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The Diamonds are a Canadian vocal quartet that rose to prominence in the 1950s and early 1960s with 16 Billboard hit records. The original members were Dave Somerville (lead), Ted Kowalski (tenor), Phil Levitt (baritone), and Bill Reed (bass). They were most noted for interpreting and introducing rhythm and blues vocal group music to the wider pop music audience. Contrary to a popular myth, the father of Tom Hanks was never a member of the group.
The group in 1957.
Adam David Marino
|Past members||Dave Somerville|
In 1953, Dave Somerville, while working as a sound engineer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, met three other young singers. They decided to form a stand-up quartet called The Diamonds. The group's first performance was in the basement of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Toronto singing in a Christmas minstrel show. The audience's reaction to the Somerville-led group was so positive that they decided that night they would turn professional.
After 18 months of rehearsal, they drove to New York and tied for 1st Place on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. The prize of being guest artist for a week on Godfrey’s show led to a recording contract with Coral Records. Professional musician Nat Goodman became their manager. Coral released four songs, the most notable being "Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots", written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The next big step was an audition with Cleveland, Ohio, radio disc jockey, Bill Randle, who had aided in the success of some popular groups, such as The Crew-Cuts. Randle was impressed with The Diamonds and introduced them to a producer at Mercury Records who signed the group to a recording contract.
The Diamonds’ first recording for Mercury was "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (originated by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers), which reached #12 in the U.S. as their first hit, and their follow-up hit single, "The Church Bells May Ring" (originally by The Willows), reached #14 in the U.S.
The Diamonds' biggest hits were 1957's "Little Darlin'" (originally recorded by The Gladiolas, written by Maurice Williams) and "The Stroll" (1957), an original song written for the group by Clyde Otis, from an idea by Dick Clark.
Although they were signed to do rock and roll, Mercury also paired them with jazz composer and arranger Pete Rugolo, in one of his Meet series recordings. The album, entitled The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo, allowed them to return to their roots and do some established standards.
The group sang "Little Darlin'" and "Where Mary Go" in the film The Big Beat. They sang the theme song to the 1958 film, Kathy O’.
In the late 1950s, Reed, Kowalski and Levitt left the group and were replaced by Mike Douglas, John Felten, and Evan Fisher.
1960s, 1970s and 1980sEdit
Despite the ever-changing style of rock & roll and their Mercury contract expiring, The Diamonds continued touring the country. After Dave Somerville left the group in 1961 to pursue a folk singing career as "David Troy", he was replaced by Jim Malone. There were no more hit records by The Diamonds after Somerville left. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s The Diamonds performed mostly in Las Vegas led, at first, by Mike Douglas, later being continued by Glenn Stetson. At one time, there were at least two groups performing under The Diamonds name, the other principally being led by John Felten until his death on May 17, 1982, in a plane crash. This created an issue in the late 1980s that ultimately went to court. The right to the use of the name "The Diamonds" was awarded to Gary Owens (a member of Felten's group) with the original members being allowed to use their name on special occasions each year. Owens, along with members Bob Duncan, Steve Smith (both former members of Lawrence Welk's band and television program), and Gary Cech, released an album in 1987, "Diamonds Are Forever", which contained two songs that entered the lower reaches of the Country Music Charts, "Just a Little Bit" and "Two Kinds Of Women".
In 1986, Glenn Stetson and Dick Malono opened up Little Darln's Rock and Roll Palace near Disney in Orlando, Florida which was a magical success for all the acts of that era to perform. The Country Music Network also starting videos of the groups that went on the TV network. In 1983, The Diamonds with Glenn Sterson were the first rock and roll group to go on the Country Music Network on a show called Nashville Now with Ralph Emory.
2000s and beyondEdit
The Diamonds received national attention once again in 2000, when the original members were invited to sing in TJ Lubinsky’s PBS production of Doo-Wop 51, and again in the PBS production entitled Magic Moments-The Best Of '50s Pop in 2004.
In 2012 The Diamonds were listed as guest stars with The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies at the Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California. The Diamonds are on the Live On Stage 2013-2014 roster for a national community concert tour.
Somerville died on July 14, 2015, in Santa Barbara, California.
The Diamonds continue to tour to this day with the line-up of Gary Owens (baritone), Adam David Marino (tenor), Michael Lawrence (lead) and Jeff Dolan (bass), although none of the members are from the original group which had records on Mercury Records.
- Dave Somerville – Lead (died 2015) / Replaced by Jim Malone 1961
- Ted Kowalski – Tenor (died 2010) / Replaced by Evan Fisher 1958
- Phil Levitt – Baritone / Replaced by Mike Douglas 1957
- Bill Reed – Bass (died 2004) / Replaced by John Felten 1958 (died 1982) / Replaced by Gary Cech until 1992 (voluntarily left the group).
- Glenn Stetson – Lead vocalist / replaced John Felten in 1968. Mike Douglas remained with the group as the only original member who recorded for Mercury in the 1950s and early 1960s. At this time The Diamonds consisted of Glenn Stetson (Canada), Harry Harding (Canada), Danny Rankin (USA), and Mike Douglas (Canada).
- Joe Derise – Vocalist and composer joined in 1969.
- Jerry Honeycutt - was with John Felten during the mid-1970s, right up until Felten's death.
- Steve Smith - of The Lawrence Welk Show fame has been with The Diamonds since 1982.
- John Wagner - Vocalist, singing tenor and playing tenor sax, joined Glen Stetson in 1983 and was with Stetson until 2003 when Stetson died. The Diamonds continued to perform until Stetson's death. It needs to be understood that the group that evolved when Somerville left The Diamonds in 1961 and Mike Douglas continued the group is the same group that Stetson kept going until his death in 2003. The historical continuation that began in 1968 ended with Stetson's death.
- Mike Douglas and Joe Derise rejoined The Diamonds in 1988. Derise eventually died and Mike Douglas (one of the original singers from the group's Mercury days) died in the summer of 2013.
- Bob Duncan, tenor, began singing with John Felten in 1979.
- Gary Owens, baritone, joined John Felten in 1975. He sings, plays saxophone and flute, and does most of the vocal arranging for the group.
- Gary Cech, bass, began singing with Bob Duncan in 1982 shortly after John Felten's death and left the group in 1992.
- Jerry Siggins, bass
Jim Malone did impersonations as well as singing. He and Evan Fisher left The Diamonds to form Fisher & Malone.
John Felten reformed The Diamonds with lead singer Ron Neuman in the mid 1970s with Bob Duncan singing tenor, Don Wade singing baritone, and with John Felten singing bass. This group continued until the untimely death of John Felten, which happened in 1982, while performing at John Ascuaga's Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada. At this point there were several Diamonds groups popping up across the USA. It was then that Bob Duncan formed his version of the Diamonds, Glen Stetson continued The Diamonds that evolved from the original group in the 1950s, and Gary Owens formed one as well. With all the confusion over the name of The Diamonds, Neuman decided to move on into the Country and Gospel market, trademarking 'The Diamonds Vocal Band'. That left two Diamonds groups. Stetson's group that historically had been going since the inception of the group and Duncan's group that evolved from John Felten's group from the 1970s. Stetson had joined the Diamonds around 1970 as the lead singer.
- America's Number One Singing Stylists
- The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo (Mercury, 1958) with Pete Rugolo
- Songs from the Old West
- Laughs, Singing, Laughs
- America's Favorite Song Stylists
- Pop Hits
- The Best of The Diamonds: The Mercury Years
- Little Darlin'
- Scrapbook of Golden Hits
- Hall of Fame
- Best of The Diamonds
- The Diamonds Songbook (2007)
- The Stroll - 2 CD Set (2011)
- The Diamonds - 4 Classic Albums Plus (2015)
|Year||Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|1955||"Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots"
b/w "Nip Sip"
b/w "Be My Lovin' Baby"
|"Why Do Fools Fall in Love"
b/w "You Baby You" (from America's Favorite Song Stylists)
|12||2||-||-||Collection of Golden Hits|
(Mercury various artists compilation)
|"The Church Bells May Ring"
b/w "Little Girl of Mine" (from Pop Hits)
|"Love, Love, Love"
b/w "Every Night About This Time" (from America's Favorite Song Stylists)
|"Soft Summer Breeze" /||34||-||-||-||Non-album track|
|"Ka-Ding-Dong"||35||17||8||-||America's Favorite Song Stylists|
|"My Judge and My Jury"
b/w "Put Your House in Order"
|"A Thousand Miles Away"
b/w "Every Minute of the Day"
|-||-||-||-||America's Favorite Song Stylists|
b/w "Faithful and True"
|"Words of Love"
b/w "Don't Say Goodbye"
b/w "Oh How I Wish"
b/w "Honey Bird"
|10||-||6||-||America's Favorite Song Stylists|
b/w "Land of Beauty" (from Pop Hits)
b/w "Chick-Lets (Don't Let Me Down)"
|"Kathy-O" /||16||37||-||-||Non-album tracks|
b/w "Eternal Lovers" (from Pop Hits)
|1959||"She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)"
b/w "From the Bottom of My Heart"
b/w "A Mother's Love"
b/w "Holding Your Hand"
|"Young in Years"
b/w "The Twenty-Second Day"
|"Walkin' the Stroll"
b/w "Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein or Dracula"
|1960||"Tell the Truth"
b/w "Real True Love"
b/w "The Pencil Song"
|"You'd Be Mine"
b/w "The Crumble"
|1961||"You Short Changed Me"
b/w "I Sho' Lawd Will"
|"One Summer Night"
b/w "It's a Doggone Shame"
|1962||"The Horizontal Lieutenant"
b/w "Vanishing American"
b/w "Melody of Love"
Awards and honoursEdit
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 371. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
- "Tom Hanks' Father Sang Lead for The Diamonds?". snopes.com. Retrieved 2013-02-06.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 11 - Big Rock Candy Mountain: Early rock 'n' roll vocal groups & Frank Zappa" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries. Track 5.
- "Video - CKA". Canadaka.net. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "The Diamonds". History-of-rock.com. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "The Diameonds Homepage". Thediamonds.cc. Retrieved 2015-07-16.
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2010 July to December". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2015-07-16.
- "The Diamonds at The Vocal Group Hall of Fame 2004 Induction". The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 January 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- "Juno Awards/Canadian Music Hall of Fame winner and nominations". juno-awards.ca. Retrieved November 26, 2006
- "VocalGroup Hall of Fame inductees". vocalgroup.org. Archived from the original on 2013-12-16. Retrieved November 26, 2006
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