is the first time we've ever played here,” said Diamond. “We've played in northern Minnesota a few times, but never here. Our agent booked us here this year and it's been a lot of fun.”
Denny and Spenser have been playing together for 15 years.
“We went on an 89-city tour in six months a couple of years ago,” said Spenser. “That got to be a lot for my brother and me so we've cut back quite a bit now.”
Svehla still performs as a solo act with one or both of his sons occasionally performing with him. Svehla began his musical career in 1999 when he auditioned and was brought on a Dick Clark produced show called "Your Big Break" that showcased people who they felt sounded like a famous performer, but did not resemble their appearance.
“They thought I looked more like Tim Allen (from Home Improvement) anyway,” Svehla said.
“I didn't win. Someone who was singing Barry White songs won, but I didn't mind.”
Soon after that performance, Svehla was getting calls to perform Neil Diamond songs as an opening act for other entertainers who sang Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra songs, to name a few.
The Lyon County Fair crowd sang along to several of the Neil Diamond songs, including Sweet Caroline.
“Neil Diamond has about 300 songs,” Denny explained.
“We sing about 25 to 30 of them between the two performances.” Svehla insists he is not trying to impersonate Neil Diamond.
“I'm not trying to act like him and I don't look like him,” Svehla said. “I just love his music.”