What happens in Vegas stays in Sacto.
One stroll into Old Sacramento’s Back Door Lounge will whisk you back to the days of Old Vegas.
Picture this. Gold and red velvet wallpaper, comfy black leather couches, dim lighthing, red candles, friendly faces , dinner served 'til 1am and L.D.
Yes, L. D. Mr. Lee Diamond.
The suave, debonier, silky–voiced Diamond performs at this chill spot every Friday and Saturday night and believe me when I say after seeing this cat for the first time, you’ll be back again and again and again (trust me, we’ve seen him approximately 11 times and counting!).
These days , unless you're in Vegas--it’s unlikely to come across this type of live singing on a regular basis.
Complete with smart suits and sharp shoes to mach, the man walks into the room like he owns the place--and rightfully so.
Closing your eyes and listening to Lee Diamond singing Mac The Knife, Volare, That’s Amore and the like will make you too feel as if you were at The Sands in the late-50s.
Not only does Diamond do the Vegas lounge standards, he also throws in a surprise here and there throughout the night such as a KooL & The Gang hit or a Journey singalong.
We had a sit down over no pie and no coffee with the singer extraordinaire recently and in true S&S fashion we strayed away from talking about singing as much as possible.
SS: We’ve seen you several times. Awesome singing! Great interaction with the audience. We’ve noticed you use recorded background music played on a DVD player instead of a live band for your performances. Have you ever performed with a live full band?
LD: I’ve played with bands a loooooong time ago (chuckles). I used to play guitar and keyboard. Rhythm and lead singer in a rock band. Many years ago.
SS: When did you get started with all of this?
LD: The first song I remember learning was “Mac The Knife” when I was about five.
SS: So you kinda grew up w/lounge jazz or vocal jazz then.
LD: Well…Top 40 radio in the 60s and the 70s really.
SS: First band?
LD: After about 6 months of learning the guitar I joined a hard rock band. Which wasn’t “heavy metal” back then, it was just hard rock. Some originals, some covers.
SS: What was the bands name?
SS: WHOA! That sounds like a hard rock band…… Now the name Lee Diamond, though. That’s not your real name? Or is it?
LD: Nope. Sitting in with a band on weekends, I would show up and they would have me come up and sing at the Burlingame Sheraton and one night the keyboard player introduced me….looked at me with a blank stare, forgot my name and said, “HERE HE IS….LEE…DIAMOND!” And I looked back at him like yeah, I’ll play your game and it just stuck forever.
SS: That’s a GREAT name for you though! A great stage name. It really does fit you.
SS: And you’ve been at the Back Door Lounge for how long now?
LD: Two years and 8 months….
SS: How’d you start up at the BDL?
LD: I heard they had a guy doing standars and he was no longer there. Gail (the owner) decided to try me out and appraently we’re still trying it out.
SS: No contract, anything like that?
LD: Nope….on a weekend-to-weekend basis.
SS: I love your singing. There’s nothing like it around here that I've seen. What a great find! Like today I had your CD playing at work and the people loved it! They thought it was Sinatra or somebody like that and I let them know it was you and that you play the Back Door Lounge every weekend.
LD: So many peole don’t know about the Back Door Lounge. Everyone who discovers it ends up saying “I didn’t know this was here, this is a great little bar."
SS: Your songs and style really add to the ambiance though.
LD: Thank you! You know, it’s not Archies Place…it’s not a little dive bar. It’s a nice quaint little lounge.
SS: So what does Lee Diamond do when he’s not doin’ the Back Door Lounge? Whataya do for FUN?
LD:For fun? I’m not allowed to have fun! (laughs)
SS: C’mon…always make time for fun is what I say.
LD: I could tell you ,but then I’d have to sequester you….edit the tape…etc.
SS: Have you ever tried anything like Vegas or casinos…?
LD: I tried casinos, but then things happen in life. From 2000-2005 I took care of my mom and my aunt full-time. I still take care of my mom making sure she takes her meds, gets to where she has to get to, etc. Point being, it’s hard to go anywhere. You’re always on call.
SS:I know what you mean. I helped my mom take care of my grandmother for years before she passed away. Definitely a full-time job.
What is playing in your stereo at home right now? What tunes are you currently diggin’?
LD:I listen to mostly smooth jazz or classical. I don’t listen to the stuff that I do because I don’t want to O.D. on it. I want to keep it fresh for myself too……and oldies! A lot of 50s. I discovered a lot of online old radio airchecks! The old wild DJ’s.
SS: Nice! Yeah, they’re re-broadcasting that stuff now.
You know when you’re singing and the crowd comes and goes then you throw your little jabs out…great! I love that.
LD: Thanks! I like surprising people. Like I’ll start, as you know, doing all the standards like your Dean Martin, Tony Bennet, your Bobby Darin…..people expect that that’s all I sing, and then I’ll do a Spinners or Kool & The Gang in the second or third set .
SS: I remember the first time we came to see you and I thought it would be all Vegas lounge all night ‘til all of a sudden you flipped Journey’s “Don’t Stop Beleivin’” on us and we were like, “what??”….you tagged us with that one! The whole bar was singing along! It was great.
I like the little gestures you give between songs. You know like the “tough crowd” gesters?
LD: (laughs)….yeah, I throw a little tongue-in-cheek in there. Things have changed over the years with audiences and you try not too take it personal…but sometimes you can sing your heart out, finish your song, and people just sit there or their still talking….that’s fine. I understand, it's fine.
But I will just look and say, “looks like an oil painting”. (laughs)
SS: (laughs) And they catch that!
LD: Some do and some don’t…but that’s ok too.
SS: The ones that catch it point it out to everyone else at the table and you can actually feel the mood change with little things like that, you know? Good showmanship.
LD: Just last Friday night, great audience from the get-go. Very receptive! I let them know they have to come back every Friday and Saturday now. Last time it WAS just like looking at an oil painting! I could have sung the greatest song ever written….
SS:Do you ever feel like “oh my God, tonight is just not kickin’.”
LD:Another line I love, ”I still get a paycheck!” I don’t expect applause ALL the time….the end of every song would be just fine (chuckles).
SS: Same setlist every weekend?
LD: I’ve condensed everything on one disc. I place it on the small DVD player that you see at the lounge. People come up to me all the time asking “where's the lyrics” and I let them know that they’re in my head…like a lead singer should, you know?
SS: They think it’s Karaoke?
LD:….and they go “where’s your sign-up sheet?” I let them know that’s Wednesday night when I’m safe at home. But I have about 240 songs on the disc. They’re some that I rarely, rarely play so I can throw one out every now and then to surpise the people. I try to mix it up. I’m sure the bartender and one or two regulars are like “I’ve heard that 900 times.” But I try not to bee too predictable.
SS: Well we definitely will continue coming out to see you at the Back Door Lounge! Definitely a refreshing change to what you usually see in the area.
SS: Now the diet thing. You are doing great!
LD: I keep trying to call it a “lifestyle” not a “diet”. I believe you’re referring to the fact that June 2nd of 2007 my good friend Jeremy Scott took some pictures of me at the Back Door Lounge (check out: www.myspace.com/leediamond for photos!) , he emailed them to me June 5th and upon viewing them I immediately quit eating carbohydrates. And now it’s 13 months later and I am down 70-75 pounds. Fluctuating 5 here and there.
SS: Did you find any fluctuation in the voice?
LD:It’s easier. It’s a little bit easier with the breathing, etc.
SS: Now is it absolutely no carbs at all?
LD: I do have cards occasionally and I’ll sneak a piece of dark chocolate here and there. I try to really stay off them to maintain it. I keep the really heavy pictures so I can look at them and say never again.
SS:So no beer and pancakes?
LD: You know I’ve never been much of a drinker.....and pancakes…no…no pancakes.
SS: I tell people at work I’m on the beer and pancake diet right now.
So do you eat just meat and greens?
LD: All kinds of meat. No vegatables. My rule of thumb on what has carbs and what doesn’t is if it lived…it has no carbs. If it grows out of the ground, it does. So I take a multi-vitamin every day, very little exercise. It takes a couple weeks to change your metabolism, but once it does it just steadily falls off.
SS: How long did it take before you could really see the results?
LD:I took about 9 months to drop 70 pounds.
SS: Wow! That’s awesome actually. So will you continue with it.
LD: I’d like to stay where I am now and not blow up. My next goal is to stay with this a few more months and see what it will do and to quit smoking! There I said it, I committed to it.
But really, I feel like I’ve lost 6 bowling balls…I feel incredible!
SS: Is there anything else you’d like to tell your fans and anyone who may be reading this?
LD: All the Back Door regulars, thank you so much for your continued support and anyone that’s interested come by and be a new part of the group and see what it’s like.
SS: And they can snag a copy of your CD there too, yes?
LD: Yes. I’m there every Friday and Saturday from 9:30 to 1am and I look forward to seeing new friendly faces!