The Five Satins are best known for the doo wop classic "In the Still of the Night," a song that was popular enough to make the group one of the most famous doo wop outfits, although they never had another hit of the same magnitude.
The origins of the Five Satins lie in the Scarlets, a New Haven, CT, doo wop group led by Fred Parris. The Scarlets formed in 1953, while Parris was still in high school. The group had a local hit with "Dear One" the following year. In 1954, Parris formed the Five Satins with vocalists Al Denby, Ed Martin, and Jim Freeman. Within the next year, Parris had the group record "In the Still of the Night," a song he had recently written in the basement of a local church. The first single the group released was "In the Still of the Night." The single was released on Standard Records in the spring of 1956. By the end of the year, it had been leased to Ember and became a huge hit, peaking at number three on the R&B charts and number 25 on the pop charts.
By the time "In the Still of the Night" scaled the charts, Parris had been drafted into the army. He was stationed in Japan when the song became a hit, and he was still stationed in Japan when the group recorded the follow-up single, "To the Aisle." For that single, Bill Baker handled the lead vocals. "To the Aisle" became a Top Ten R&B hit in the summer of 1957. Parris returned from the army in 1958. Upon his return, he reorganized the group, adding Richie Freeman, Sylvester Hopkins, West Forbes, and Lou Peeples. This incarnation of the group had a minor hit in the fall of 1959 with "Shadows."
In 1960, "In Still of the Night" re-entered the pop charts thanks to its exposure on Art Laboe's first Oldies but Goodies compilation. The repeated success of the single sparked another minor hit for the band in 1960, a cover of the standard "I'll Be Seeing You." During the remainder of the '60s and early '70s, Parris led various incarnations of the Five Satins through oldies revues in America and Europe; they also recorded occasionally during this time.
In 1974, the group signed a contract with Kirsner Records and released a single, "Two Different Worlds." Two years later, they briefly changed their name to Black Satin and released a single called "Everybody Stand Up and Clap Your Hands (For the Entertainer)," which became a Top 50 R&B hit.
Shortly afterward, the group reverted to the Five Satins name. In 1982, the Five Satins had their last hit with a doo wop medley entitled "Memories of Days Gone By." The single, which was released on Elektra Records, peaked at number 71 on the pop charts. Since the '80s, Fred Parris has led various lineups of the Five Satins and the group performs regularly at oldies shows in America and Europe.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine