Word has been received that Dave Diamond, one of rock radio’s earliest stars, died recently in Spearfish, South Dakota. Diamond was born and raised in Howard, South Dakota. After graduation, he attended Louisiana State University and graduated with BS degrees in journalism and history from the University of Southern Mississippi. He began his radio career working on the campus radio station, WMSU at Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He also received an MA in English from Northwest Missouri State University, and he earned a masters in fiction writing from the preferred writing program at the University of Southern California, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Diamond was in the early vanguard of personality radio. Born Slide Davison in Howard, South Dakota, he changed his name to Dave Diamond in 1960 at KOIL in Omaha. KOIL was one of the famous “Star” stations. Diamond once said, “I learned so much working at KOIL, I should have paid them. It was a wonderful experience.”
Diamond went on to program WKGN in Knoxville, Tennessee where he ran the station up to a 67% rating in the Pulse Diaries.
Diamond was hired into the radio war in St. Louis, Missouri between KXOK, KWK, KMOX, and WIL. Diamond became program director of WIL, a Balaban station owned by Paramount Pictures.
At WIL, Diamond worked with such big name stars as Ron Lundy, Danny Dark, Gary Stevens, George Michael, and Dick Clayton.
Diamond went on the first Beatles’ tour in this country in 1964 as one of only three radio reporters. He went directly from the Beatles’ tour to KBTR radio and television in Denver, where he did a nightly teen rock radio show and an afternoon television show. He managed to take KBTR’s nighttime ratings from zero to 37% to knock off the venerable and highly acclaimed KIMN radio.
Diamond’s success in Denver caught the attention of Bill Drake, who was about to launch his famous “Boss Radio” format at RKO’s KHJ radio in Los Angeles. Drake hired Diamond in 1965 for the 6-9 p.m. show. The Boss Radio format became wildly successful and is still studied and talked about to this day. Diamond was once quoted as saying, “I thought I knew a lot about radio until I met Bill Drake. Boss Radio was a great experience for me.” However, Diamond lasted only nine months. “I didn’t fit in,” he said, explaining his firing. “I wasn’t focused. I had too many things going on.”
Diamond’s dismissal from KHJ was serendipitous, however, as he signed on to do the 9-midnight show at KBLA in Burbank, where he invented and started the legendary “Diamond Mine” radio show – three hours of acid rock and psychedelic poetry every night. “The Diamond Mine” was considered the first “underground” radio show in broadcast history and became wildly popular with teenagers and listeners in their twenties and thirties.
Diamond was recognized as discovering The Doors, The Rainy Daze, Linda Rondstadt, The Seeds, Iron Butterfly, LOVE, and many other groups and artists who could not find airplay on other Los Angeles radio stations in 1965, 66, and 67. After his stint at KBLA in Burbank, Diamond signed with KFWB in Hollywood. A few weeks later, KFWB changed format to all news. Bill Drake offered Diamond another job with the RKO chain at KFRC in San Francisco. It was there at The Big 610, where “The Diamond Mine” had its greatest success on what is commonly thought to be the best rock-and-roll radio station of all time.
Between 1968 and 1971 Diamond did his best work and earned the highest ARB ratings in San Francisco history.
He left KFRC when new management took over in 1971 and did the late-night show at KRLA in Pasadena, then three years doing the 6-9 a.m. show at KIIS, Los Angeles, where Diamond teamed up with Chuck Blore. Diamond said, “Blore is the most creative man I ever worked with in radio. It was an honor to be associated with him.”
Diamond did a brief stint at WSAI in Cincinnati when KIIS fell apart, and returned to Los Angeles in the Spring of 1977 and spent the next six years working for John Rook at KFI, Cox Communications. “Because I was on from 2-6 every morning and we had 50,000 watts clear-channel power, it was like having a national radio show.”
Diamond was named one of America’s Early Radio Idols by Billboard Magazine the same year KFRC was awarded the Best Radio Station of all time.
Diamond was a lifelong union member. He belonged to Sereen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. He was also a member of the National Writer’s Union and The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. He was also a member of the Self Realization Fellowship, founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, whose teachings he’s studied his whole life. Diamond was an Eagle Scout, having earned the honor at the age of fourteen. He also served in the U.S. Army with the 147th Field Artillery, South Dakota National Guard during the Korean War. He was transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1962.
Diamond had a loyal and big following. Many listeners stayed in touch with him his entire life.