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The Diamonds are forever

WANT TO GO?

The Diamonds

At the Charleston Boulevard Rod Run and Doo Wop

WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: Free

INFO: 888-436-6967 or www.charlestonwvcarshow.com CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gary Owens said joining The Diamonds was really about being in the right place at the right time.

Owens said, "It's kind of a long story. I was just getting out of college and met the bass player for The Diamonds. He'd been with the band since 1959.

"It was the early 1970s and right in the middle of 'Happy Days' and 'American Graffiti.' There was kind of a rejuvenation of the 1950s, and The Diamonds were cranking it more than they had been -- and I just happened to sneak in."

Owens has been busy ever since. He and the band perform Saturday night at Haddad Riverfront Park as part of the Charleston Boulevard Rod Run and Doo Wop.

"We play a couple of hundred shows a year," Owens said, then acknowledged, "Well, maybe a bit less than we used to."

The busiest part of the year for them is the winter months.

Owens said, "December to May we go to Florida and perform for those people doing their snowbird thing. That's a big part of our business, but we do a lot of fairs and festivals."

The '50s never go out of style.

"That time in America was a lot different," he said. "People say when they hear us it takes them back to when they first heard the music. Times, they say, were much simpler. There are a million ways to put that."

The lineup of The Diamonds has changed dramatically over the years. The group was founded in 1953 by Dave Somerville, Ted Kowalski, Phil Levitt and Bill Reed, but by the end of the 1950s, only Somerville remained. Eventually he left to pursue a folk career as David Troy.

The band continued on under the direction of the different replacement members and was led by John Felton until the early 1980s. Felton died in a plane crash in 1982. Owens took over the band and later won the rights to the group name and has led The Diamonds ever since.

The band is still kind of fluid. Owens has been with The Diamonds for 38 years and the group's lead singer, Jerry Siggins, for 21 years, but the others are more recent additions.

"It's kind of like a baseball team," he said. "Guys come in and go out."

There have been quite a few Diamonds over the years, but lately, a story about a famous connection has popped up. Legend has it that Amos Hanks, the father of Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, was a member of the group.

"Oh, we hear that all the time," Owens said. "I have no idea where that comes from or who said that. Tom Hanks's dad was never a member of the band.

"I guess it's the wonders of the Internet."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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