Meet your neighbor... Nick DeMaio III
DARIEN — Nick DeMaio III, has a strong, booming voice. And though he’s from Darien, he’s got the tinge of an accent that comes from singing country music for the past 30 years.
“We once went on tour with President George H.W. Bush and we also performed for President George W. Bush here in Connecticut,” said DeMaio III, 57, who was sporting a red and black flannel shirt and a black cowboy hat.
DeMaio’s interest in country music came from his father, Nick DeMaio Jr., who played minor-league baseball throughout Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma in the 1950s and died in 2015.
“When he was playing baseball, he listened to more and more mainstream country music and eventually became a musician himself,” DeMaio III said. “My brother and I got exposed to this music from a young age and it’s been our music of choice ever since.”
DeMaio III, along with his brother, Jeff, founded a country music band, then known as the Young Pioneers, in 1987. However, the name was too long for DeMaio III’s liking and the group eventually changed it to Gunsmoke, based on the Wild West radio and television show.
To learn more about Gunsmoke, visit the website www.gunsmokeband.com.
The band, which now includes two DeMaio generations — DeMaio III and the IV — and Van Manakas and Fooch Fischetti, plays classic country with a style that is heavily influenced by country greats like Johnny Cash and George Strait.
“Our father joined in the 1990s, we had a cousin and a close friend in our band then,” DeMaio III said. “About five years ago, I brought in my children — my son, Nick DeMaio IV, is on the drums and my daughter, Christina, is on vocals.”
Gunsmoke has performed throughout the Northeast and even all the way to Nashville, Tenn. where they were invited to perform at the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, the second-longest running radio show in history according to the site’s homepage.
DeMaio Jr. was nicknamed “The Ambassador” in a Gunsmoke trip to Nashville. According to DeMaio III., an official from the Grand Ole Opry, one of the country’s most renowned concert stages, gave his father the name after he found out the band was from Connecticut, an area not particularly known for country music.
“He’s talking to us and says, ‘You guys are like the ambassadors of our music up in Connecticut’ ” DeMaio III said with a hearty laugh.
The band has traveled often to Nashville to play at the Grand Ole Opry, an opportunity to meet other artists and show their new music.
“All our recordings have been made there except for one. It’s a first-class place,” DeMaio III said. “That’s the place where we began to establish connections in Nashville and meet other people who played the same type of music.”
Most recently, Gunsmoke has performed at the Opry City Stage in Broadway, a Grand Ole Opry venue in New York City that just opened in November.
“We were fortunate enough to go there and have been going since December once or twice a week,” DeMaio III said. “It can be a difficult pace to keep but a good thing is that we can practice whenever we want as we are a family.”
DeMaio III keeps a busy schedule besides all the singing and practicing. He’s the current president of the Piedmont Club, the Italian-American social club located at 152 Hecker Ave. and an active organization in Darien for almost 102 years that currently has around 200 members.
“At the Piedmont, we have been fortunate that our location gives us a big advantage and that we have good people running the organization,” DeMaio III said.
DeMaio III is not done, however. He’s also the girl's softball coach at Darien High School, where he has taught physical education for over 20 years.
“We were FCIAC champions last year,” DeMaio III said. “And we’re getting back into it for this upcoming season.”
With so many passions to juggle, DeMaio III maintains a cheery, confident spirit.
“It’s really great to be able to have the opportunity to do all of these things, though I may not get much sleep,” DeMaio III laughed.