Bill Reed

Bass singer with the doo-wop group the Diamonds on such hits as 'Little Darlin' '

Bill Reed sang the distinctive bass parts which made the clean-cut Canadian doo-wop group the Diamonds such a smash on both sides of the Atlantic.

William Reed, singer: born Toronto, Ontario 11 January 1936; twice married (four sons); died Port St Lucie, Florida 22 October 2004.

Bill Reed sang the distinctive bass parts which made the clean-cut Canadian doo-wop group the Diamonds such a smash on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1957, their cover of "Little Darlin' " reached No 2 in the US charts and 3 in the UK. The group had an impressive sequence of 14 consecutive singles in the US Top Forty, of which "The Stroll", another of their signature tunes, was used to great effect on the soundtrack to the 1973 film American Graffiti.

Born in 1936 in Toronto, William Reed followed in the footsteps of his father, Harry, who owned a barber's and sang on the radio when he wasn't harmonising with his customers. At university in 1954, Bill formed a singing quartet with his fellow students Stan Fisher (lead), Ted Kowalski (tenor) and Phil Levitt (baritone), and they were talent-spotted by the CBC radio technician Dave Sommerville.

Fisher couldn't make their first gig because of an exam the following morning, so Sommerville took over lead vocals for the newly christened Four Diamonds. When they decided to turn professional Fisher opted to finish his law degree and the quartet carried on singing in supper clubs as the Diamonds.

That summer, they signed to Coral, the Decca subsidiary, but both sides of their début single, "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots" and "Nip Sip", were competing with the original versions, respectively by the Cheers and the Clovers - and the Diamonds lost out on both counts.

However, while on a trip to Cleveland, they met up with a local disc-jockey, Bill Randle, who had championed the Crew-Cuts, another Canadian vocal group. The Diamonds sang a cappella for Randle who was so impressed he recommended them to the Mercury label and also suggested they cover "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", the Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers song then climbing up the R&B charts. Competition was fierce between the different versions but, opening with Reed's basslines, the Diamonds adaptation reached No 12 on the pop charts in 1956, behind Frankie Lymon at No 6 and Gale Storm's version at 9.

They carried on covering R&B smashes - "Church Bells May Ring" by the Willows, "Love Love Love" by the Clovers, "Ka-Ding-Dong" by the G-Clefs - and crossing them over to the pop charts. Their biggest success came in 1957 when their manager Nat Goodman spotted "Little Darlin' " - written by Maurice Williams and originally recorded with his group the Gladiolas. Reed turned the talking bridge into a basso profundo tour de force worthy of the Inkspots. Only "All Shook Up" by Elvis Presley kept them off the No 1 spot in the US and "Little Darlin' " eventually sold four million copies worldwide.

The follow-up single, a version of Buddy Holly's "Words of Love", opened with Reed's smooth bass and also featured the singer on another talking bridge. In 1958 the Diamonds' convincing vocals propelled the infectious song "The Stroll" into the US Top Five. After three more singles - "High Sign", the title song from the Patty McCormack film Kathy O' (1958) and "Walking Along" - both Kowalski and Reed left the group.

Reed moved to Florida, where he became a record promoter.

Pierre Perrone



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine