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The Diamonds

The Diamonds - Little Darlin' / Faithful and True - 7

Little Darlin' / Faithful and True - 7"
Mercury - 1957

Michael Panontin
For Dave Somerville, it wasn't so much being in radio as being on the radio. The Diamonds' lead vocalist was gainfully employed at the CBC in Toronto when a fortuitous hook-up there led to the formation of Canada's most successful vocal group of the 1950s. "I was an operator in the engineering department," he told Long Island-based blogger Robert von Bernewitz. "I'd set up microphones. I did remote broadcasts. You know, I did the symphony or went to the Canadian Exhibition grounds in Toronto, or whatever."

Somehow, in a hallway in those very same CBC studios, Somerville managed to run into a trio of like-minded singers - tenor Ted Kowalski, baritone Phil Levitt and bass Bill Reed - and the four christened themselves the Diamonds not long after. "There were three other guys who liked to sing as much as I did," he recalled. "We wanted suddenly to be the Crew Cuts or the Four Lads or something, both Toronto groups. And so we started rehearsing and did a show Christmas week at St. Thomas Aquinas Church."

After a year and a half spent honing their talents, the fledgling quartet set their sights high, in this case New York City and the popular Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts radio show. The lads placed first, which apart from some valuable recognition in the capital of doo-wop, earned them some recording time with Coral Records. Their cover of the Cheers' 'Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots' sold poorly, but it did manage to catch the ear of Cleveland deejay Bill Randle, who passed along his enthusiasm to the suits over at Mercury.

From that point, there was really no looking back for the four Canadians. With segregation the norm both in the streets and on the radio, white vocal groups often scored big with buffed-up covers of black r'n'b hits, and the Diamonds would be no exception to this rule. Though record geeks often sought out those rawer originals over the blanched remakes, many grudgingly had to admit that the Diamonds' sparkling rendition of the Gladiolas' 'Little Darlin'' was far superior to the Maurice Williams-penned original. From the opening clickety-clack percussion to those soaring falsettos, 'Little Darlin' was doo wop at its finest, pushing its way up to the #2 slot on both the pop and, tellingly, the r'n'b charts in the U.S, as well as #3 across the pond in Britain.

Though they continued to make Toronto their home, the Diamonds would become household names in the U.S. on the still fairly new medium of television. "We did dozens of TV shows," Somerville explained. "We did Steve Allen, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Vaughn Monroe, Patty Page. I mean just a bunch of stuff." In all, the band charted some fifteen singles, including their cover of Clyde Otis' 'The Stroll', which actually reached the top spot on the Cashbox chart and which helped launch one of the sillier dance crazes of the fifties.

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