The Five Keys
This US R&B vocal group helped shape the rhythm and blues revolution of the early '50s. The ensemble was formed as the Sentimental Four in Newport News, Virginia, USA, in the late '40s, and originally consisted of two sets of brothers—Rudy West (b. 25 July 1932, Newport News, Virginia, USA) and Bernie West (b. 4 February 1930, Newport News, Virginia, USA), and Ripley Ingram (b. 1933) and Raphael Ingram. After Ralph Ingram left and Maryland Pierce (b. 1933) and Dickie Smith became members in 1949, the name of the group was changed to Five Keys. With Pierce doing the lead work, the Five Keys joined Los Angeles-based Aladdin Records in 1951 and the same year hit with a remake of the old standard, Glory Of Love, which became a US R&B number 1. Despite recording an appealing combination of old standards and R&B originals, further chart success on Aladdin, eluded the Five Keys.
In 1952 Rudy West went into the army, and was replaced by Ulysses K. Hicks, and in 1954 Dickie Smith left and was replaced with Ramon Loper. This new line-up of Five Keys was signed to Capitol Records, which brought the group to stardom, albeit with some modification in their style from a deep rhythm and blues sound to a more pop vein with greater instrumentation in support. The group's first hit for Capitol was the novelty pop jump, Ling Ting Tong, (US R&B number 5 and US pop Top 30 in 1955). Following the first Capitol recording session, Rudy West rejoined the Five Keys in October, 1954, replacing the ailing Hicks, who died a few months later. Further hits on Capitol included some spectacular R&B ballads: the Chuck Willis-composed Close Your Eyes (R&B number 5, 1955), The Verdict (R&B number 13, 1955), and Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind (R&B number 12 and pop Top 30 in 1956). The Capitol material also featured old standards, such as a marvellous remake of the Ink Spots’ The Gypsy (1957). Rudy West retired in 1958, and an unsuccessful stay at King Records, from 1958 to 1961 produced more personnel changes and no hits and few songs that could compete with the new rock ‘n’ roll sounds. Periodic sessions were recorded by various reunion groups in subsequent years, but the basic legacy of the Five Keys rests in their Aladdin, Capitol, and King sessions.
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