The meaning of Diyo Dayo, both the term and the song, straight from JJ himself.
With a request from Clay as to find out what Diyo Dayo meant, John (Hog Caller), my ladyfriend, and myself, were lucky enough to have a moment with JJ where he answered the question in full. The conversation and setting alone were as unforgettable as they come. I hope I am able to do the story and meaning justice as JJ told it so well, like he does with all of his stories. Enjoy.
The term “Diyo Dayo” is coined by JJ himself. He said he came up with it by just singing along with the music, hence, the way it is sung with the melody. He did say that if it did come from anywhere, it would come from the Spanish saying, “Dia de Muerto”; the day you die, or day of the dead. But first, let me get into the song meaning before I elaborate on the term to give a better understanding as to why the term would mean that. Also, I bet ya’ll didn’t know that JJ spoke Spanish? Well, he does! He said he might be a little rusty, but he can manage!
Alright, so the song itself is based on, yup, you guessed it, a book. The book is called “The Creek” by J.T. Glisson. It's a book about Cross Creek much in the same sense that Rawlings wrote her book. Like I said, Diyo Dayo is a term coined by JJ, but the story within the lyrics comes from the book. Think of each verse in the song as a separate story with the same meaning or lesson to be learned.
The first part is about a dog, believe it or not, which is a story within the book where the guy talks about walking by Cross Creek with his dog or someone walking with their dog in the brush and all of a sudden the dog jumps up and yelps. Soon after the dog dies. The dog's owner finds out that the dog was bitten by a small rattlesnake or water moccasin, which is why it yelped, jumped, and later died. He asks his father, how could such a small snake kill the dog when he knew that the dog had killed 100s of snakes in the past, much bigger that the one that killed him and never had any problems. Well, the father replies, son, you have to realize that even the small mistakes can kill you just as fast as the big mistakes in life.
That’s the meaning or lesson to be learned from Diyo Dayo. If there is anything you remember about what Diyo Dayo means, it’s simply that – Even the small mistakes in life can kill you just as fast or as easily as the big mistakes.
After you ponder that, think about the end of each verse now, which all end as “ONE MISTAKE, Diyo Day….”
That first part gives you the background for the first verse and where the lyrics come from, "She's a rattlesnake, so beware of her fangs, a lightning strike headed straight through your viens. No One can say why she does what she'll do. ONE MISTAKE, Diyo Day....."
Also, and John can attest to this, while JJ was telling the story to us, he was singing the lyrics to the song along with it, it was really something else. I had to take a moment to gather myself more than once throughout the conversation and probably have marks on my ass to this day from pinching myself to make sure I was not dreaming.
The second verse is about a homeless guy who as the lyrics say, "had it all, but he threw it away" Again, a small mistake and he's homeless. “ONE MISTAKE, Diyo Day…”
The third verse comes from the book as well, and I'm a little cloudy on remembering the story, but I have a feeling I will buy the book now and read it to get the full jist of it, but I do remember it has to do with the father and the son and one of them is out by the creek and comes across a coke bottle that looks to have water in it. I'm thinking it was the son and the father was in the hospital or a hospice on his death bed. Well, whichever it is, is hot and thirsty and they pick up the coke bottle and drink it. Turns out the bottle had Tree Poison? Or some kind of poison in it and of course they were out by Cross Creek, there was no way they could get to a hospital in time to save themselves and low and behold, they die. Once again, something as simple as mistaking a bottle of liquid for water when it is in fact poison turns out to be a small mistake that kills someone. ONE MISTAKE, Diyo Day...
After the explanation, I did ask JJ whether or not the term came from the book, but he said he just made it up while singing along to the music and thought it sounded cool. That was when he said that if it did come from anything, it would be from the Spanish saying, Dia de Muerto, or day of the dead. Thus, with the saying, he’s in a sense saying, the small mistake and now your dead or it’s your day to die, Diyo Dayo. Apparently JJ is quite fluent or was in Spanish and said he had to be when he was younger in order to make friends with a lot of kids growing up in Florida. Obviously a lot of them spoke Spanish and I’m sure JJ, being the personable guy he is, learned Spanish to befriend them. He did, however, let me know that I need to learn it, which, my ladyfriend, being from Mexico, and residing in Arizona, I know that I should. I’ve just been lazy. Maybe a kick in the butt from none other than JJ Grey is just what I need to get me off my ass and learning Spanish finally!
Well, that’s it ya’ll, if you want more, I would suggest reading the book that it’s based on or talking to JJ himself. I hope I did the story some justice. I sure as hell know that I can’t even tell it half as good as JJ does, but hey, that’s why he’s writing the music and not me! Also, if I missed anything, hopefully John (Hog Caller) jumps in and clarifies or adds to the story as he was there as well!
Finally, Thank You JJ for being so willing to tell us not only the Diyo Dayo story, but all of the stories you tell and Thank You for being so kind to all of us throughout your tours and solo shows. You are one of a kind and we are the luckiest fans in the world to have such a genuine and kind-hearted person as someone we look up to and admire both your work and as a person. This world would be a much better place if there were more out there like you!