Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The most valuable Rock n' Roll group

The original Diamonds: Phil Levitt, Ted Kowalski, Dave Somerville and Bill Reed.

When somebody talks about Canada, naturally, the first things that comes to mind are maple syrup, hockey, and its natural beauties. Who would've thought that one of the most famous Rock n' Roll groups of the 50's would've come from Canada! 

In 1953, Ted Kowalski and Mike Douglas formed a quartet, along with the deep voice of Bill Reed and Bob Danko. This formation didn't last long, and while in college, Ted met colleagues Phil Levitt and Stan Fisher, who also had a passion for singing. Bill Reed joined the group and they started to rehearse. At the end of that year, they were about to participate in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Now's Your Chance, when they caught the attention of Dave Somerville (who worked at CBC). He offered to coach the group, but eventually became their lead singer. Stan, who was busy with university exams, had left the ensemble. On their way to their first gig, a Christmas show in the basement of a local church, Ted came up with a name for the group, The Four Diamonds. 

By 1956, the quartet's name was already The Diamonds, and they had started to record for Mercury in Chicago. They recorded a few covers, such as Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Church Bells May Ring and A Thousand Miles Away. But it wasn't until a midnight session in February of 1957, that they would become a household name. After recording four pre-scheduled original songs, they were asked to do Maurice Williams' Little Darlin'. At the time, Williams was part of The Gladiolas, and they had released their own version two weeks before. It was in the middle of the night when they had finished the four songs, and the producers, forgetting that Little Darlin' was still on their to do list, let the musicians go. Some of them had already left when they remembered about the song. You'll notice that the original version does not have any drums on the track. Little Darlin' was The Diamonds' biggest hit, staying 8 weeks as #2 on the charts, second only to Elvis' All Shook Up

The Diamonds went on to record many hits, but no other song became such an influence to a dance craze like The Stroll. The dance of the same name, which was basically a row of men facing a row of women, with a couple "strolling" and dancing down the line, had been introduced with other theme songs. But as The Stroll became a success on American Bandstand, the song was a must in parties and dance halls all over the US.

From late 1957 on, the group's success started diminishing. By 1958, all original members were replaced, with the exception of Dave Somerville, who was replaced by Jim Malone in 1961. Fortunately, PBS got them together again for the Doo Wop 51 show in 2000. Although aged, the group still maintained the original sound that made them famous and gave a spectacular performance. Below, you'll see The Diamonds in that PBS special with Maurice Williams and a new formation of The Zodiacs. 

Sadly, Ted Kowalski and Bill Reed have passed away. Phil Levitt and Dave Somverville are the only original Diamonds left. It's only fair that, Dave, the soul of The Diamonds' sound, would be the one to keep it alive. I visited his webpage and found out that he autographs photos for fans for $10 each plus shipping. More than fair, for a personalized photo of a legend! He was very kind to sign one for me and one for my son.