The Five Sharps

The Five Sharps were a short-lived vocal group from the Jamaica housing projects in Queens, NY, and are best known today for their "Stormy Weather" (Jubilee), which is today considered one of the most collectible doo wop singles ever released. In 1952, this young quintet -- led by first tenor Bobby Ward -- recorded an original "Sleepy Little Cowboy" and "Stormy Weather," a hit ten years earlier for Lena Horne. The Five Sharps' version was much slower in pace, crudely harmonized and recorded, and had cheap sound effects of clapping thunder. The recording session took most of the day and the quintet were paid in hot dogs and soda pop. Jubilee 5104 was the Five Sharps' only release and appeared in stores in 1953. Not long afterward, the Five Sharps broke up and a couple of the members joined the army. End of story. Two of the Sharps, Clarence Bassett and lead singer Ronald Cuffey, later recorded in 1958 for Casino Records as the Videos and had a small hit with "Trickle Trickle." Bassett then joined Shep & the Limelights and sang background on the 1961 hit "Daddy's Home" (number two on the pop charts that May). In 1964, Jubilee hired another group of Five Sharps and recorded a new version of "Stormy Weather" (Jubilee 5458), but that version isn't as collectible as the first version, which has sold for nearly 4,000 dollars in auction due to its limited pressing. Cuffey was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away in the early '60s. After leaving the Limelites, Bassett joined late-period incarnations of both the Drifters and the Flamingos, and later, formed the '70s band Creative Funk. The other Five Sharps -- 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. ~ Bryan Thomas

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