Monday, August 16, 2010

The Diamonds Singer Ted Kowalski Has Died

Ted Kowalski, one of the original members of the Canadian quartet The Diamonds, died Aug. 8 after a long battle with heart disease.
Formed in Toronto in 1953, The Diamonds became a singing sensation, scoring three gold records in two years for the songs Little Darlin', Silhouettes and The Stroll -- the latter of which spawned a dance craze by the same name.
Mr. Kowalski -- the group's tenor -- and the other original members received the Juno Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984. They were also inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame.
"He was very modest. When he first moved to Whitby, no one really knew who he was, because he didn't talk about his music," said family friend Steve Biagi, who recalled Mr. Kowalski regaling him with rock n' roll stories. "He was also one of the kindest people I've ever met. He gave me one of the shirts he wore when he performed with the Diamonds in 1957 ... I framed it with one of his records."
In an October 2009 interview with This Week, Mr. Kowalski reminisced about meeting Elvis Presley in Los Angeles in the 1950s. The rock n' roll legend sent his manager to ask out Mr. Kowalski's soon-to-be wife Valare and the local man was quick to send him packing.
Elvis wasn't the only celebrity Mr. Kowalski rubbed shoulders with over the years. He said it was Gene Kelly who gave him the idea to put a handkerchief over his head while singing Little Darlin' and remembered hanging out with Buddy Holly.
"When we went on bus tours, we used to sing together with Buddy Holly, who played his ukulele; he was still with The Crickets then. He was a great, talented guy, very humble, very down to earth," he said in the interview.
His time with The Diamonds was short lived. Five years after the group formed, Mr. Kowalski left to pursue a more practical career path.
"I decided there was no real future in it," he said. "So I resumed my studies in engineering."
But the lure of the stage pulled him back. After graduating in 1964, he returned to music, first singing with a big band then becoming the featured soloist for a Toronto-based ensemble called The Generations.
More recently, he sang with the Whitby Seniors' Centre Jubilee Choir.
"He was a valued member of the choir and we will certainly miss him," said choir director Barbara Breckenridge. "He had a vibrant sense of humour and a wit that's second to none."
A celebration of Mr. Kowalski's life takes place Saturday, Aug. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Whitby Seniors' Centre, where members of the Jubilee Choir will be honouring Mr. Kowalski life by singing songs requested by his wife.