The framed photographs on the wall behind Dion DiMucci tell the story of a remarkable six-and-a-half-decade career that has followed the arc of rock’n’roll itself. “That picture right there is with Kim Wilson, Dave Edmunds, Graham Parker and Steve Cropper,” he points out proudly, in his boisterous Bronx accent. “This one is Springsteen and his band on the Jersey Shore…”
The Boss is among the mind-boggling array of A-list talent that Dion has enlisted for his new album Stomping Ground, simply by firing off a few emails. “On the new album there’s a song called Dancing Girl,” he explains, grooming his goatee with a tiny comb (a startlingly youthful 82, Dion is not about to let things slide now). “I said to my wife, ‘Mark Knopfler would kill this!’ And you know, he loved it. I sent one to Eric Clapton because I just heard him on it. I think I have a gift of who should be on it, that’s the funny part about it. Because they respond really positive to the track when I send it to them.”
Having experienced more than his fair share of knockbacks and disappointments down the years, these days Dion’s main priority is just to enjoy himself. “I tell ya, it’s a lot of fun doing this. Every time I work with somebody, it’s totally surprising and uplifting. Man, it just blows my mind because the artists that I send these tracks to are very distinctive, very amazing. I’m limited! They’re way over my head. And when the track is finished I’m like, ‘Wow’. The only thing I hate about it is, it ends!”
What do you remember about the Winter Dance Party tour, before the tragedy? What do you think rock would be like if Ritchie [Valens] and Buddy [Holly] had lived?
Trent Knabe, via email
The experience of the tour before the crash was just unbelievable. I was a young kid, 19 years old, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. My whole world was opening up: you had Ritchie Valens from the San Fernando valley, you got Buddy Holly from Lubbock, Texas, you had the Big Bopper.… it was so interesting to me. In the back of the bus, man, we’d get out our guitars and we’d be jamming. We were experimenting with our new Stratocasters to see who could make them ring the loudest! It was the most fun I’d ever had. Then the plane crash took it out of me. It made me ask a lot of questions on all levels: spiritually, mentally, emotionally – what is life about, why am I here, where am I going? In a lot of ways, that crash made me the person I am today. I miss those guys and it really deepened my relationship with God and life and people and music, and made me
a very grateful man.