Kenneth Diggs always seemed drawn to music.
“When I was 3 years old, if I’m not mistaken, my great-grandmother and my mother bought my sister and my brother an acoustic piano,” recalls Diggs. “Every time they got off the piano, after their lessons, I would go and listen by ear to whatever they played.”
He said he started taking lessons around the age of 5, when he was old enough to sit on the piano stool.
“When I was at the recreation center, I had the privilege of playing behind Billy Paul, the song ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’,” he said. “I was friends with his family. They also lived in North Philly.”
Diggs studied music theory at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, then spent his teenage years playing with different bands and musicians. He traveled with US Navy and Air Force groups.
After six years in the military, Diggs performed in churches, with his bands, and with other bands.
This put him in touch with other “alumni groups” in the Philadelphia area such as The Drifters and The Coasters.
In Muskogee, Diggs worked with musicians such as Shy Willie and the Blues Crew and Starr Fisher, Harley Hamm and Bronko Carr.
Scheduling performance while running a Maytag dealership has become tedious.
“I would come home from shows at 3 or 4 in the morning, get up to go to work, I have to be there at 9 am,” he said. “I decided to quit and play for the church, period.”
The retreat was brief.
Diggs said that when the musicians got together for its 50th anniversary, “that’s when this bug went ‘poop! “And I liked doing it.”
He goes from keyboards to bass and D’Elegantz form.
“I’ve been tinkering around bass my whole life, and I decided, on my own, that I was going to play bass and prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.
Diggs keeps his keyboards and sound gear in a back porch he built. When not making music, he enjoys gardening, electronics, and construction work.
Country on tour playing music
Kenneth Diggs says he learned longevity touring with The Coasters in the late 1980s. The band hit the charts with “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy” in the late 1950s. He said that only one member of the original Coasters still played with this group.
“You’re looking for someone who’s 70, 80 and just drove a tour bus from the east coast to the west coast, and they have to go out and get right on stage and perform,” he said. “You now have young children who are acting too tired to do this. “
Diggs recalled memorable concerts at Radio City Music Hall and the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
“You could feel the presence of everyone who was there,” he said.
The trip had its good days and its bad days.
“We should be careful with sharks,” he said. “The accommodations weren’t always what you expected … You can actually get taken for everything you have in this business.”
He also recalled the fun he had.
“From the moment you got on that tour bus until the moment you got home, you’ve done nothing but laugh,” he said. “They were just funny. They were just making jokes, even on stage.”
Play music with new band members
Diggs continues his music with D’Elegantz.
“We can make it happen anywhere, from a group of three to a group of 20,” he said. “Most of my guys, with the exception of my guitarist, are newbies at this.”
He praised the lead singer, Jocelyn Robison, “Lady J.”
“When she opens her mouth, even the walls stop to listen,” Diggs said. “That’s how good she is.”
Other band members include Paul Barnett, singer and percussionist, and Mike McClure, guitarist. Diggs said McClure was “second to none”.
The group performs hits of different genres.
“If you’re at the casino spending the money, I think you should be able to hear something you like,” Diggs said. “We play a bit of everything from blues to country to rock and roll to soul.”
Before COVID-19 hit in March 2020, the group was performing on average two to three weekends per month.
“This year has been very difficult because of the pandemic,” Diggs said. “We did some more concerts during the pandemic, thank goodness. We still had other concerts that they called us to as a three member band.”
Venues are now looking for larger groups, and D’Elegantz artists are taking the time to hone their skills, Diggs said.
Use other given talents
When he’s not making music, Diggs enjoys working with his hands.
“I don’t like paying someone for something I can do for myself,” he said.
He built an annex with a kitchen and a music corner behind his house.
“I had always wanted an outdoor kitchen,” said Diggs. “When you work in an appliance store, you see all of these things.”
The first idea was to build a back porch, he said.
“I started to think, I love to entertain,” he said. “I redesigned it and installed windows because I wanted to be here all year round.”
The contractors built the frame and installed the plumbing, but Diggs did the electrical and interior work. He built the cabinets and installed granite counters and a kitchen island.
Diggs also added stained wood to the ceiling to give it a southwestern look.
“I wanted to make it look like an outdoor gazebo,” he said. “I love the final product. I love to see it when it’s finished. Sometimes I sit and watch it. My dad has passed away, and sometimes tears come to my eyes because I know if he was there, he would be in love. ”
Questions and answers
HOW ARE YOU A MUSKOGEE OKIE?
“I was Music Director for The Drifters. I had moved to South Carolina where I met my wife. I came to Oklahoma to visit her on Valentine’s Day, I stayed longer than expected. We got married on Christmas 1996, and I’ve been here ever since. “
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“I like the cost of living much better than most places. Having come from a place like Philadelphia, where very few people pass by, it’s a great relief to come to a place. where people just say hello. from a clear blue sky. “
WHAT MAKES MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“Things like Best Buy. We need more businesses, especially after the pandemic. And the streets are terrible. If we’re going to attract tourists, let’s sit down and make our city better.”
WHICH PERSON IN MUSKOGEE WILL YOU ADMIRE MOST?
“My boss, Dave Bauer. I admired him because he was a young man who had started a business and had nothing, and worked from the ground up. And now he has expanded his stores outside of the state. “
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING FOR YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“The young people of the church. Working with them and watching them grow. It leaves a lot of memories. I am known as Uncle Kenny by all the young people. Even the young people of Mississippi. To be an inspiration to them because my boss owed me.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
“Tinkering with my garden. I have tomatoes, everything. Also, sit back and write some music. I also like to sit and watch TV with my wife.
HOW DO YOU SUMMARIZE MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“Great place to live. Nice people. If you want to achieve different things. Muskogee is a great place to come.”
MEET Kenneth A. Diggs
EDUCATION: Vocational technical high school in the Dobbins region, studied electronics and instrumentation.
MILITARY SERVICE: Six years, US Navy.
FAMILY: wife, Diana Diggs; six children; 18 grandchildren.
CHURCH: Mont. Zion Baptist Church and New Zion Baptist Church.
LEISURE: “I like fishing. I like building things, working with electronics, music, gardening.”