One of the most famous songs in doo-wop history, "In The Still Of The Nite" has a very unusual origin story. It was written by group member Fred Parris, who had joined the US Army. As a recruit, he travelled by train between Philadelphia and his home town of New Haven, and it was on these trips that he wrote the song. Soon after it was recorded, he shipped off for Japan, where he was stationed. When it became a hit, he watched from afar as a different permutation of The Five Satins was assembled to tour America - only two of the guys who recorded the song were part of this lineup. Parris wasn't discharged until 1958; when he returned, he set up a new version of the group and hit the road.
The song was recorded in the basement of St. Bernadette Church in the group's hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. They first tried recording the song in another New Haven building (on Whalley Avenue), but street noise degraded the recording. The church basement had great acoustics and was insulated from ambient noise, making it a perfect place to record.
The group was managed by Marty Kugell, who distributed their material on his own label, Standord Records (small operations like this were common at the time). His friend Vinny Mazzetta was an altar boy at the church, and Mazzetta convinced the pastor to let the group use the basement on a Sunday afternoon following a church service. They used the church piano along with drums, a guitar, a cello tuned low for the bass sound, and a saxophone, which Mazzetta played.
In this song, the singer remembers holding a girl close on a night in May, and hoping to be with her again. Fred Parris wrote it about a former girlfriend he was hoping would return to him. She never did - when she moved from Connecticut to California, he never saw her again. She likely never knew the song was about her.
On the same day they recorded this song, The Five Satins also recorded an uptempo track called "The Jones Girl," which was issued as the A-side of the single, with "In The Still Of The Nite" the flip. Disc jockeys played the B-side instead, and the song took off on the East Coast, especially in New York City, where it went to #1 on the local chart.
The "Shoo-doop, shoo be doop" was lifted from a 1955 song by Tony Allen called "Night Owl."
When they recorded this song, there were only four members of the group, but they called themselves The Five Satins because that was the trend, with groups like The Four Lads and The Four Coins falling out of favor to acts like The Five Crowns and The Five Royales. The lineup was rather fluid, and had a lot to do with who was available, since some of the members were in the military.
Cole Porter wrote a song called "In The Still Of The Night" in 1937 that was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Dion & The Belmonts, Perry Como and many others. To distinguish it from that one, the Five Satins song was first released with the title "I'll Remember (In The Still Of The Nite)."
The original version of this song charted two more times as a doo-wop revival emerged in the early '60s. In 1960 it made #81; in 1961 it reached #99.
The Five Satins followed this up with "To The Aisle," which reached #25 in 1957. Their label, Standord, fell on hard times and made a deal with a larger label, Ember, to distribute them. This didn't go well for Standord or for the song's writer, Fred Parris, who claimed the Ember never paid them proper royalties. Most of the song's profits came after Ember took control of it, as the track became a golden oldie with lots of cover versions and a place on many radio playlists. It also appeared on a boatload of compilation albums.
Boyz II Men recorded this in 1992. Their version was used in a TV miniseries about The Jacksons and went to #3 US.
The Crests - #102, 1961
Santo & Johnny - #58, 1964
Paul Anka - #64, 1969
In 1986, country singer Ronnie Milsap released "Lost in the Fifties Tonight," where he sings about fond memories listening to this song, which he sings in the chorus. It went to #1 on the Country chart and earned Milsap a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. It was also nominated for Best Country & Western Song.
The intentional misspelling of "Night" was a popular doo-wop trend. The Dells also did it in 1956 on their song "Oh What A Nite
The song got a boost when it was featured in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing and included on the soundtrack.
The song's writer Fred Parris ended up working jobs at High Standard, Olin and Roskin Distributors. He was working at Roskin in 1969 when the group re-formed for a doo-wop revival show at Madison Square Garden. After the show, he had to quit his job, as lots of offers came in for the group to perform.