by Lola Rossi-Meza
Conceived in Cuba but born in New York City, Alan Diaz recalls, “Two days before Î was born, my mother saw her first American movie with Alan Ladd, so she named me Alan,” said Diaz with a chuckle, “Then my grandfather came and picked me up and brought me to Cuba where I lived until I was eight years old. I learned to speak Spanish first.” His parents did this to save his life, because the climate in New York wasn’t agreeing with him as a child and he was always sick. However, when he was eight, he re-united with his parents and his new sister. He also has four half brothers.
Diaz was very musically inclined and played the valve trombone in the Marching Band at Power Memorial Academy, an all boys’ high school. He made many friends there including Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr., better known today as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Diaz thought he would never get a girlfriend playing the trombone, so on July 15, 1963, while hanging out with friends, he sat down at a drum set, for the very first time, picked up the sticks and played “Wipeout” to the amazement of everyone.
Together with his friends, they quickly formed a band called “The Aces” and later, changed their name to “5 O’Clock News” and became popular among the local music scene. They even did a photo ad for Expandra Stretch Pants that was published in Life Magazine on May, 4 1969.
Making money playing drums in several bands, Diaz was often seen going to his gigs on bicycle with his drum set in tow with his mother’s metal shopping cart and always on time because by now, he was digging the music scene. Diaz finished four years at The City College of New York and was getting very popular. He was asked to join a neighborhood all Latin band called “SPX” which included Eddie Ojeda, Charlie Mercado, Frank Lopez and Andy Sanchez, who opened for the band “Mountain” where a Don Kirshner representative approached them with a record deal. However, Diaz had California dreams and with the support of his mother, he left for Los Angeles in 1970. Ironically, the group “Kansas” was signed instead.
Being a very serious drummer, he listened to the music of famous drummers. “John Robinson is one of the best, most consistent time keepers. I learned a lot from Steve Gadd in New York, a master of simplicity. His playing was often difficult, yet came across as simple and tasty. I picked up some great shuffle techniques from Jeff Porcaro. Another great technician is Vinnie Colaiuta. He sounds like two or three drummers with his added percussion filling in microseconds of time.”
His first break was with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, then came Jackie DeShannon, Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers, Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary and many others because of his impressionable personality and ability to draw a crowd with his playing.
Diaz was hand picked by Sergio Mendes at an audition with over 150 drummers and spent ten years touring with him. He also did a world tour with Sergio Mendes in 1994 and 1995. Diaz performed at The White House for President Ronald Reagan, Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall and The Royal Festival Hall. He has been the drummer for Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Donna Summers, Garth Brooks, Paula Abdul and countless other artists. He did extensive session work on albums such as “Opa! Com Deus” with Toshiyuki Honda, recorded in Japan; to “Voltando” with Sergio Mendes in Brazil and “Magic Lady” also with Mendes in Los Angeles, California.
He met his wife Roxanne while playing a gig in Palm Desert in 1996. It was “Love at first sight” and the two married on May 1, 1996, only six weeks after they met. Their extended family includes Roxanne’s children; Daniel and Trevor and Alan’s children; Cho and Alana. He and his family moved to Palm Springs in 1999, however, he was still on the move playing gigs with “Hammerhead Blue” in Newport Beach and touring the East Coast on occasion.
Diaz got his rhythm in Cuba and his funk in Harlem. Knowing this, musician Bill Wolfer tapped Diaz as drummer for “Mamborama”, a local Desert band that produces an eclectic blend of Latin and Funk, which is the style of music he grew up with. Diaz endorses Kickport Accessories and Zildjian Cymbals. He recently found out he was mentioned in a book published by Zildjian called, “Cymbal Set-ups of Famous Drummers.”
You can find Diaz as drummer, vocalist and leader of the “P.S. Sound Company” performing at Las Casuelas Terraza, 222 South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Band members include lead guitarist and vocalist Tony Dean; bassist and vocalist Paul Villalobos; and Joel Orona on keyboard and vocals. They do have a flexible schedule during the season, however, in July, August and September, they will perform every Saturday from 1 until 5:30 p.m.; every Sunday from 12 until 4:30 p.m.; and every Monday and Tuesday from 6:30 until 11 p.m. He also performs in the “Barry Baughn Blues Band” at Shanghai Reds in Palm Springs every Friday and Saturday from 8 until 11 p.m.