Hello, The Five Keys were an R&B vocal group from Newport News, Virginia. Members included Rudy West, Bernie West, Ripley Ingram, Maryland Pierce and Ramon Loper. Ripley Ingram left in 1949, Maryland Pierce and Dickie Smith became members in his place. The group was formed in the late 1940’s and called themselves, the Sentimental Four. In 1949 the group changed their name to The Five Keys. They signed a recording contract with Aladdin Records in 1951. In 1952 Rudy West left to join the United States Army. He was replaced by Ulysses K. Hicks. In 1954 Dickie Smith left and was replaced with Ramon Loper.
The Five Keys first Billboard R&B hit is their classic recording of THE GLORY OF LOVE. It became a hit in August of 1951 and became the #1 song on the R&B chart for 4 weeks. In 1954 the group signed a contract with Capitol Records. Their first hit for their new label is another R&B classic, LING, TING, TONG, making its chart debut on January 1, 1955. The record becomes a #5 R&B hit and crosses over to the Billboard Top 100 pop chart where it reaches #28, giving the group their first pop hit. On March 5, 1955 another smash hit jumps on to the R&B chart, CLOSE YOUR EYES climbs up the chart all the way to #5 and remains on the Billboard chart for 16 weeks. The record is a beautiful ballad done in The Five Keys very distinctive vocal style. Around this time Rudy West is discharged from the Army and immediately rejoins the group. In July of 1955 another hit charts on the R&B chart, THE VERDICT, becomes yet another big hit reaching #13. They would have one more hit record in 1955. In December, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE MY LOVER would make its chart debut and peak at #12.
In 1956 The Five Keys hit the R&B chart again, this time with the “B” side of ‘CAUSE YOU’RE MY LOVER, the rocker…GEE WHITTAKERS, that song would reach #14 on the R&B chart. A couple of singles are released by Capitol during the summer of 1956, but they fail to chart. On September 15, 1956 The Five Keys are back on the charts. First they enter the Billboard Top 100 and a little over a month later (October 27, 1956) they enter the R&B chart with one of the most beautiful ballads of the rock era, OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND. The single record reaches #12 on the R&B chart and becomes the groups biggest pop hit at #23 and remains on the Top 100 for 15 weeks. The single sells over 1 million copies and is awarded a “Gold Record”. Another classic recording closes 1956, WISDOM OF A FOOL reaches #35 on the Top 100 but does not chart on the R&B chart.
The groups last charting single record comes on March 30, 1957 with their hit, LET THERE BE YOU a #69 hit on the Top 100. In late 1958 Rudy West left the group and signed as a solo artist with King Records. The Five Keys would continue to record through 1961 but would not have national chart success. They occasionally reformed beginning in the late 1960’s. Rudy West continued as lead singer on those occasions. The Five Key were there, before the beginning of rock and roll, and during the glory days of the doo-wop era, “. Ripley Ingram passed away in 1995 at the age of 65, Rudy West passed away in 1998 at the age of 65 and Ramon Loper passed away in 2002 at the age of 66.
Till the next time—Joe