The Five Sharps

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The Five Sharps
Origin Queens, New York
Genres Doo Wop
Years active 1952
Labels Jubilee
Past members Robert Ward
Tom Duckett
Ronald Cuffey
Mickey Owens
Clarence Bassett

The Five Sharps were a short-lived vocal group from Queens, NY. They are best known today for their recording of "Stormy Weather". "Stormy Weather" is today considered one of the most collectible doo wop singles ever released.[1] After the group broke up, several of the members went on to join other groups, such as The Videos.

The recording of "Stormy Weather"[edit]

In 1952, after months of performing at local functions, The Five Sharps were spotted by a producer and taken into a studio to record two songs. The group recorded their own "Sleepy Cowboy" and the standard "Stormy Weather". The session took most of the day and they were paid in hot dogs and soda pop.[2] First tenor Bobby Ward remembers that sales of "Stormy Weather" were so bad that he and the other members had to buy their own copies even though they'd never been paid for the recording in the first place.[2] The song was released on Jubilee #5104.

The 78[edit]

In late 1961, record collector Billy Pensabene found a 78 rpm copy of the record and brought it to Times Square Records, run by Irving “Slim” Rose. Slim borrowed the record to play on his “Sink Or Swim With Swingin' Slim” radio show on WBNX. While in his care, however, the record was broken. Slim admitted in June 1965 that the record "broke under [his] arm" on the way home from the studio, but at other times he claimed that his pet raccoon, Teddy, had broken the disc by sitting on it.[3]

Slim assured his angry customer that he would replace the broken record. He put up a sign in his store offering $25 in credit for a 78 of the song and $50 for a 45 rpm single. When weeks went by without any takers on his offer, Slim raised the rewards.[2] Slim then went to the owner of Jubilee Records, Jerry Blaine, to get him to reissue the original. He was told that "Stormy Weather" was one of a batch of 80 masters which had been destroyed in a fire.[2][3]

Since Jubilee, in 1952, had been releasing singles on both the 78 and 45 formats, collectors assumed that there must be a 45 somewhere (even then, collectors valued 45s much more than 78s). None ever surfaced, however, and only a handful of 78's of "Stormy Weather" have ever been found.

The re-recording[edit]

In 1964, as the legend of the song grew, Jubilee hired a new group of musicians, under the name of The Five Sharps. They then recorded a new version of "Stormy Weather". It was released as Jubilee 5478, a 45 single. This version isn't nearly as collectible as the first version.[1]

After "Stormy Weather"[edit]

Cuffey was diagnosed with leukemia and died in the early '60s. Bassett joined late-period incarnations of both the Drifters and the Flamingos, and later, formed the '70s band Creative Funk. The other members, pianist Tommy Duckett, Mickey Owens, and Bobby Ward, left the music industry until 1975, when four of the surviving group members performed at the Academy of Music in New York.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Five Sharps". Answers.com. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Five Sharps' "Stormy Weather": The ultimate doo-wop record". Retrieved 2008-09-07. 
  3. ^ a b Goldberg, Marv (2002). "The 5 Sharps". Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks. Retrieved 2008-09-07.