Obituary for Dave Somerville of The Diamonds

Obituary for Dave Somerville of The Diamonds

David-Troy Somerville, co-founder and original lead singer of the 1950's rock 'n' roll vocal group The Diamonds and known to music fans around the world as "Diamond Dave" Somerville, passed away early Tuesday morning in Santa Barbara from cancer. He was 81.

As one of the most gifted Pop vocalists and musical treasures of all time, he capitalized on his rich unmistakable baritone voice, four octave vocal range, leading man good looks and a vibrant personality to create a career spanning seven decades as a singer, songwriter, actor and voice over artist. Les Paul was right when he said, "Dave has a unique God-given voice ... a distillation of Elvis and Bing."

Somerville was born on October 2, 1933 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada and grew up in the small nearby farming village of Rockwood. At age 12 his family moved to Toronto. After Central Technical high school, he went to work as a radio operator for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). There in November 1953 he met a vocal group waiting to audition for an amateur talent show, engaged them in conversation and quickly became their coach and ultimately Lead Singer. They called themselves The Diamonds.

They were "discovered" by legendary Cleveland D.J. Dr. Bill Randle, who led them to a recording contract with Mercury Records in Chicago in 1956. Propelled by Dave's voice, The Diamonds became the most prominent white male vocal group of the mid-to-late 1950s, the 16th biggest recording act of all music genres during that time, the first vocal group to have a rock 'n' roll hit, and the first white vocal group of early rock 'n' roll to have hits on R&B charts. The Diamonds became widely regarded as one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll known for their sparkling vocal harmony sound that was so vital in rock's early days.

The Diamonds charted with 16 Billboard Hits between 1956 and 1961, 15 of which were Top 40 and 3 were Top 10 on Pop Charts (4 Top 10 on R&B Charts) and 3 Gold Records ("Little Darlin'," "The Stroll" and "Silhouettes"). "When you think of The Diamonds, you've got to think of Dave Somerville." - Dick Clark

"Little Darlin'" featuring Somerville's distinctive falsetto artistry became the 3rd biggest selling record of 1957, the first hit on 45rpm, the first rock 'n' roll hit with a Latin beat, their first million-seller and the first the song that made The Diamonds a household name and put them in history books. The Diamonds' "Little Darlin'" has stood the test of time becoming a seminal song of the era and enduring as an anthem of the rock and roll generation today.

This landmark recording is joined by fifteen other Billboard hits by The Diamonds, including "Silhouettes", "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", "Love, Love, Love", and "The Stroll." Written by Clyde Otis at the suggestion of Dick Clark, "The Stroll" became The Diamonds' second million seller, an instant hit on American Bandstand and introduced a new dance sensation that became the longest surviving line dance in the history of the entertainment industry and still endures today.

In the fall of '57 topping the charts with 8 hits, The Diamonds joined a now legendary rock 'n' roll bus tour with other rising stars - Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Paul Anka, LaVerne Baker, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and others. For two months of one-nighters, these pioneer jukebox giants barnstormed North America making musical history. In later years, Rolling Stone magazine would cite that tour as "planting the seeds of early rock and roll from coast to coast."

The Diamonds' music influences many artists through the years including Elvis, Bob Dylan, Jan & Dean, David Bowie and Carole King to name a few.

Somerville left the Diamonds to pursue a single act as a Folk artist under the name David Troy from 1961 to 1967 appearing in celebrated folk venues around the country and throughout Asia.

In 1967, he became a member of Capitol Recording group The Four Preps with whom he performed for the next few years. In 1969 Somerville left the group along with the founder and Lead Singer, Bruce Belland, and together formed a music and comedy duo called Belland and Somerville that would for the next five years become the entre' act for such performers as Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Glen Campbell and Brazil '66. They appeared on many television shows including The Johnny Cash Show, and as regulars on The Tim Conway Show.

Over the years he has kept a busy schedule entertaining at concerts, recording soundtracks, performing voice-overs, or writing one of several hundred songs in his catalog. "The Cosmic Adventures of Diamond Dave" is his children's album contains many original songs that capture children's imaginations and enrich their appreciation of the world of make-believe.

He and Belland went on to collaborate on many songs including "The Troublemaker" that would become a platinum recording and title song for Willie Nelson's No. 1 Country Album in 1976. Somerville also co-wrote the theme song that inspired the ABC hit television show "The Fall Guy" starring Lee Majors.

He's performed in stage musicals and network television shows from "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" to "Star Trek." He's played venues from Carnegie Hall to Trump's Taj Mahal.

In 1988 he rejoined The Four Preps for another eighteen years. Most recently he performed a single act as "Dave Somerville Original Lead Singer of The Diamonds" recreating those early days of rock 'n' roll on that Greyhound bus by singing the hit songs of those artists on that tour and telling road stories.

It was The Diamonds' contribution to international popular music and the power of Somerville's voice that earned them induction into five music halls of fame - Canadian Music Hall of Fame (Juno Award), Doo Wop Music Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Doo Wop Hall of Fame of America, and Rockabilly Hall of Fame - as well as a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also appeared in 2 PBS specials - "Doo Wop '57" and "Magic Moments - The Best of Fifties Pop."

Somerville lived in Hollywood, California with his wife Denise. He is survived by his wife Denise, his son David Orlando "Landa" (Katie) and his grandson, Chilao "Chae" as well as a sister-iaw, cousins, nephews and niece in Canada and the United States. He was predeceased by his brother, Marc. A date for a celebration of his life is yet to be scheduled.

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