Stepping Out

Get to know Ben Diamond and his band Son Stone


Ben Diamond may be one of Long Island’s more versatile singer-songwriters. Born and raised in East Meadow, he began his musical journey playing the piano, and later the clarinet for his high school jazz band, before he picked up the guitar for the first time in 1981.

Growing up he was a big fan of improvisational and psychedelic rock groups including the Grateful Dead, Traffic and Cream — the sounds of which permeate his own original works.

“I was playing heavier electric music like Neil Young and Van Halen,” Diamond says. “When my wife got pregnant, she said ‘all these amps, you have to get rid of them.’”

He took up the Hawaiian slack key guitar in 1996, after listening to a record by slack key master Keola Beamer at Tower Records. Hawaiian slack key is a fingerstyle genre that requires loosening certain strings and features an alternating bass pattern.

“It was love at first sound,” Diamond continues. “I was like ‘what is this music?’ It was calm and relaxing and I had to learn it.”

Years later, he would take private lessons with Beamer while he was visiting New York.

His current project, Son Stone, however, leans more heavily towards an alternative folk sound similar to singer-songwriter John Prine, and features a lineup of incredibly talented Nassau County-based performers including Danny “Big Hands” Doll on lead guitar, Jeff Brody on bass and Lance Cheney on drums.

Son Stone’s latest album is exactly what listeners might expect from the two-time finalist of American Songwriter Magazine’s national songwriting contest, also an award-winning poet and humorist.

“Lyrics are super important to me,” Diamond says. “I spend a lot of time on the lyrics and then I work them through with my band.”

A poet (with a master’s degree in poetry on his resume), he puts his talent to work for him in the form of lyrics. Taking a page from Steve Winwood’s playbook, he wrote a folk tune called “Hanging on the Vine,” which talks about the process of making wine from the perspective of one of the grapes.

Diamond also performs with the band SOBeeZ, playing covers of classic ‘60s and ‘70s rock tunes, and is the founder of the Long Island Hawaiian Slack Association. He’s also involved in Huntington Arts Center’s North Shore Original Open Mic and is a member of the Long Island Fingerstyle Guitar Club, a network of local guitarists who learn, share ideas and workshop songs. No picks allowed.

“I am a slow writer,” Diamond says. “But during Covid, what else did we have to do? In 2021, I challenged myself to write 21 songs — a new song every two weeks.”

The idea was something that stuck, not just with him, but also with the 25 fellow musicians in his group. Every two weeks they arranged a Zoom conference call to discuss how they were going to select their criteria. Sometimes his group wrote songs using a word from a movie title or opened a book to a random page, or would empty their pockets and write a song based on what they pulled out, he explains.

“We have a lot of fun,” he says.”It’s all about having a chance to express your creativity.”

When all was said and done, his cadre of musicians created 1,400 new songs — including the nine songs featured on Son Stone’s album “Two Birds to Kill a Stone,” which was released in March.

Diamond still resides in East Meadow with his wife, who also grew up in the community, and three sons who all graduated from East Meadow High School. Through the years he has had the fortune of opening for some legendary musicians including Jorma Kaukonen, of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, and David Gans, SiriusXM radio personality and Grateful Dead historian, author and musician.

So far he has released nine albums — seven featuring Hawaiian slack-influenced music and standards. Someday, when he retires, he might look to take his unique style of music on the road, but for now, according to Diamond, he plans on staying close to home.

Diamond will be performing with Son Stone at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook, on Sunday, July 14, at 3 p.m. The concert will feature a one-hour set of original songs on the LIMEHOF stage. He follows with an acoustic set at the Jeanne Rimsky Theater at Landmark on Main Street, in Port Washington, on Wednesday, July 17, at 2 p.m., as part of the “Afternoon TEA” series sponsored by the New York Council on the Arts.

To learn more about Son Stone, Hawaiian slack guitar, tour dates, tickets and more, visit