Legs Diamond has a long-running love affair with S.A. rock fans – San Antonio Express-News

Legs Diamond is forever etched into San Antonio’s hard rock history, but the origins of the band name may not be as widely known. 

“We were big fans of the TV show ‘The Untouchables,’ so we were into the gangster stuff,” drummer Jeff Poole said in an interview via Zoom. “One day, we were kicking around band names trying to come up with a gangster name. Our original bassist Michael Diamond came up with the Purple Gang, and I came up with Legs Diamond.

“I said, ‘What about Legs Diamond? A diamond is the hardest rock in the world so we can play off that name with all kinds of catchy album titles and stuff.’ He fell in love with it and that’s when the name was born.”

Shortly thereafter, another love was born between the Los Angeles band and San Antonio’s hard rock faithful, who couldn’t get enough of Legs Diamond’s self-titled, 1977 debut album and fan-favorite follow-ups “Firepower,” “A Diamond is a Hard Rock” and “Out on Bail.”

“The first show we ever played in San Antonio was April 8, 1977, at the Municipal Auditorium,” Poole said. “We were booked with Bob Seger and Starz. It was a killer show. We were brought back within seven months to headline the exact same place. So yeah, we’ve been in love with San Antonio for quite some time. 

“That was 45 years ago,” he added, “and here we are today getting excited about coming back to play for our favorite audience in the world.”

That audience will share its longstanding mutual love with headliner Legs Diamond on Saturday at the Tech Port Arena as part of the Tierra Sagrada Rockfest. Fellow classic rockers Moxy, Lita Ford, Jack Russell’s Great White and Kingdom Come also are on the bill Local favorites Jessikill open.

While each band on the bill can trace its enduring San Antonio popularity back to legendary 99.5 KISS FM DJ Joe “The Godfather” Anthony, perhaps none is more indebted than Legs Diamond, which today features original members Poole, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Prince and guitarist Roger Romeo. Newcomers Adam Kury and Keith England complete the lineup on bass and vocals.

“We owe it all to Joe Anthony and the power of radio,”  Prince said during the same Zoom call. “He started playing our records early on, and people started hearing our songs over and over. Lou Roney and Tom ‘T-Bone’ Scheppke also played our records and helped a lot. The power of radio was a beautiful thing for us in San Antonio.”

Anthony, who died in 1992, helped turn Legs Diamond songs such as “Woman,” “Stage Fright,” “Fugitive” and “Rat Race” into radio staples for generations of San Antonio rock fans.

Legs Diamond, pictured in a promo photo for the 1979 album "Fire Power" with original singer Rick Sanford, were an immediate hit with San Antonio rock fans.

Legs Diamond, pictured in a promo photo for the 1979 album “Fire Power” with original singer Rick Sanford, were an immediate hit with San Antonio rock fans.

Cream Records

“Our management said we were getting a lot of radio play on KISS FM in San Antonio, and that’s when they set up our first in-studio radio interview in time for our ’77 headline gig,” Poole said. “That’s when we first met (Anthony). I remember the courtyard outside the radio station filling up with people while we were on the air. When we were done with the interview, we went outside and there was a mob of people. It was absolutely fantastic.”

On the bill: Legs Diamond, Moxy, Jack Russell’s Great White, Lita Ford, Kingdom Come, Jessikill

When: Doors open 4:30 p.m.

Where: Tech Port Arena, 3331 General Hudnell Drive

Details: $35-$65, techportcenter.com

Meet the band

Legs Diamond will meet fans, sign autographs and have merchandise for sale at Fitzgerald’s Bar & Live Music Venue, 437 McCarty Road, from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. All ages; under 21 must be accompanied by parent. fitzrockssa.com

Fast-forward to the present and Legs Diamond is less active than in past decades when the band toured arenas with Kiss, Ted Nugent and Styx. Leave it to San Antonio, however, to call on the band almost every year to brush off the gems.

“We know people want to hear ‘Woman,’ ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘Out on Bail,’ ” Prince said. “We play those songs every time we play San Antonio because we know they had a lot of radio play and everybody wants to hear them. Those songs are still exciting to us and we’re happy to play them.

“We also try to find a song or two we haven’t played in a zillion years so (this year) we’ve added one from the first album and another from the third.”

While Legs Diamond’s catalog is rock hard, it’s the mournful ballad “Woman” that always sends the crowd into sing-along mode.

“I think it’s because it’s more than a song,” Prince said of the song’s enduring popularity. “It’s very well-constructed and very well-written. It has different movements. It builds. If you listen to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or Grand Funk Railroad’s (starts singing ‘I’m Your Captain’), those songs build and turn into something else by the end.”

Poole added another theory behind the song’s timeless appeal.

“I think that song resonates, because the lyrics really hit home for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s a deep, emotional song that deals with the human element and relationships. It speaks to the heart and I think everyone relates to that.”

The voice behind “Woman” and Legs Diamond’s other classic songs belongs to Rick Sanford, who departed the band in 2005 and settled down near (surprise!) San Antonio after growing weary of the music business and the toll it took on his voice.

“Rick is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” Prince said. “He’d come help you change your tire at 3 a.m. if you called him, but he wants to make sure the songs are done justice vocally and you have to be able to hit the high notes. I know the fans would still be happy if he sang in a lower register, but Rick doesn’t want to go out that way.”

Enter one-time Montrose singer and former Allman Brothers backup vocalist Keith England.

“He’s a true professional and a super nice guy, so he just fit right in,” Poole said. “It’s one thing to try to step into another man’s shoes, but when you’re playing Legs Diamond material and trying to sing like Rick Sanford, let’s face it — Rick was singing some of those songs when he was 22 years old and could really hit the high notes. Some of those songs are a real stretch! I think Keith has really come into his own and is doing a tremendous job.”

In keeping with the tradition of periodically releasing new albums since the heyday of the 1970s and 1980s, Legs Diamond is hard at work on new material. When can fans expect a new album?

“To be safe, I’m gonna say it’ll be next year,” Prince said. “We could probably get it done this year, but we don’t want to rush it. I think we want to write three or four more songs and then we’re ready to hit the studio.”

David Glessner is a freelance writer in Austin.

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