David Somerville was the co-founder and original lead singer of The Diamonds. Their big hit was Little Darlin' and it was the number 3 song of the year on the Billboard charts in 1957. David also appeared as an actor and star in many TV shows. McCloud, The Tim Conway Show, Double Dare and Star Trek to name a few. David still writes, records and performs today. I recently caught up with Dave.
R.V.B. - This is Robert von Bernewitz from Long Island. How are you?
D.S. – Oh… I'm doing fine.
R.V.B. - Did you feel the earthquake over where you are?
D.S. - Oh sure - it was a big bump.
R.V.B. - Oh yeah ?
D.S. - Oh yeah – definitely!
R.V.B. - It must be something to feel that at six o'clock in the morning.
D.S. – Yeah, I was just about to get up actually. I was awake for it.
R.V.B. - It's like “welcome to the day lets shake rattle and roll.”
D.S. – Yeah, it was an earthquake morning. Absolutely.
R.V.B. - So how are you? I just want to say the music community is proud of your accomplishments and you must be proud of yourself.
D.S. – Well, you know I don't think about that stuff unless I'm making up a list for a flyer or something. You know… I mean it just keeps on. This is my sixty first year of doing this and I was in radio for three before that.
R.V.B. - When you were in radio? Were you like a program director or DJ? What did you do?
D.S – No, I was an operator in the engineering department. 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- to do a show with, what's the famous cowboy? Doesn't make any difference. ahh… it was a long time ago and that's just what I did. And I met the rest of the guys when I formed the Diamonds in the hallway of the Canadian Broadcasting Company in the hall of 53.
R.V.B. - I see but what went into recording a symphony on a remote broadcast? Did you have a board and microphones that run through a board? How did that work?
D.S. – Yeah, you have a… well it was more like a box. You know for a big orchestra like that you only need a couple of mics depending on the acoustics of the situation.
R.V.B. - So you met the guys in your band in the hallway of the radio station?
D.S. – Yeah, there were three other guys who liked to sing as much as I did. 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. The rest is more planning - winning the Arthur Godfrey Show and winning the attention of Dr. Bill Randle in Cleveland.
R.V.B. – Well, how did you go from Toronto to New York to go on the Arthur Godfrey show? Did you go there with all the intentions of, "We're driving down to New York to go on the show".?
D.S. - Yep That's right. First we drove down to audition.
R.V.B. - Oh I see - now in the practice process. Now you guys were a vocal group. Did you guys just practice a cappella?
D.S. - Oh yeah. Now generally speaking, we only had instrumental accompaniment when we were actually working, but the rest of the stuff well we had a rehearsal pianist. An arranger who would give us parts and play along with us during the rehearsal but most of it was a cappella.
R.V.B. - Now when you went to the Godfrey show ,he four of you guys, did you just perform as a quartet? Or did you have…
D.S. - On that occasion, we had worked with bands before - on Canadian radio and television. So they took some of our, one of our arrangements. I suppose I can't remember what the song was. I think it was, “Baby Won't You Please Come Home?”. Yeah, we auditioned and they said, "We like you. Here's the date - come back". So we did it and we tied with a girl piano player.
R.V.B. - So how did they work that out, "Ok there's a tie"? Do they give each one of you guys another opportunity to play?
D.S. – Well- the deal was- if you won the talent scouts or tied for first place on the talent scouts. You did the rest of the week of Arthur's morning shows.
R.V.B. - Now you mentioned this Cleveland guy. Was he instrumental in helping you guys get more radio play?
D.S. – Dr. Randle was was a brilliant guy, with eight University degrees. He was a lawyer half a day, and he was a disc Jockey the other half, on a one thousand watt radio station called WERE in Cleveland. And in spite of those circumstances, he was such a bright man who could see the future. He could smell it... he could feel it... he knew what was gonna be a hit. That's why he became the number one disc jockey in the country in 1955. He discovered Elvis Presley.
D.S. - Oh yeah. You know he actually named the Crew Cuts. He discovered the Crew Cuts, and he sent them from Cleveland to Chicago, and they got signed to Mercury Records. And because they were fellow Torontonians, we knew the story, so we said, “Why don't we do the same thing?”, and we did.
R.V.B. - So when you did get signed? What were the first songs that you recorded?
D.S. – We did, “Why do Fools Fall in Love?”, “You Baby You”, and a couple of other tunes on that first session. “Why do Fools Fall in Love?” was a hit.
R.V.B. - Where was that session held?
D.S. – In Chicago, at Universal Studios.
R.V.B. - Can you describe to me what the studio looked like? Were you just singing in a big room with the four guys?
D.S. – Well, you know with a baffle around us, and the band was out in the bigger part of the studio. They isolated the band from our microphones but we could still hear them.
R.V.B. - Ok, so how long after that was “Little Darlin'” recorded?
D.S. – “Little Darlin'” was our fifth of sixteen hits. We signed with Mercury, and our first record was released in February of ‘56. “Little Darlin'” came out in February of ‘57. In the meantime... it was our fifth hit in a year.
R.V.B. - Well yeah, but that particular song was not only a hit, but it was a major hit. Did you guys know it was gonna be on the radio? Where were you guys when you heard it?
R.V.B. - Wow. I see it was a number two song. Obviously it's a household name. I mean, all of America knows the song.
D.S. - It was number two to Elvis for eight consecutive weeks. It was the number three song of 1957.
R.V.B. - That's very impressive. So did you guys tour nationally to support that, once it became that big?
D.S. - We were very large in the mid west, because we did a lot of promotion there. After every record that came out... instead of just going back to working in nightclubs right away, we just toured in the radio stations out in the mid west in a huge circle around Chicago.
R.V.B. - Were you teamed up with anybody? Did you do any TV shows?
D.S. - We did a lot. We did dozens of TV shows. We did Steve Allen, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Vaughn Monroe, Patty Page. I mean just a bunch of stuff.
R.V.B. - That was in all various cities right?
D.S. - All of those originated in New York.
R.V.B. - When that was happening, did you set up shop in New York or were you still living in Toronto?
D.S. – Oh, we lived in Toronto. You know it was all scheduled. It was a pretty full schedule.
R.V.B. - It's not that far of a ride.
D.S. – Yeah, we had a manager. Yeah, it's about five hundred miles or something.
R.V.B. - Did you take a bus to get there?
D.S. - No, we rode in a station wagon.
R.V.B. Hahaha. So when you played these TV shows, did you get to enjoy some fanfare? Did you get to go sightseeing or did you go home right away?
D.S. – Yeah, oh yeah, sure absolutely. We went to Australia four times. They would take us out on boats and they would take us to the zoos, with all the Australian animals, and all the phenomenal women. It was just an unbelievable experience. Yeah, we'd go on tours all the time. I remember once we worked at Abilene, Texas and a guy came to us after the show and said, "Let me pick you up for lunch". So we got there with his vehicle. We climbed in and drove to a little private airport and we flew about seventy five miles to lunch. You know way out in the desert in Texas. Yeah, nice stuff.
R.V.B. - That's awesome. So you went to Australia during that heyday?
R.V.B. - So after you had your little stint with the Diamonds, you checked out the folk scene for a couple of years. Now I know the folk scene was huge in New York, so did you set up shop here for that also?
D.S. - No. I worked a lot in Los Angeles. I went abroad. I went to Mexico and to the Orient. I worked a lot in Canada and yeah, there were thirty five folk clubs in Los Angeles at that time.
R.V.B. – Now, that was all as a solo artist?
D.S. – Yeah, I was solo.
R.V.B. - That must have been a fairly large move to walk away from such a successful band to go to folk - but I realize that folk was really huge at that time though.
D.S. - No it wasn't huge. When I got into it, nobody was doing it except the Kingston Trio.
R.V.B. - What about The Mamas and the Papas?
D.S. - That was later
R.V.B. - And Bob Dylan?
D.S. - Yeah Dylan, I mean I sang before those guys. I knew John, of the Mamas and the Papas when he was in High School. We were working at The Lotus Supper Club in Washington D.C.
R.V.B. - I see you worked with the Four Preps for a while, and then you teamed up with a very successful duo "Belland and Sommerville". I see that you were on the Tim Conway show. That was a very popular show at the time.
D.S. – Yes it was.
R.V.B - When you were on that show, were you doing a comedy routine with your duo?
D.S. - We were doing a full comedy show not unlike the Smothers Brothers.
R.V.B - How many times did you appear on that show?
D.S. – Well, he did thirteen, so we were on all thirteen... we were regulars.
R.V.B. - Where else did you play with that duo?
D.S. - We worked a lot with Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, and Rowan and Martin, and Bill Cosby
R.V.B. - At that time, I see you were doing a lot of writing. Willie Nelson recorded one of your songs?
D.S. - Willie Nelson has recorded that song "The Troublemaker" three times, and he's named two albums after that song.
R.V.B. - He named two albums after one song? That's pretty unusual.
D.S. - It is. On the second CD called "The Troublemakers" he sings it twice - different versions.
D.S. - That's true. I studied acting under Leonard Nimoy for a couple of years, and he just got me the audition and I did the show. Just a couple of lines you know. I'm not an actor in a usual sense but…
R.V.B. - What part did you play on that? Were you part of the crew?
D.S. – Yes, I was part of the crew. I'm trying to think of the name of the guy. Lieutenant something.
R.V.B. - That's something. What other shows did you appear on as an actor?
D.S. - The misadventures of Sherriff Lobo. I think I did three McClouds. I did some industrial ones you know. I did one by myself with a lady explaining the metric System. (hahaha)
R.V.B. - Which didn't really pan out too well.
D.S. - Which didn't happen, yeah...
R.V.B. - That must have been during the Carter years because I remember him saying "We're gonna go metric".
D.S. – Yeah, well, it was a mistake not to go metric... I think.
R.V.B. – Yeah, the rest of the world is metric but we're not. That's why we're Americans. So what are you doing these days?
D.S. - The same thing. I write songs. I publish music. I make records. That's the important thing right now is to make records. I got two albums in the can right now. I got one... I just finished doing “Little Darlin'” in Spanish with Trini Lopez and Maurice Williams.
R.V.B. - Oh very nice. That's a smart idea.
D.S. - Thank you. Each of us are contributing three more songs to make it a CD of ten. That's what we're working on right now.
R.V.B. – Yeah, if you tap into the Spanish market, that's the most emerging market that there is.
R.V.B. - So you're feeling good and everything's good. You're in good health?
D.S. - I feel fine. I'm 80 and I feel like I'm 50.
R.V.B. - That's great. You've had a long, great career. The music community is proud of your work and I'm sure you're proud of your own work.
D.S. - Thank you. Well I keep trying to make it better.
R.V.B. – Well, keep up the good work
D.S. - Thanks buddy! I appreciate that and I appreciate the call.
R.V.B. - It was a pleasure for me to talk with you. I'm honored. Have a good day.
D.S. - Bye
To visit David Somerville's website click this link http://davesomerville.com/frames/frameset.html
To order David Somerville's music click the Amazon tab upper right
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz. This interview may not be copied or reproduced in any part or form with out permission.
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