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Soul Connection: Rocca Meets the Love Doctor

Lance Diamond

If you ask local legend and soul singer Lance Diamond what makes a person cool, he’ll tell you that it’s not necessarily their fashion sense (although he says he has enough custom suits in his dressing room to dress the whole Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra) or who they hang out with (although he’s a long time friend of Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls). What it really is, for the guy who has been doing his weekly Saturday night soul show at Milkies (formerly the Elmwood Lounge) for almost 30 years, is perseverance and just the will to keep on keeping on. Oh yeah, and the ability to be a smooth talker, not unlike one of his idols, Rick James.

Mo Rocca of the CBS television program CBS Sunday Morning recently named Diamond one of “Buffalo’s coolest people,” along with Bernice Radle of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists and former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas. A segment featuring Rocca and the three coolest people in Buffalo will air on the morning of February 2, before the Super Bowl airs that night on the same channel. We caught up with Diamond to talk about sharing an order of wings with Rocca, and what makes him so cool.

AV: Everyone in this city knows who you are. My parents know who you are, my grandparents know who you are.

Diamond: I have that type of following, young and old. I call the guys who come to see me the Beastie Boys, and the women that come out, I call them the Diamond Girls. I just had a whole bunch of young girls and their fathers who came out to Milkies from Nardin Academy for father and daughter night. There were about 25 of them. They came to say hello and dance the night away. They drank water and their fathers drank pop.

To have Mo Rocca come down to Milkies and bring his film crew, I’m emotionally touched. I don’t know if I can watch it. I’m a very blessed individual.

AV: Well you’re not only a blessed individual, but you’re one of the coolest in this city, according to Rocca.

Diamond: Well, I paid him. [Laughs.] I have to work five jobs to pay him off. But I don’t know how he got that idea. I think he was talking to Robby Takac. [Takac] called me from Japan and told me Mo Rocca was going to call me. I love those guys.

AV: What makes a person cool to you?

Diamond: People can make you cool. It’s all in how you carry yourself. I don’t think I’m the coolest guy. I think I’m more smooth than cool. The thing is, sometimes when you think you’re all that you stop trying hard. You have to be in it to win it. People in this city know if you’re real or if you’re fake.

AV: Do you think that the people in Buffalo have an especially good bullshit detector?

Diamond: I’ve been around a long time. I go back as far as the Town Casino, and that’s going way back. There used to be a saying, if you watch the old TV shows, “shuffling off to Buffalo.” And why they’d say “shuffling off to Buffalo” was because Buffalo people were so hard on you. If your show wasn’t together and you came to Buffalo, you would bomb. I had an uncle who was a singer in Burlesque clubs. I learned a lot from him. I learned there were a lot of good-looking women in burlesque clubs, and if your act was together you might be lucky enough to impress one.

AV: Do you remember the first time you set foot in Milkies?

Diamond: Yeah! I was on tour and I came home because my father was sick. He told me they didn’t think he was going to live long. I told the band that I was with—they were called Prime Time—I said “Look, I’m from Buffalo and I’m my father’s only son, I gotta go home,” and I left the band. My father was about 70 then. He lived to be 100, So I’m goin’, “What the heck happened?” In the meantime, I said, “Well, I’m here now I might as well find a gig,” and that’s when I started at the Elmwood Lounge.

AV: So what have you learned on this journey to becoming Buffalo’s coolest guy?

Diamond: Bill Cosby sat with me once in a store room at Mulligans on Hertel Avenue. There were no chairs in there so we pulled up a couple of milk crates, and him and I sat in there for an hour and talked about show business. He said, “Always remember: It’s called show business. It’s not one word, it’s two words. You have to have your show together the same way you have to have your business together.”

That has always stayed with me.

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