Wednesday, July 27, 2016
SHG: The Diamonds: "Little Darlin'"
The Diamonds: “Little Darlin’”
Entered the chart on: 3/16/1957
Peaked on: 4/6/1957
Weeks at #2: 8 weeks
Songs at #1: “Round and Round” by Perry Como and “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley
This song has to have been recorded as a joke. It has to be.
I mean, every aspect of this recording is just absurd. Even before the vocals begin, we’re met with clanking Latin percussion and a flamboyant harp flourish. What are we to make of this?
I thought we had left whitewashing back in ’55. I do have to say, this is a long way from the Crew-Cuts turning the Penguins’ “Earth Angel” into a cure for insomnia. It’s helpful to compare the comparatively restrained original version by the Gladiolas. Gladiolas’ lead singer Maurice Williams (also the song’s composer) does indeed impart some rather silly vocal mannerisms (“My love-a, I was wrong-a”) but compared to David Troy’s delivery on the cover, it’s no comparison.
Troy goes absolutely bonkers on this song, hooting and barking and leaping into sudden falsetto bursts. Even when listening to my parents’ copy of this record, I thought his performance was absolutely hilarious. I get the feeling he was spoofing the Platters’ lead singer Tony Williams (not to be confused with the jazz drummer), compare Stan Freberg’s parody of Williams on his version of “The Great Pretender*.”
It was almost a stroke of genius to give the spoken part in the middle to bass singer Bill Reed (it was recited by Williams on the original). It’s in keeping with the silly mood of the song and it’s just one more touch of distinction in a series of attention-grabbing moments. Appropriately, considering who had the top spot, we’re definitely in Type #1 territory in the “strategies for white-washing R&B hits.”
And...dare I say it? Not only is this version on a par with the original, it may in fact surpass it! Well, who’d have thunk it? A white-washed version that’s better than the original? Yes, it’s true, there’s a reason this has endured. You remember this one because it demands your attention. Not only does everyone sing well, but they’re enthused by their performances and put their all into it. I suppose you could compare it to Blue Swede’s “ooga-chaka” rendition of “Hooked on a Feeling” stealing the spotlight from B. J. Thomas’ serious original. I wouldn’t go there, though, as I find Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” to be an abomination.
This, on the other hand, I find enjoyable from start to finish. I make no apologies for my rating.
Besides, the Gladiolas did OK. They changed their name to Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs and wound up topping the charts a few years down the road with the classic “Stay.”
*re-imagined as a skit in which Williams argues with a beatnik pianist, who objects to how boring the part he has to play is.