The group, formed in New Haven, Connecticut, consisted of leader Fred Parris, Lewis Peeples, Stanley Dortch, Ed Martin and Jim Freeman and Nat Mosley in 1954. With little success, the group reorganized, with Dortch and Peeples leaving, and new member Al Denby entering. The group then recorded "In the Still of the Night", a very big hit in the United States which was originally released as the B-side to the single, "The Jones Girl". The single was initially issued on the tiny local "Standord" label (45 stock # 200) and after some local Connecticut sales, it was released the following year on the New York label Ember (45 stock # 1005), and "In The Still Of The Night" ended up charting at number three on the R&B chart and number 25 on the pop charts. Two singles later, the follow-up track "Pretty Baby (That's Why I Sing)" (Ember 1025) got weeks of airplay on powerful CHUM in Toronto, in November 1957. An August 1958 release, "A Night To Remember" (Ember 1038), got some Boston airplay. During late 1959 (in San Francisco, CA) and early 1960 (in both San Antonio, TX and Rochester, NY), their classic 45 side garnered renewed current airplay, becoming a Top 10 hit in all three listed markets. "In The Still of the Night" became an even bigger hit when it appeared as the lead track on Original Sound Records' OLDIES BUT GOODIES Vol.1. The series eventually ran to 15 volumes. The series has been in continual print in one form or another since that first volume was released in 1959. In total, their signature track sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. A case of painfully bad timing affected the group's lead singer. Uncle Sam had come calling, and Parris entered the Army very soon after the huge success of "In The Still Of The Night", forcing the group to reorganize again, with Martin, Freeman, Tommy Killebrew, Jessie Murphy and new lead Bill Baker. Baker quickly proved to be a highly capable replacement, however, as this lineup immediately hit big with another timeless, very successful effort, Billy Dawn Smith's "To the Aisle" (Ember 1019), in September 1957.
Upon Parris' return from the Army, a new lineup was assembled, consisting of Parris, Lewis Peeples (who was in a previous incarnation of the Five Satins), Sylvester Hopkins, Richie Freeman and Wes Forbes. The group would be briefly known as "Fred Parris and the Scarlets", until the Baker-led group split up. At this point, they reverted to the Five Satins name. According to old radio survey repository ARSA, the following 45 sides charted in some markets: "I'll Be Seeing You" (Ember 1061), 3/60; "Your Memory" (Cub 9071), 7/1960; "The Time" (Ember 1066), 10/60; "These Fooling Things/A Beggar With A Dream" (Cub 9077), 12/60; "Till The End" (United Artists 368), 11/61; "The Masquerade Is Over" (Chancellor 1110), 7/62; "Remember Me" (Warner Brothers 5367), 8/63; and "Ain't Gonna Dance" (aka "Ain't Gonna Cry", Roulette 4563), 7/64. In total, the group appeared on an unusually high number of record labels, even for their era, when such label-hopping was far more of a common practice.
In 1965, Parris retooled his band, and started a three-year run of getting substantial airplay almost exclusively inside his home state of Connecticut, as Fred Parris and the Restless Hearts. Songs included "No Use In Crying" (Checker 1108), 5/65; "Blushing Bride/Giving My Love To You" (Green-Sea 106), 8/66; "Bring It Home To Daddy" (Atco 6439), which hit #1 locally in 10/66; "I'll Be Hangin On" (Green-Sea 107); a #11 local hit in 4/67; and ending this career phase with an updated version of their classic hit, "(I'll Remember) In The Still Of The Night "67"" (Mama Sadie 1001), in 8/67.
By the early 1970s the group was Parris, Peeples, Richie Freeman, Jimmy Curtis and Corky Rogers. "Dark At The Top Of My Heart" (RCA 0478), 6/71, had garnered them still more Connecticut airplay. With the smash hit 1973 film American Graffiti and its nostalgic soundtrack sparking a renewed interest in both old hits and old groups, music mogul Don Kirshner sought to capitalize by signing Parris and his group to his own Kirshner label. He restored the group's moniker back to Five Satins, and released two 45s: "Very Precious Oldies/Your Are Love" (Kirshner 4251), 1973; and "Two Different Worlds/Love Is Such A Beautiful Thing" (Kirshner 4252), 1974. Both singles flopped, however.
They continued recording into the 1980s, with Parris, Richie Freeman, Curtis and Nate Marshall. In 1982, a "Medley Craze" had suddenly engulfed Top 40 radio, led by the Beatle hit-laden Stars on 45 medley, performed by some Dutch studio sound-alike musicians. The track hit #1 in the U.S. In response, Capitol had quickly spliced up and issued "genuine" old hit medleys, for both The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Both of these medleys only narrowly missed reaching the national Top 10. Noticing this new trend, however, longtime Connecticut music producer Marty Markiewicz (who'd known Parris personally for many years), knew that he was still singing/performing at a very high level. Markiewicz also happened to be working for Elektra Records (as a local music rep) at the time. He got an idea. He both asked for and was given permission by his employer to bring Parris and company in, on each's own time, to record/produce a medley of classic '50s hits. Just to see what would come out of it. The plan was to use the Satins' own classic hit as the medley's final song. The result was "Memories Of Days Gone By" (Elektra 47411), which became the group's first new entry on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1960. And although it only peaked at #71 in early 1982, it did again reach the Top 10 at New Haven's WKCI (KC101) and Hartford's and WDRC. The latter was especially satisfying, as airplay for Parris in the Hartford market had always been tough to come by, even during the '60s days of huge downstate radio play. In response to their successful medley, Elektra requested a full LP. For this release, the "Five" was dropped, and the album was issued as by "Fred Parris And The Satins." Two more singles were released from it. The first, a remake of the Delfonics' 1970 hit "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" (Elektra 69888), again got solid airplay in New Haven, in November 1982. Meanwhile, Bill Baker had started his own Five Satins group around this same time, with former Satin Sylvester Hopkins and Hopkins' brothers Arthur "Count" Hopkins, Sr. and Frank. By the late 1980s, this group consisted of Baker, Harvey Potts, Jr., Anthony Hofler and Octavio DeLeon. In 1990, the group was joined by Jimmie Wilson stepping into the first tenor position for Don Simpson.
Fred Parris and Richie Freeman continue to perform. Bill Baker died on August 10th, 1994.
"In the Still of the Nite", is a song written by Fred Parris and recorded by his Five Satins. While only a moderate hit when first released (peaking at No. 24 on the national pop charts), it has received considerable airplay over the years and is notable as one of the best known doo-wop songs, recorded by artists such as Boyz II Men and Debbie Gibson. It is heard in several films, such as The Buddy Holly Story and Dirty Dancing.
The song was recorded in the Saint Bernadette Catholic School basement in New Haven, Connecticut, in February, 1956. Marty Kugell produced the song. The saxophone solo was played by Vinny Mazzetta, of New Haven.The rhythm section was Doug Murray, bass, Bobby Mapp, drums and Curlee Glover, piano. It was originally released as a B-side (to "The Jones Girl", a play on the Mills Brothers' 1954 hit, "The Jones Boy") on Kugell's Standard Records label. Although the single was only a moderate hit (after it was reissued on the Ember label), peaking at No. 24 on the national pop charts and No. 3 on the R&B "race" charts (Billboard's chart designation for R&B during that time), its reputation came to surpass its original chart placement. For three decades, the single almost always topped the influential Top 500 Songs countdown on oldies radio station WCBS-FM. The track sold over 10 million copies in 1987 and 1988 as part of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. In April 2010, the song ranked No. 90 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of "the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". (The song was included on the highly influential 1959 LP Oldies But Goodies on Original Sound.)
"In the Still of the Night" is the only song to have charted on the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times, by the same artist with the same version each time. After initially reaching No. 24 in 1956, it was released again in 1960 and reached No. 81. Then more than a year later in 1961 it reached No. 99.
"In the Still of the Night" is one of two songs that may lay claim to being the origin of the term doo-wop. The plaintive doo wop, doo wah refrain in the bridge has often been suggested as the origin of the term to describe that musical genre. (The other contender for the honor is "When You Dance" by the Turbans, in which the chant "doo-wop" can be heard.)
Satins – Freeman, Perry and Dobbs.
James Curtis, one of the original members of the Five Satins, worked in the cafeteria at the University of New Haven prior to his death in 2001. Jim Freeman lives in Norwalk, Iowa and owns a pest control company. Wes Forbes is a psychologist in the State of California, currently employed with Alliant International University as a Training Director. Richie Freeman is the house sound engineer at NY's famed Iridium Jazz Club. Lewis Peeples, one of the group's original members, retired as an Area Field Services Director for AFSCME.
Fred Parris and Richie Freeman are still actively performing occasionally with the Five Satins. The lineup now also includes Eugene Dobbs, originally the lead singer and founder of Nu-Cullers and Nadina Perry.
They are supported by musicians Pat Marafiote (keyboards and MD), Greg Borino (guitar), Jerry Langley (bass) and James Moore (drums).
The group performs regularly throughout the Northeast and they continue to actively record new material.