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This Diamond Ring by Gary Lewis & the Playboys

Album: Greatest HitsReleased: 1965Charted:
1
  • This song was written by Al Kooper, Bob Brass, and Irwin Levine. They originally came together under publisher Hal Webman and his company We Three Music, though they eventually turned to freelancing songs they had written. During this freelance period, they sold "This Diamond Ring" to Aaron Schroeder for $300. They originally wrote it with The Drifters in mind. The Drifters turned the song down, so next Bobby Vee's producer Snuff Garrett picked it up. Bobby Vee didn't want it, but Garrett found a good home for the song in a new band he discovered on a visit to Disneyland: Gary Lewis & the Playboys. He played the demo for Gary, who loved the song. When it was issued as the group's first single, it became a huge hit in America, and the first of seven Top-10 hits for the group.
  • Some of the top Los Angeles session musicians played on this track. These were some of the same folks who played on records by The Beach Boys and The Monkees, but unlike The Monkees, the Playboys did play on their songs. Regarding the musicians who performed on this and other tracks by the band, Gary Lewis told us, "The Playboys played on every track we ever did, the Wrecking Crew did solos and overdubs. I sang every song myself and had a backup singer that sang only harmonies with me. My producer Snuff Garrett can back up everything I've told you, and so can Leon Russell, who was the arranger of everything I did."

    Some of the Wrecking Crew musicians Lewis refers to include Russell (piano), Tommy Alsup (guitar) and Hal Blaine (drums).
  • This song is a classic case of lyrical dissonance: the upbeat melody belies the melancholy lyrics, as the once shimmering diamond ring now represents a love that is lost. Despite the rather obvious meaning, Lewis tells us that people still misinterpret the song. "A lot of people love 'This Diamond Ring,' but they think it's a getting together song," says Lewis. "They say to me, 'Hey, we got married because of 'This Diamond Ring.'' I say, 'Really?' I mean, it's a breakup song."
  • This song was the beginning of a run of hits for Gary Lewis & the Playboys, which ended after Lewis was drafted and entered the army. Lewis credits his producer Snuff Garrett for making sure this wasn't their only hit. Said Lewis: "We're hearing it on the radio and we're all just flipping out beyond belief, because it's getting so much airplay and they wanted us to do all the local TV shows with the song. So we were flying real, real high. And Snuffy Garrett calls us in one day and says, 'Listen, you guys, I know it's exciting and all that. But you've got to calm down.' He says, 'You know how many one-hit artists there are out there?'"

    The group followed this up with "Count Me In," which went to #2. Next was "Save Your Heart for Me," also a #2 hit.
  • In his book Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Al Kooper relates that he and his fellow songwriters, Brass, and Levine were "revolted" by the Playboy's version, because they'd removed the soul from what should have been an R&B song and "made a teenage milkshake out of it." Kooper in the same book goes on to recount: "To out surprise, after a hype-ridden sendoff on The Ed Sullivan Show (once again, several of our songs were showcased by Sullivan acts), all you could hear on the radio was our turkey milkshake." The song eventually climbed up the charts to #1, pushing out "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."
  • Carving out room in the Pop landscape in 1965 was extremely difficult, as The Beatles were dominating the charts and still touring. It took a concerted promotional effort and some clever timing to get this song noticed. Snuff Garrett made sure to time the Gary Lewis & the Playboys releases so they didn't conflict with Beatles singles, and the band hit the road. Said Lewis, "Right when it came out we went on a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour with about ten other acts - six to eight weeks of one-nighters. And so we were always in the public eye, and whatever town we were going into we did local TV to promote the show for that evening. So we were constantly in the public eye. I think that's what it takes, along with a good record. That's what we did all those years."
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Comments: 14

On June 10th 1969, Gary Lewis and the Playboys performed "This Diamond Ring" on the NBC-TV program 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'...
Gary's father, Jerry Lewis, was guest host on the show that night...
As already stated the song replaced the Righteous Brothers at #1, and for the two weeks it was at #1 "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling'" was at #2 and it was "My Girl" by the Temptations that bumped Gary out of #1.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
NOT SO PERFECT SONGS for VALENTINES DAY:
On Valentines Day in 1965 "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
And interestingly enough, the song it knocked out of the top spot was "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers...
"This Diamond Ring" was originally recorded in late 1964 by Sammy Ambrose; his version reached #117 on Billboard's 'Bubbling Under the Top 100' chart (his version is on You Tube)...
Mr. Lewis, born Gary Harold Lee Levitch, will celebrate his 69th birthday this coming July 31st (2014).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On February 9th 1965, Gary Lewis and the Playboys performed "This Diamond Ring" on the NBC-TV program 'Hullabaloo!'...
At the time the song was at #3 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; the following week it would jump to #1 (for 2 weeks)...
Session's musician Hal Blaine played drums on the record; it was one of thirty-eight #1 records that he appeared on between the years 1961 and 1976...
See next post below.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On December 6th, 1964, Gary Lewis & the Playboys performed "This Diamond Ring" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
One month and ten days later on January 16th, 1965 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on Valentine's Day 1965 it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
It was the group's debut record and their next six releases all made the Top 10...
Between 1965 and 1969 the group had fifteen Top 100 hits; with seven reaching the Top 10 and one peaking at #1...
R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974) and Mr. Lewis, born Gary Harold Lee Levitch, will celebrate his 68th birthday come next July 31st, 2014.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
This is Gary Lewis, and I took basic training at Ft. Ord, in Monterey, CA
And as a songwriter, who cares who sings your song if they make it a million selling hit,#1 in the country.
And I've also made it in this business for 48 years, allegedly singing!
Gary - Honeoye Falls, Ny
This song was featured (by about a minute of playing on a record) on the Jerry Lewis film "Family Jewels".Hilary - Fallon, Nv
Al, hope you see this and comment back.Around 1972 I met a woman,who's name I can't remember, who told me that she was the inspiration for the song.Mike - Long Island, Ny
Hi all,
My sincere apologies to the great songwriter Al Kooper for misrepresenting this.
Lester, I'm sorry, but I never saw Clay Cole.
Anyone know how to get a copy of Kooper's "You never know who your friends are" album? That would be a grand addition to my collection.
-- John Schubert, Coopersburg, PA
John - Coopersburg, Pa
I happen to have the same record that Charlie has, but I also have another copy of the same record with the flip side being Hard To Find credited to (LeRoy Vinnegar).Ryan - Troy, Mi
Al Kooper, is that you? Man, I love 'Child is the Father to Man'. Great album. Have you ever heard Black Oak Arkansas' cover of 'I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know'? And for John Shubert, I remember Lloyd Thaxton. Do you remember Clay Cole?Lester - New York City, Ny
I have NEVER claimed to have written TDR myself, I wrote the MUSIC myself and Brass & Levine wrote the words, We always split everything three ways equally however. The song was not as lucrative as John Shubert thinks it was for me as I earn 16 2/3 percet in royalties as I am one-third writer and do not participate in then publishing
The song was originally written for The Drifters as an R&B ditty which was why I was so horrified initially by the Gary Lewis record.
My version retains the original r&b feel, if anyone is interested.
Al - New York, Ny
I have the Liberty 45 rpm of This Diamond Ring and the label credits the songwritting to (Kooder-Levine-Bras)
The flip side is Tijuana Wedding credited to (Gary Lewis-Leon Russell-T. Lesslie)
Charlie - Eugene, Or
Someone else wrote in these comments that Al Kooper co-wrote this song. Uh, according to Kooper himself, he wrote the song himself.

I've seen Kooper talk about it in concert and heard him in a radio interview, and he sure acted like it was his and his alone. He said he was very disappointed at how the Playboys version sounded, and sheepish that it became such a hit (and lucrative for him) even though he disliked it so.

One of Kooper's albums ("Act like nothing's wrong") has his version of this song, which I don't care for, but he vastly prefers.

Also: I remember Gary Lewis's group "performing" this song (lip sync-ing) on the Lloyd Thaxton show. Lewis sat at a drum set with two bass drums. Shortly after that, he stopped druming and stood out in front, allegedly singing.

-- John Schubert, Coopersburg, PA
John - Coopersburg, Pa
Gary Lewis took basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina during the fall/winter of 1966.Jeff - Gaithersburg, Md