The Diamonds

Tom Hanks’ father was not the lead singer with The Diamonds. He was not. That idea concerning Hanks’ parentage was presented the other day in one of those e-mail messages with the screaming warning sign in the subject line, namely “Fwd.” There are a couple of people, who have too much time on their hands, who circulate such nonsense to us and a long list of other addressees. We usually ignore them, but this one caught our attention because it was so far-fetched. How did such a notion originate, we wondered: was it concocted deliberately (and, if so, to what end?) or did  it begin as a misunderstanding? Probably, we’ll never know; still, the false story led us to the true story, which was worth learning.

For the record, Tom Hanks’ father, Amos Mefford Hanks, was a cook. The lead singer with The Diamonds was Dave Somerville. I was familiar with The Diamonds because they became popular in the 1950s when I was in my teens. Their biggest hits, “Little Darlin'” and “The Stroll” were released in 1957. However, I didn’t know until the scurrilous e-mail piqued my curiosity what a varied and productive career Dave Somerville had.

Dave Somerville (2)Somerville, who was–as were all of The Diamonds–born in Canada, studied voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto. In 1953, he met Stan Fisher, Ted Kowalski, Phil Levitt, and Bill Reed, at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The four had formed a quartet, and Somerville coached them; when Fisher dropped out, Somerville became the lead singer. That group became The Diamonds.

In 1955, The Diamonds tied for first place on an installment of Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a radio and television show that originated in New York. In 1956, they signed a contract with Mercury Records. The group had sixteen songs on the Billboard charts over the next eight years.

David Troy.gif

Dave Somerville, billed as David Troy, in the 1966 Star Trek episode, “The Conscience of the King”

After leaving the Diamonds, Somerville worked for six years as a folk singer, using the name David Troy–Troy being his middle name. He also studied acting with Leonard Nimoy; his television acting appearances included The Fall Guy, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, Quincy ME, McCloud, Gomer Pyle USMC, and Star Trek.

Somerville and Gail Jensen wrote a song, “The (Ballad of the) Unknown Stuntman,” that prompted Glen Larson, the original baritone with the Four Preps, to conceive of the characters and format for what became the television series The Fall Guy, which ran for 112 episodes with Lee Majors in the title role. “The Unknown Stuntman,” which Larson embellished with added lyrics, was the theme.

Somerville also did voice-over for hundreds of radio, television, and cable TV ads.

Dave SomervilleIn 1967, Somerville joined The Four Preps as a replacement for Ed Cobb. In 1969, he and Bruce Belland, the original lead singer with the Four Preps formed a folk music and comedy act and appeared in concert with Henry Mancini and Johnny Mathis. They were also regulars on The Tim Conway Show. Somerville and Belland wrote “The Troublemaker,” which was the title track of two Willie Nelson albums. Somerville and Belland also sang with a later iteration of the Four Preps.

In 1972, Somerville formed a group called WW Fancy; in the 1980s he sang with the original members of The Diamonds and also returned to The Four Preps.

He made a children’s album, The Cosmic Adventures of Diamond Dave, that comprised many of his original songs.

He also appeared in a stage show, On The 1957 Rock & Roll Greyhound Bus, that was based on a tour in which The Diamonds traveled with Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Paul Anka, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and others.

Dave Somerville died in 2015 at the age of 81. He hadn’t sired Tom Hanks, but he had made his own mark on American entertainment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILLIAM SHATNER

WILLIAM SHATNER

Judging from the reviews, I might see the new “Star Trek” film after having forsaken the Enterprise when the first television series ended. I don’t know why that happened, because the first series was must-see in our house. We wouldn’t schedule any activities away from home on “Star Trek” night.

Back in those days, I was driving by a theater here in Jersey and saw that William Shatner was going to appear there in “Period of Adjustment.” It seemed like an odd idea to me at first, but I learned later that Shatner had played stage comedy early in his career. Also, I realized after I had thought about it, his character on “Star Trek” often had comic overtones. I took the opportunity to interview Shatner for a preview of “Period of Adjustment.” It wasn’t a very satisfying experience. He answered as many questions as possible with single syllables. He was very good in the play.

WILLIAM SHATNER

WILLIAM SHATNER

Shatner appeared at the same theater a year or so later, and I interviewed him again. That time, he talked almost compulsively – in fact, at one point he came up for air and asked, “How the hell are you going to write this?” Several years later, I interviewed him yet again – by phone – for an advance on an appearance he was making at a local college. I mentioned to him that I he and I had spoken twice before, and he asked, “Have you learned anything since then?”

Some people don’t like Shatner’s acting – several have told me they find his syncopated speech contrived and annoying. I don’t agree; I like his acting, including that peculiarity in his speech.

WILLIAM SHATNER

WILLIAM SHATNER

I find his appearance a little unsettling. He looks like he’s full of cortisone.

One of my favorite examples of Shatner’s work is “The Andersonville Trial,” a 1970 television movie directed by George C. Scott, based on Saul Levitt’s play of about a decade before.  Shatner played Gen. N.P Chipman, who was judge advocate of the military court that tried Capt. Henry Wirz, who had been commandant of a prison camp for Confederate prisoners. Shatner was a perfect fit for the courtroom drama, whose cast included Richard Basehart, Buddy Ebsen, Jack Cassidy and Martin Sheen.

It’s available from Netflix and I wrote a review of it for this blog. The review is at THIS LINK.