It was written by Maurice Williams with both melody and doo-wop accompaniment strongly emphasizing the clave rhythm. It was first recorded by Excello Records in January 1957 and quickly released as a rhythm-and-blues song by Williams's R&B group, The Gladiolas. The song is noted for its spoken recitation by the lead singer ("My Darlin' I need you..."). The Gladiolas, featuring Williams, were from Lancaster, South Carolina, where they had been together since high school. Their original version of the song was on the small Excello label.(Excello primarily recording "swamp blues" songs in Crowley, Louisiana. The Gladiolas song peaked at number 11 on the R&B charts in April 1957, but barely dented the hot 100. By 1959, Williams' group became "Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs" with the rock 'n roll- R&B hit "Stay."
The Diamonds' version followed a month later. The Diamonds were soon covering Little Darlin' successfully. The Diamonds were a Canadian pop group that evolved into a Doo-Wop group. The Diamonds' version reached number two in sales for eight weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Diamonds' version is generally considered a superior version (though some die hard R&B purists disdain it since it is a cover.) The Diamonds Little Darlin' is a quite unusual example of a cover being better than the original. The Diamonds' take remained the bigger hit, and over the years, the better-known version. Normally, this would have been an outrage, but there's a reason why the Diamonds' version has sustained its popularity over the years: it's a better, fiercer recording. Both versions are good, even if they're a little silly, because it's a good doo wop song, giving each member of the quartet a lot to do. At times, the vocal phrases verge on self-parody -- the "ai-ya-yi-yai-yai-ya"'s or the "wella-wella"'s -- which may be why The Diamonds' version is superior. They don't seem particularly reverential to the song, so they're not afraid to tear into it, sometimes sending it up, sometimes singing with passion. Whether they know it or not, they wound up making a good Doo-Wop song pretty great with their take-no-prisoners delivery."
Little Darlin', primarily the Diamonds' version, but to some extent the Gladiolas' version, is an all-time Rock 'n Roll R&B classic.
The song was later recorded by Elvis Presley for his final album, Moody Blue (1977). Rock-and-roll-revival group Sha Na Na performed "Little Darlin'" at the Woodstock Festival, held in White Lake, New York, in 1969.