1. Valley Of Love
2. I Can't Escape From You
3. Wrapped Up In A Dream
4. Will You
5. Do Something For Me
6. No Says My Heart
2. That's What You're Doing To Me
3. Now I Know I Love You
4. I'll Never Stop Loving You
5. Stop Your Crying
6. Girl You Better Stop It
In November 2010 I posted the Charly LP “It’s a Groove” which contained 16 sides recorded by The Five Keys for Aladdin and Capitol between 1951 and 1957. The post features an outline of the career of The Five Keys who surely rank as one of the most important vocal groups in the history of R&B, being right up there with The Ravens, The Orioles, The Dominoes, The Clovers and The Drifters.
I came across this 1980s reissue of King LP 692 in the second hand vinyl browser of a Glasgow city centre record shop a couple of months ago. I was rather put off by the price but the prospect of using it in a follow up post to “It’s a Groove” and also finally hearing some of the group’s work on King was too tempting.
The Five Keys signed for Aladdin in 1951 and had a big hit with “Glory Of Love.” Subsequent releases on Aladdin failed to provide a follow up hit, but after signing for Capitol in August 1954 they had further chart success with “Ling Ting Tong,” “Close Your Eyes,” “The Verdict,” “’Cause You’re My Lover” and “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind.”
The last session recorded by The Five Keys for Capitol took place in February 1958, although the group remained signed to the label which released their recordings up until November 1958. Founder member Rudy West left soon after the February session and was soon followed by Ramon Loper. Rudy West was replaced by Thomas Threatt and Ramon Loper was replaced by Charles “Bobby” Crawley.
In July 1959 The Five Keys signed for King Records and recorded their first session for their new label on the 18th, 19th and 20th of August. Before the session, Bobby Crawley left the group and was replaced by former member Dickie Smith on baritone. The Five Keys personnel who recorded for King were: Maryland Pierce, Thomas Threatt, Ripley Ingram, Bernie West and Dickie Smith.
From the August 1959 session four singles were released: “I Took Your Love For A Toy” / “Ziggus” (King 5251), “Dream On” / “Dancing Senorita” (King 5273), “How Can I Forget You” / “I Burned Your Letter” (King 5302) and “Gonna Be Too Late” / “Rosetta” (King 5330). An LP, “The Five Keys” (King LP 688) was released in 1960.
The second and final sessions for King took place in March 1960, resulting in the 12 track LP “Rhythm and Blues Hits Past and Present” with 10 of the tracks also being released on 5 singles. The singles were: “I Didn’t Know” / “No Says My Heart” (King 5358) – “I Didn’t Know” was retitled “Now I Know I Love You” on the LP, “Valley Of Love” / “Bimbo” (King 5398), “You Broke The Only Heart” / “That’s What You’re Doing To Me” (King 5446), “Stop Your Crying” / “Do Something For Me” (King 5496) and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You” / “I Can’t Escape From You” (King 5877). The first two of these singles were released in June and September 1960, the next two in January and May 1961, and the final single wasn’t released until May 1964.
After the move to a pop sound in the Capitol years, the King sessions saw a return to an R&B style by the group. As you can hear from the streamed audio playlist and the download of the full LP, most of these tracks are pretty gutsy, reminding me somewhat of The “5” Royales. When I listened to this LP I was pleasantly surprised as the big band arrangements and girly choruses of the later Capitol recordings had been dropped in favour of tight sax driven R&B backing combos (Sam Taylor?) and hoarse soulful lead vocals.
The full story of The Five Keys can be read on Marv Goldberg’s website at:
This article was also published as a two parter in issues 246 and 247 of Blues and Rhythm magazine.
For the real lowdown on The Five Keys read Unca Marvy!
Download King LP 692 from here: