Dave Diamond, Legendary Rock Radio Deejay, Dies at 77

UPDATE: “The Diamond Mine,” a nightly mix of acid rock and psychedelic poetry, was a big hit in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the late 1960s. He was one of the first to play The Doors.

Dave Diamond, whose influential “The Diamond Mine” rock radio show was wildly popular in Los Angeles and San Francisco starting in the 1960s, died May 5 at his home in Spearfish, S.D. He was 77 and had been battling pneumonia.

In 1967, Diamond was one of the first disc jockeys to play “Light My Fire” by The Doors, then a largely unknown L.A. band, and he connected listeners to The Seeds, Iron Butterfly, Love, Linda Ronstadt and other acts who at the time could not find airplay.

Through his Black Hills Music publishing company, the South Dakota native was the publisher of “Incense and Peppermints,” the psychedelic pop hit from The Strawberry Alarm Clock that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in May 1967.

Named one of “America’s Early Radio Idols” by Billboard, Diamond was one of the few radio reporters to tour with The Beatles during their first trip to America.

And on a 1967 edition of The Dating Game, Diamond was one of the three bachelors attempting to woo actress Yvonne Craig (TV’s Batgirl.)

“The Diamond Mine,” a nightly mix of acid rock and psychedelic poetry, was considered the first “underground” rock radio show. Diamond created it while at KBLA in Burbank in 1965.

After a short stint at KFWB in Hollywood, he left that station when it shifted to an all-news format in March 1968 for a job at San Francisco’s KFRC (The Big 610) on the heels on that city’s “Summer of Love.” He and his show were embraced by a legion of young listeners.

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Born Sid Davison in Howard, S.D. – where his parents owned and published the Miner County Pioneer newspaper -- he attended Louisiana State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Northwest Missouri State University, where he earned a master’s in English literature.

He changed his name to Dave Diamond in 1960 when he joined KOIL Radio in Omaha, Neb. He went on to make stops in Knoxville, Tenn., St. Louis, Indianapolis and Denver before landing a gig at KHJ in Los Angeles in 1965.

He also worked at L.A.-area stations KRLA, KDAY, KIIS and KFI before retiring from broadcasting in 1982. Most recently, he spent 17 years teaching journalism and broadcasting at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

Diamond wrote several short stories and books and had a play, The Deals Are Going Down, produced.

Survivors include many cousins. A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on June 6 at All Angels Episcopal Church in Spearfish.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Diamond was instrumental in the pardon of The Doors' Jim Morrison.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4