People often tell me that they believe the best rock and roll music ever recorded was produced in the late 1950s, the very beginning of the rock and roll era. I tend to agree.
Although it was a little before my time, over the years I’ve grown to more than appreciate the be-bop beat of Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and His Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many other artists of the time. That period of music was what I would just plain call “fun.”
At a recent gig, I was chatting with Linda, a lady who was a teenager during the late ’50s. She had a sparkle in her eye as she described her memories of rushing home every day after school to flip the TV channel to Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” She couldn’t wait see what new songs had just been released and what new dances the kids from Philadelphia had invented.
Linda further went on to describe some of her favorite memories from her teenage years. She said, “I so fondly remember my hometown’s local malt shop on the corner, sock hops in the gym and jitterbugging with my girlfriends to our 45 rpm records, complete with skips, pops and clicks. It was a special time in my life.”
If you, too, have fond memories of growing up in the late 1950s or just like the music of that era, you’re sure to enjoy this coming Monday evening’s Tonto Community Concert Association concert. The doo-wop group The Diamonds will take the stage at 7 p.m. for a two-hour performance at Payson High School Auditorium, bringing us a nice blend of ’50s doo-wop, rock ’n’ roll and teen idol ballads.
Originally from Canada, The Diamonds are a vocal quartet that rose to prominence in the late-1950s with 16 Billboard hit records. The original members were Dave Somerville (lead), Ted Kowalski (tenor), Phil Levitt (baritone) and Bill Reed (bass).
The group’s first performance was in the early 1950s in the basement of the St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Toronto, singing in a Christmas minstrel show. The audience’s reaction to the Somerville-led group was so tremendous that they decided that night they would turn professional.
The Diamonds soon left Canada and made their way to New York to appear on the “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” television show. Winning first place led to a recording contract with Coral Records, which released four of the group’s songs, the most notable being “Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots.”
The next big step for the quartet was an audition with Cleveland, Ohio radio disc jockey, Dr. Bill Randle, who had aided in the success of many popular groups, such as the Crew-Cuts. Randle was impressed with The Diamonds and introduced them to a producer at Mercury Records who signed the group to a recording contract.
The Diamonds’ first recording for Mercury was “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” (a cover of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ hit), which reached No. 12 in the U.S. Their follow-up hit single, “The Church Bells May Ring,” (originally by The Willows), reached No. 14.
In late 1957, The Diamonds released “The Stroll,” an original song written for the group by Clyde Otis, which came from an idea by Dick Clark. The song peaked at No. 4 and inspired the popular double-line dance of the same name.
The Diamonds popularity grew to include television appearances on the shows of Steve Allen, Perry Como, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Eddy Arnold and “American Bandstand.” They also appeared in the 1958 movie, “Kathy-O” (which included their single hit of the same name), starring Patty McCormick.
This week’s question
Can you name The Diamonds’ signature hit, which reached and remained at No. 2 on the Billboard chart for eight consecutive weeks in the spring of 1957? Is that signature hit: A) Put Your Head on My Shoulder, B) Shake, Rattle and Roll, C) Blue Velvet, or D) Little Darlin’?
If you’re the sixth caller and have the right answer, you’ll win a pair of tickets to this coming Monday’s Diamonds concert, courtesy of the TCCA.
Last week’s question
In the winter of 1992-93, contemporary country music artist Suzy Bogguss (who will be performing tonight (Sept. 27) in the Payson High School Auditorium) earned the highest-charting single hit of her career, with her song that reached No. 2 on the country music chart.
Was the title of Bogguss’ “road” hit A) “Drive South,” B) “Travelin’ Man,” C) “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses,” or D) “Day Tripper”?
The correct answer was “Drive South.”
“Travelin’ Man” was one of two No. 1 hits for 1950s-60s teen idol Ricky Nelson; 1988’s “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” was one of four No. 1 hits for country star Kathy Mattea; and “Day Tripper,” the B-side of the Beattle’s “We Can Work It Out,” reached No. 5 for the boys from Liverpool in 1966.
Congratulations to last week’s second-time music trivia winner, Helen Reese, who won two tickets to tonight’s Suzy Bogguss concert.
A couple of final notes
Tickets (only $8) for tonight’s 6:30 p.m. Suzy Bogguss concert can still be purchased in the auditorium, prior to her performance.
Also, tickets ($35) for The Diamonds concert can also be purchased in the high school auditorium prior to the show. You may also purchase season tickets to all eight TCCA concerts for only $90. Such a deal!
See you in the auditorium.
Web site: www.djcraiginpayson.com