In 1954 from New Haven, Connecticut, Stanley Dortch, John Freeman, Ed Martin, Fred Parris, and Lewis Peeples formed a doo-wop group fans may recognize today as The Five Satins. Before becoming world famous for their signature single, “In the Still of the Nite,” Dortch and Peeples left and were replaced by Al Denby. The song became a moderate hit the first time around but didn’t receive the highest level of its success until after it was recorded as the lead track on Original Sound Records’ Oldies But Goodies Vol.1. For the next fourteen volumes, “In the Still of the Nite” remained in circulation, becoming the signature single that made The Five Satins famous on an international level.
Unfortunately for The Satins, circumstances were not kind to the group. Fred Parris became a United States Army officer shortly after “In the Still of the Night” became successful. This caused the group to organize themselves again. The lineup now featured John Freeman, Ed Martin, Tommy Killebrew, Jessie Murphy, and Bill Baker. Baker became the group’s new lead singer and showed he had the star quality needed to put them back into the music charts. Their version of Billy Dawn Smith’s “To the Aisle” became a 1957 hit the group needed to continue with their recording career.
When Parris returned from the army in 1969, he formed a new lineup that included Wes Forbes, Richie Freeman, Sylvester Hopkins, and former Five Satins member, Lewis Peeples. They were briefly known as Fred Parris and the Scarlets until the Baker version of The Five Satins went their separate ways. Once this happened, Parris and his group reverted back to The Five Satins name. From there, some of their recordings managed to achieve chart success, namely the 1960’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
During this time period, Parris and his version of The Five Satins, their music was recorded on an unusually high amount of record labels. Their recording career continued clean into the early 1970s which would then see Jimmy Curtis and Corky Rogers replace Wes Forbes and Sylvester Hopkins. When American Graffiti came out in 1973 and became a box office hit, Don Kirshner capitalized on the renewed interest in oldies music and signed up The Five Satins. Unfortunately, the commercial success this deal sought failed to come to fruition.
The Five Satins, however, continued to record into the 1980s. Parris still led the group, along with Richie Freeman and Jimmy Curtis. However, Peeples and Rogers left and were replaced by Nate Marshall. When the early 1980s saw a craze of medley vocals influence hit music radio stations, Parris and his group were invited to record and produce a medley of 1950s hit singles. The result brought forth “Memories of Days Gone By,” a hit that would make an appearance on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Who is Who
Upon the success of “Memories of Days Gone By,” Elektra made a request for a full album recording. It would be at this time The Five Satins would experience a name change. As Fred Parris and The Satins, there were two singles that were released. The first was a remake of “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” which was a 1970 original hit performed by The Delfonics.
In the meantime, Bill Baker started up his own lineup of The Five Satins. His lineup featured former Satin member, Sylvester Hopkins, his brother, Arthur Hopkins, Sr., and Frank Hopkins. Going into the 1990s, his version of The Five Satins also underwent lineup changes.
In 2003, The Five Satins were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Although the group’s final single release was 1989’s “Everybody’s Got A Home But Me,” the surviving member of The Five Satins, Richie Freeman, continues to perform. The rest of the lineup features a collection of talent that keeps the group’s legacy going, performing before an audience that has an appreciation for oldies music and all it’s melodic glory.
Top 10 Songs by The Five Satins
# 10 – The Masquerade is Over
In 1962, “The Masquerade is Over” was a single The Five Satins released that fell just shy of climbing into the US Billboard Hot 100. Between the crackle of an old 45 playing, combined with the harmonical vocal performance this talented group led by Fred Parris, made this song an easy-to-love fan favorite. If a music fan wants 1950s nostalgia for the charming personality it still has, “The Masquerade is Over” is a great tune to get into the mood.
# 9 – Shadows
In 1959, The Five Satins recorded and released “Shadows” as a single that would peak as high as number twenty-seven on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number eighty-seven hit. With Fred Parris at the lead, this doo-wop fan favorite served as the group’s final hit for the decade to appear on both of the mentioned music charts. When listening to this song, the vocal melodies of these men made this incredible ballad become even more impactful as a sad love song that spoke volumes in less than three minutes.
# 8 – Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)
Originally recorded and released in 1970 by The Delfonics, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” became a love gone wrong ballad that was covered by Parris and The Satins. The same group as Parris’s lineup of The Five Satins, but under a different name at the time, as requested by the recording label, Elektra. This romantic number was just as beautifully performed when The Five Satins covered it in 1982. While it didn’t become a charted hit as it did for The Delfonics, it did send fans of nostalgic music into an era that appreciated “Didn’t I” for all the doo-wop value it was worth.
# 7 – The Jones Girl
“The Jones Girl” was a song that was released as a single in 1956 as a musical play on the 1954 Mills Brothers’ hit, “The Jones Boy.” This was released on the same record that featured “In the Still of the Nite” on the B-side. The popularity of the unintended hit overshadowed “The Jones Girl” as it was the song that received all the attention instead. For a fun tune to just twist and shout to, “The Jones Girl” was it.
# 6 – Pretty Baby (That’s Why I Sing)
In 1957, “Pretty Baby (That’s Why I Sing)” was released as a follow-up track behind “In the Still of the Nite.” It earned a few weeks of airplay on the powerful CHUM radio station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but failed to make an impression on any official music charts. There was a reason why doo-wop was so popular when it graced the music stations during the 1950s. Even if a song didn’t make it into any of the big-name music charts, there was enough fan appeal that kept them coming back for more. “Pretty Baby” was a lyrical plea for the love interest wronged to give one more chance to make things right.
# 5 – A Night to Remember
On music charts belonging to Boston, Massachusetts, “A Night to Remember” became a modest hit after it was released as a single in 1958. Performed as Fred Parris and The Five Satins, this subtle hit served as one of the very reasons why doo-wop music became a nostalgic favorite by fans that sparked a surging interest in medley music. During the early 1980s, the industry pounced on the opportunity to bring the oldies back to life in a manner that was never done until “Stars on 45” became a big hit in 1982. “A Night to Remember” was a lyrical plea for the love interest wronged to give one more chance to make things right.
#4 – Memories of Days Gone By
In 1982, “Memories of Days Gone By” was performed as a medley, following the same format as “Stars on 45” which triggered a medley craze that was now being played on radio stations. For The Five Satins led by Fred Parris, this was their first hit since 1960. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number seventy-one. Fans into nostalgia music enjoyed the collection of 1950s hits that became meshed together as a great song that took a trip down memory lane.
#3 – To the Aisle
In September 1957, “To the Aisle” was a song The Five Satins recorded and released with new lead singer, Bill Baker. What made the song so unusual at the time was the alto saxophone and oboe that were played in harmony during the bridge of the song. The closing of ‘To the Aisle” featured the oboe coming into play again. The appeal of this tune became a number five hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and a number twenty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was the second hit credited to The Five Satins and the first with Bill Baker as part of the group’s lineup.
#2 – I’ll Be Seeing You
In 1960, The Five Satins had an entirely new lineup that featured the returning Fred Parris from the United States military. He, along with his entourage, assumed the group name after Bill Baker’s lineup split up. Together, the new group recorded and released the single, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number twenty-two hit. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked as high as number fourteen. “I’ll Be Seeing You” was a 1938 classic that was written by Sammy Fain and used in the short-lived Broadway musical, Right This Way. In 1944, I’ll Be Seeing You took “I’ll Be Seeing You” as its theme song and was also included in the soundtrack. The song became popular after that that would be covered by Fred Parris and The Five Satins.
#1 – In the Still of the Nite
“In the Still of the Nite” was originally on the B side of the single, “The Jones Girl,” which was released in 1956. It started out as a local Connecticut hit before it achieved national, then international, success. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-five.
Over the years, the popularity of this tune increased and became one of the industry’s best-known doo-wop songs. It was actually written by Fred Parris while he was on guard duty for the United States Army in 1956. In 1992, Boys II Men covered a version of this song that became an international hit for the group, peaking as high as number one in New Zealand and number seven in Canada. For them, it was a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The original 1956 recording of “In the Still of the Nite” took place in the basement of the Saint Bernadette Catholic School in New Haven, Connecticut. For about thirty years after its release, it consistently topped the influential Top 500 Songs countdown on WCBS-FM, a radio station dedicated to oldies music. Between 1987 and 1988 as part of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, it sold over ten million copies.
The spelling of “In the Still of the Nite” was arranged in a manner to not be confused with “In the Still of the Night” by Cole Porter. This song also became one of two non-Christmas-related recordings to earn a US Billboard Hot 100 chart hit on three separate occasions by the same artist where the version has been the same each time. In 1956, it was a number twenty-four hit. By 1960, the re-release had become a number eighty-one hit. In 1961, it happened again at number ninety-nine. It became the favorite song by Original Records to be included in the fifteen volumes of their Oldies But Goodies recordings. Despite the slow start of “In the Still of the Nite,” it became a certified gold hit by the Recording Industry of Association.
Top 10 Songs By The Five Satins article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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