Diz "Honey Bear" Watson is one of the British greats when it comes to barrel house piano and New Orleans boogie. In fact, Dr John says "Diz is great, you can't fool him. He really can play that piano." And American saxman Lee Allen, who's played with everyone from Fats Domino to Profresssor Longhair adds "Diz is one of the rockinest piano players in the world."
With his band, Diz and the Doormen, he captures the spirit of the Crescent City, influenced by those name checked already and also the likes of Huey "Piano" Smith, Amos Milburn and James Booker.
2011 sees the 30th anniversary of the "Bluecoat Man" album released on ACE Records. Recorded in Chalk Farm Studio, London, using old valve equipment and packing a very authentic sound, the album remains a stone cold classic today.
Diz's story and journey to date has been fascinating. Born in South Africa of English parents and moving back to the UK aged 12 in 1960, he subsequently had adventures on the high seas in the Merchant Navy, met Champion Jack Dupree whilst they were both living in Yorkshire and made regular trips to New Orleans spending time with his mentor, Professor Longhair. But always Diz was soaking in the music.
After leaving the Merchant Navy, Diz soon found himself moving up to London and playing in a variety of bands before forming his own combo. Gigging as the "Commissionaires" on account of the uniforms they wore ("donated" by a head porter at a London hotel) the "Doormen" name came later. In fact, Diz remembers that "the promoter forgot the name of the band and (when we arrived to play) up on the board was Diz and the Doormen".
The newly named line-up soon had a cult following packing rock-a-billies, punks, purists and ska-heads into their gigs across town. The release of "Bluecoat Man" (featuring American giants Lee Allen and Walter Kimble) built on their fan base. And with critical acclaim for the album, Diz and the Doormen toured with Chas 'n' Dave, opened for Madness and backed up Dr John on the Nighttripper Tour (culminating in the Glastonbury Festival 1984). 1984 also saw the release of the follow-up album "Rhumbalero", also released on ACE Records.
Since then Diz has lived mainly in Europe, spending much time gigging in Norway, Denmark and Germany. However, he returned to the Uk a few years ago and a new "Doormen" line-up was formed. Featuring Diz's long time collaborator Tony Uter on congas, they have been joined by Kenrick Rowe (drums), Ricardo dos Santos (upright bass) and a brass section featuring the great sax playing of Nick Payne and Nick Pentelow.
2009 saw another fantastic release on ACE - Diz and the Doormen's "Tonky Honk" featuring special guest Big Jay McNeely.
Be it gigging or popping up on Mark Lamarr's radio shows, Diz is now influencing a new generation, be it players - such as friend Ben Waters, or gig-goers. Gaz Mayall (Gaz's Rockin' Blues) sums Diz's appeal:
"Diz has been back to my Thursday night spot in Soho a few times in the last year or two with his new line-up. As always, absolutely superb. A whole new generation of kids, teenagers and with-it young people are romping and stomping to his sounds."