Diamond tribute artist at Kubiak’s June 25Published 9:24pm Monday, June 17, 2013
Had he not broken his leg playing ball at the beginning of summer in high school, Dennis Svehla probably wouldn’t have taught himself to play the guitar while repeatedly listening to the “Hot August Night” eight-track, let alone become an entertainer.
While he “honestly doesn’t hear it,” the owner of Denny Diamond Inc. and leader of a well-traveled trio with his two sons, the Family Jewels, can replicate Neil Diamond’s distinctive baritone.
“I’ve been a fan of his since grade school,” said the former computer programmer from Illinois who will be performing in Niles at 8 p.m. June 25 at Kubiak’s Tavern while traveling from Illinois to Virginia and Maryland.
Denny Diamond and the Family Jewels have been described as “The Jonas Brothers with a hint of the Smothers Brothers and their dad.”
To add to the fun, Denny, whose shot came in 2000 on Dick Clark’s “Your Big Break,” a show where celebrity sound-alikes competed for cash and prizes, resembles a few other celebrities, too, particularly Chuck Norris and Tim Allen.
When the economy went haywire in 2008, Denny and his sons began booking out-of-state jobs and transitioning into performing fulltime.
Lucas, 25, is lead guitarist/synthesizer and played trombone when he was drum major of his high school band in McHenry County, Ill., near Lake Geneva, Wis.
They had never played in Michigan until the Jackson County Fair last year.
Spenser, 24 next week, started on bass in 2003 and drums in 2006.
His sons imitate other artists, including Johnny Cash (who won a Grammy for his rendition of Diamond’s “Solitary Man”), Rick Nelson, Glen Campbell, Buddy Holly and Elvis.
Denny’s humble beginnings included deejay work with his brother, when they would sing “September Morn” during dinner.
The real Neil “knows of me,” says Denny, who has performed for his fan club and before crowds as large as 5,000.
“He does a great job on stage and is an amazing live performer,” Denny said.
Though Denny liked Diamond’s last couple of albums, Hot August Night, the 1972 live double album, remains his favorite.
“Sweet Caroline” is an anthem at Boston’s Fenway Park, which Denny finds ironic given that Diamond is a Brooklyn native (he and Barbra Streisand sang in the Erasmus High School chorus) and would seem naturally inclined to follow the New York Yankees.
In 2007, Diamond revealed that the inspiration for his most-requested song came from President John F. Kennedy’s then 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, after he saw a magazine photograph of her standing next to her pony, Macaroni.
Denny said in clubs the size of Kubiak’s they are able to hear audience feedback and take requests, in which 1979’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” also rank high.
Besides his own hits, such as “Song Sung Blue,” “Holly Holy” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” Diamond also penned hits for the Monkees, including “I’m a Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow).”