Wayne Diggins (photo: B. Newman)"Wayne Diggins:
Back From the Olde Country"


copyright 1996 by Monte Nordstrom
from issue #36 - Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine - Dec '96


Alto saxophonist, Wayne Diggins has had a long & multi-faceted career which began in Windsor, Ontario. Wayne comes from a musical family. His father was a jazz drummer, his paternal grandparents were musicians in England & Wayne got the music bug at an early age watching his older brother performing as a lead singer in a top rock act in the Windsor/Detroit scene in the late 60s-early 70s.

Wayne actually started out on the clarinet which is the instrument I first heard him play on a recording that Dave Spinks let me hear. This was a 5 piece RnB/Country Rock band called "Buckflats" that they had together in the B.C. Interior. Dave & Wayne met in the early 80s when "Diggs" was working at various duties in Barkerville & Dave was playing in a groups in the Quesnel area. Spinko stayed on in Quesnel while the rest of the band became known as "Electraglide" & moved down to Nanaimo to attend the Malaspina music program for a year. After finishing a year at Malaspina Diggs moved to Vancouver & got a long running gig with a Blues Brother revue called "Wired". Other members of the band were "Harpdog" Brown & saxman John Korsrud. Always one to jump up & jam, Diggs has played his old sax with countless bands over the years. (A raconteur non-pariel with an exacting memory for detail, Diggs would be the one to ask about these experiences.)

I first met him at the Queens in Nanaimo when he was part of Michael Patrick's house band there. I invited him to the Brig jam & he was soon part of the Beaumonts lineup, joining in time to record the "live" side of the cassette release, "Nothing More Better". He also played a wicked "second line" clarinet solo on the song "Take a Chance" which boasted the sax section of Wayne Diggins on Alto, Doug Rhodes on Tenor & Dave Rowse on Baritone. After this recording Wayne took his first extended trip to Thailand which was written about in Cosmic Debris: Issue #19. At this time he made contact with a number of Europeans who were also enjoying the idyllic bliss of South-East Asia. The traveller's habit of exchanging addresses gave Diggs the idea of tracking down these folks on their turf.

Diggs eventually returned to rejoin the Brig line-up & added alto lines to the "Groovedigger" Cd which also featured the tenor sax talents of Nanaimo's Pierre Komen (of Dr. Tongue) but the travel bug bit him again & Diggs took another extended sojourn to Thailand gathering more Euro-addresses along the way. His next return to Canada was rather brief. He raised some funds & applied for a British passport. (His father was born in England) Diggs left for "Olde Blighty" on June 9th of this year for a 5 month walkabout in England & in the Continent. (& here is where this story really begins...)

Diggs told me at a recent interview, "I arrived at Gatwick with my new British passport & was promptly surprised to find myself walking off the plane through the "Citizens Exit" into a London cab. No Customs, no security checks. Go figure. Anyways, I then took the subway from Victoria Station to the heart of London's theatre district where I had arranged to stay with a friend named Valentino that I met in Thailand." Valentino Vecchio is a jazz guitarist that Diggs had gigged with on Ko Phi Phi. Between jamming with Val when he was home from work Wayne spent his time checking out Picadilly Circus, Coventry Gardens, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace & enjoyed hours of delving & gleening in the British Museum, poring over Beethoven manuscripts, Debussy letters & Egyptian antiquities. He also scoured the music shops & record stores noting the average price of a Cd to be $22Can. "I saw very little music on a club/pub level & one of the local bands I did hear was passing the hat for their fee. There were lots of Afro-world beat street musicians but they are restricted to certain areas, licensed & rotation was strictly enforced by the Bobbies."

"I then travelled to the "Southend" to Pitsea, Basildon in Essex where I spent 2 weeks visiting with my 96 year old grandmother, who I hadn't seen in 18 years. She used to sing professionally with my grandfather who was a piano player way back when, & we had lots to talk about. She still lives on her own & is very independant. When I wasn't rambling about the countryside, retracing my father's childhood haunts through the marshes & the woodlands I was washing walls, gardening & refinishing my grandmother's antique oak furniture. She said it was "Like my house is having a birthday". We had a great visit & I really got in touch with my roots."

"After Pitsea I returned to Valentino's in London for a couple weeks before heading over to Amsterdam by bus & ferry via Belgium. I wanted to check out the scene & hook up with my old buddy, John Korsrud from the "Wired" band. He is studying musical composition in the Hague & is writing some brilliant stuff. I missed seeing "People Playing Music" by a couple of weeks. John used to be in that band & I've jammed with them lots. I loved the slow easy pace in Holland with the canals, houseboats & bicycles.

The liberal attitude there was refreshing after the bustle of London.

After a couple weeks I called my friend Ervin Goddinger in Germany who I met in Phuket last year when I was playing with the "Bangkok Travellers". I told him I was thinking of coming to see him & he said, "When?" I said anytime & he said to "Sit tight, I'll pick you up." The next thing I knew we were doing like 260K on the Autobahn in his 280SL Mercedes convertible & were in Duisberg, Germany in about an hour or so. Blur!"

In Duisberg I worked at the "G & G Music Shop" building roadcases & racks, had my own private room for about 7 to 8 weeks. I spent alot of time woodshedding, breaking in a new "Claude Lakey" mouthpiece & figuring out how to use the CuBase computer program in German which is a challenge. I also took my sax apart for the best cleaning of it's life & stripped off the remaining laquer so it's totally brass coloured now. It took me over 40 hours to complete. The music store was cool because I got to practise alot on piano, drums, guitar & synth. I jammed with a couple bands & did some recording but I didn't see anything really exceptional. The money is pretty good but the D.J.s are the ones getting the real dough. It's a funny planet."

"We were getting things ready for the opening of Ervin's new record store, "Red Rose Records" where I played the Grand Opening jamming along with the "Groovedigger" Cd through a P.A. system. It was a bizarre gig but I used a wireless with a Lexicon reverb & the result is that they now stock the Cd & have ordered 10 more units so that's cool."

"From Duisberg I went to Munich in Bavaria for Oktoberfest, staying with a family that I met in Thailand. They were really nice & took me sightseeing in the mountains where I saw King Ludwig the Second's castle & got to be a real tourist. Tina Turner was playing 6 shows in Munich that week & they were all sold out. She's huge in Europe. While my friends saw the show (I couldn't get a ticket) I went to a Bavarian Beerhall to experience the real thing. Das is Gud! I then returned to Duisberg, picked up my gear & moved on to Rotterdam."

"I had planned all along to meet with my friend, Ger Koedam, who is a major empresario in Rotterdam. He had told me about the mega-complex theatre that he was constructing. I had also met him holidaying with his family in Thailand. Unfortunately the Damasse Theatre project, which amazingly is built right in the river was taking longer than expected to complete & I was unable to stay for the opening gig but I had a great time with Ger & had a first class experience ending my stay in Europe."

"I took the train to the boat & left for London where I took the subway to the airport. Next thing I was in Iceland, bound for Vancouver & I returned to the Island in time for the birth of my daughter. You might say I've had quite a year. The travel bug is still with me so you never know where I'll end up next, but it's nice to be back!"

Note: On Dec 27, 1999, Wayne Diggins died of a heart attack while gigging in Thailand. Diggs will be sadly missed by many BC musicians... indeed by many musicians around the world.
A memorial concert (Duncan Eagles Hall / Jan 30, 2000), organized by Monte and Thor Kristinsson has drawn support of many regional artists.


Note: Monte Nordstrom has produced over 75 demos and has recorded 8 albums to date (Nov '99). He performs regularly at numerous venues on Canada's West Coast.
Email Monte at: nordstro@islandnet.com

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