Columbia native impersonates Neil Diamond in his "Black Diamond Experience"

Sunday, August 2, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 4, 2009

COLUMBIA — If you close your eyes, you'll swear you hear Neil Diamond singing "Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good ..."

But in reality, it’s Theron Denson, who says he's the “planet’s only” black Neil Diamond impersonator.

Denson, a Rock Bridge High School graduate, makes a stop at Boone Tavern on Thursday with a show called “The Black Diamond Experience.”

Denson first realized he had an uncanny similarity to Diamond when he was singing in church at age 11.

“People would hear me and turn around and say, ‘Do you realize you sound like Neil Diamond?'" he said.

Denson has toured across the country, singing in Chicago, New York, Dallas, Kansas City and other cities. He even performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and met singer Macy Gray.

“It was so cool to go out there and have that exposure and attention because it launched my career on a whole different level,” Denson said.

Currently living in Las Vegas, he fronts a band with drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and keyboard. 

He said it doesn’t take much work to embody the Neil Diamond persona.  Much of it is gestures and clothing.

“I’ve been doing it for so many years, and I think what I do is more or less like an actor becoming a character for a movie,” Denson said. “I just take on the role.”

His nephew Stuart Denson, an MU student, has never seen his uncle perform but said his uncle’s vocal similarity to the iconic singer is amazing.

“I think he sounds like Neil Diamond, and measured by his success, I think a lot of other people do as well,” Stuart Denson said.

Theron Denson said a typical show is 90 minutes long and consists of 20 to 25 songs. His favorite is “Highly Holy”; the most requested, by a landslide, is “Sweet Caroline.”

“I’m going to enjoy the performance,” said Theron's brother, Stefan. “But I won’t be shouting out any requests from the crowd. I think that will work a lot better for me.”

The show begins at 8:30 p.m. at Boone Tavern. Tickets are free, but those who attend are encouraged to reserve seats.

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