Days after testing positive for COVID-19, country music singer Joe Diffie has died at age 61, according to multiple reports. The Oklahoma native had moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1986 before receiving his big break.
Born in Tulsa, Diffie graduated from Velma-Alma High School — about 20 miles east of Duncan — in southwest Oklahoma where he was a star athlete. Diffie attended Cameron University before pursuing careers in the oil field and, ultimately, music. He released his first album at the end of 1990, cutting 11 throughout his career and charting five Billboard No. 1 singles.
On his third album, titled Honky Tonk Attitude, Diffie released the song Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die). The upbeat tune told the story of a man whose appreciation of honky tonks and country music left him begging his friends to “fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand” and “prop me up beside the jukebox if I die.” The song’s music video is embedded above and displays Diffie’s trademark mustache and mullet.
Diffie’s other popular hits included If The Devil Danced in Empty Pockets, Third Rock From the Sun, Pickup Man and John Deere Green. More information about Diffie’s life growing up in Stephens County can be found in this 1993 article from The Oklahoman.
Joseph Logan Diffie was born in Tulsa and raised in the tiny community of Velma, Oklahoma. In the intervening years, the Diffie family lived in San Antonio, Washington state, and Wisconsin. His father, who held jobs as a teacher, rancher, truck driver, and welder, had musical tastes that ran more toward traditional country, but Diffie learned about harmony singing by working in gospel and bluegrass groups, including, respectively, Higher Purpose and Special Edition. Diffie also played bars, VFW halls, and honky-tonks as a solo act in Duncan, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife and children while working in a local foundry. He also partnered with his father to run a small recording studio.
The novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has infected more than 136,000 Americans, killing more than 2,000. Worldwide, the global pandemic has infected more than 713,000 people, killing more than 33,000.
(Update: This post was updated at 3:40 p.m. to include additional information and to correct reference to the alma mater of Joe Diffie.)