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the five keys

The Five Keys

l to r: ccw: Maryland Pierce, Raymon Loper, Rudy West, Ripley Ingram and Bernie West

The Five Keys were a U.S. R & B vocal group from Newport News, Virginia, formed in 1945.

The group comprised, at various times, of:

Rudy West (b. 25th July 1933, Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A. d. 14 May 1998, U.S.A.)

Bernie West (b. 4th February 1932, Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.)

Ripley Ingram (b. 1929, U.S.A. d. 23rd March 1995, Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.)

Thomas 'Dickie' Threatt (lead tenor from 1958-1961 b. 7th February 1938, U.S.A. d. 9th October 2007, Newport News, Virginia, U.S.A.)

Raphael Ingram

James Dickie Smith (b. 1933, U.S.A.)

Raymon Navarro Loper (b. 25th November 1935, U.S.A. d. 16th October 2002, New York City, New York, U.S.A.)

Edwin Hall

Ulysses Hicks (d. 1955, Boston, Massachussetts, U.S.A.)

Maryland Pierce (b. 1933, U.S.A.)


Charles ‘Bobby’ Crawley

The Five Keys were a Rhythm & Blues quintet, who were a Doo Wop singing group, starting out as a Gospel group.

Their sound bridged the Gospel and R&B sounds of the late Forties and early Fifties.

In 1948, two brothers, Rudy (first tenor) and Bernard West (bass/baritone), joined ranks with another group (also brothers), Ripley (octave tenor) and Raphael Ingram (second tenor), to form the Gospel group, The Sentimental Four.

The Sentimental Four had, originally, been in existence since 1945.

The group hailed from Newport News, in Virginia.

the sentimental four in 1949: l to r: Bernie West, Edwin Hall, Dickie Smith, Rudy West and Ripley Ingram

The Sentimental Four toured with the Miller's Brown-Skinned Models revue.

In 1949, the group added Edwin Hall (second tenor ) as a fifth member.

Raphael Ingram left the group shortly afterwards, with Maryland Pierce (born 1933) and Thomas 'Dickie' Threatt taking his place.

With the increase in numbers, the group renamed themselves the Five Keys.

Five KeysFive Keys

it's christmas time - 1951 / the glory of love - 1951

The Five Keys were signed to Aladdin Records in 1951, where they released the single ‘It’s Christmas Time’ b/w ‘Old MacDonald’.

They released a further 9 singles for the label between 1951 and 1955.

In 1952, Rudy West left to join the United States Army, and he was replaced by Ulysses K. Hicks.

Their song ‘Ling, Ting, Tong’, was a No. 28 pop hit in 1954.

That was followed by the ballad ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’, which reached No. 23 in 1956, and ‘Wisdom of a Fool’, which reached No. 35 in 1957.

Ulysses Hicks died of a heart attack in Boston in 1955, and Rudy West returned to the group.

In 1954 Dickie Smith left and was replaced with Ramon Loper.

The Five KeysThe Five KeysThe Five KeysThe Five Keys

on the town - 1957 / the five keys - 1961 / rhythm and blues hits - 1961 / the fantastic five keys - 1977

In 1957, the group released their first album ‘On The Town’ for the Score Imprint.

Later that year, a second album, entitled ‘Stage!’ was released on their new label, Capitol Records.

The group went on to release two further albums ‘Rhythm & Blues Hits, Past & Present’ (in 1960), and’ The Fantastic Five Keys’ (in 1962).

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.

Ramon Loper died on the 16th of October 2002, after a short illness.

Dickie Threatt, (lead tenor from 1958-1961), died on the 9th October 2007, in Newport News, Virginia.

The Five Keys

l to r: dickie smith, ripley ingram, maryland pierce, thomas threatt and bernie west

Real Player


The Best Of The Five Keys (Aladdin Records 1956)

The Five Keys On The Town (Score Records 1957)

The Five Keys On Stage (Capitol Records 1957)

The Five Keys (King Records 1960)

Rhythm And Blues Hits Past And Present (King Records 1960)

The Fantastic Five Keys (Capitol Records 1962)

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