Dave Somerville Dies

Published: July 19, 2015

Dave Somerville Dies, ‘Diamond’ Dave Somerville, a popular singer among oldies fans, died Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Dave Somerville, lead singer of the Diamonds on the 1950s classic “Little Darlin’,” died Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 81.

Unlike many of his 1950s vocal group peers, Somerville parlayed his early success into a musical career.

He performed solo, spent almost 20 years with the Four Preps and joined fellow Prep Bruce Belland in a two-man show.

He also performed Diamonds hits with a new group, and was widely known as “Diamond Dave.”

He was a popular figure among oldies fans, frequently appearing as a radio guest and telling an endless round of stories about the early days.

Music historian and radio host Ron Farber recalled Somerville talking about the small house he had bought in the Hollywood Hills many years ago, and how for a time his next-door neighbor, who was a handyman, helped fix the place up.

The neighbor was Harrison Ford.

Somerville “was a wonderful and gracious guy and a true talent,” said Farber.

Somerville joined the Diamonds in 1953, he said, when he was an engineer for the Canadian Broadcasting Co. and offered to become a vocal coach for four aspiring singers who were lined up for an audition.

Somerville became their lead singer and they scored 16 Billboard hits over the next eight years.

“Little Darlin’ ” was the biggest, spending eight weeks at No. 2 in the early spring of 1957.

(For the record, it was kept out of the No. 1 spot by Tab Hunter’s “Young Love,” Andy Williams’s “Butterfly,” Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll,” Perry Como’s “Round and Round” and Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up.”)

Two other Diamonds records made the top 10: “The Stroll,” which peaked at No. 4, and “Silhouettes,” a cover of the bigger hit by the Rays.

The Diamonds recorded almost all cover versions – including “Little Darlin’,” which originally was an R&B hit for the Gladiolas.

But in contrast to virtually all other white artists who cashed in on songs previously recorded by black artists, the Diamonds were widely considered to have made “Little Darlin’ ” into legitimate rock ‘n’ roll.

When Bobby Jay was a deejay on WCBS-FM, he remarked that “Little Darlin’ ” was one of the very few cover records that was better than the original.

It featured several familiar trappings of 1950s vocal group harmony, including a talking bass interlude and its signature high “yi-yi-yi” chorus.

It did not feature drums, Somerville noted in later years, because it was recorded at 3:45 a.m. and the drummer for that session had already gone home.

Somerville is survived by his wife, Denise, and his son, David.


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