Jive Five

Jive Five

Eugene Pitt hailed from Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, musically influenced by his father, a gospel singer, who taught Eugene and his sisters how to harmonize; they performed gospel songs in churches until about 1950. With street corner singing groups it stirred a desire for rhythm and blues stardom and by mid-decade he had joined a group called The Akrons. A little later Eugene sang with a another group but they separated.
In 1959 Pitt put together his own group, The Jive Five, with friends from the neighborhood. He and Jerome Hanna sang tenor, supported by Richard Harris, Thurmon "Billy" Prophet and bass singer Norman Johnson. That’s where I started the Jive Five – Myrtle Avenue between Marcy Avenue and Tomkins Avenue in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. I took the guys to my father and he taught them how to sing harmonies. He would stand one guy in each corner and put the lead in the middle of the floor. So when he put you in your corner, you couldn’t hear any other notes to lean on – you could only sing your own note coming out of the corner. Then, when we left my father and got out onto the street, that’s when we started singing doo wop on the corners. He didn’t know we were singing that kind of music until “My True Story” was a hit. My father came to me and said, “I heard you have a hit record out there.” I said, “Yes, Dad. We have a hit record.” He just shook his head and that was it.

In early '61 when all five jivers auditioned for Les Cahan and Joe Rene at the Beltone Studio on Broadway in New York. Cahan, who'd been running the studio for several years, had decided to branch out with Beltone Records and made a spectacular splash shortly afterwards with Bobby Lewis's "Tossin' and Turnin'," the biggest hit of the entire year. One of the songs the Jive Five sang that day was an original ballad by Pitt and Oscar Waltzer, "My True Story," based on Eugene's own experience of losing a girlfriend to one of his (former?) pals.

"My True Story," with backing by Rene's band, had an addicting 'Cry, cry-y-y...' vocal hook (often resulting in record store customers who didn't know the actual title offering their own wailing "Cry-cry-cry" in attempts to identify the song). It captured the essence of older doo wop but got off to a slow start at the beginning of summer '61; by September, though, it had gained momentum, moving into the top ten on the pop charts while hitting number one R&B. 

The quintet followed with the low-charting "Never, Never" at the end of the year, an outstanding track regardless of its similarity to the debut single. Next came the best ballad since the initial release, "What Time Is It?" Pitt's falsetto is at full throttle on this track, which might have been much bigger had it been possible to turn the clock back a year or two prior to the fall of '62.

After this, Billy Prophet left to pursue a solo career and, tragically, Jerome Hanna developed walking pneumonia and passed away, leaving the group in search of replacements. Andre Coles signed on briefly. Casey Spencer joined for a longer stretch.

Figuring ballads were the Five's forte, Cahan put out "These Golden Rings" late in the year and it did well, making an appearance on the R&B charts. "Rain," with its hypnotic 'drip...drop...' backing vocals by J.R. Bailey, Bobby Phillips and Charles Brooks, all former members of The Cadillacs, appeared in early 1963. Beltone Records ceased operation in early '64 but Cahan kept the recording studio going as before.

In 1965,The Jive Five were Casey Spencer, Norman Johnson, Webster Harris, Beatrice Best. Beatrice replaced Jerome Hanna, but he sings baritone. An "extended family" of singers came and went over the next couple of decades, the one constant being lead singer Eugene Pitt. After a one-shot '64 release on the tiny Sketch label, "United", they signed with United Artists Records in 1965.


Otis Pollard, the group's manager, was on good terms with Les Cahan and sessions for the larger label were recorded in comfortable surroundings: the Beltone studios. Pollard insisted on one major change, adding a brass section to many of the Jive Five's productions, an adjustment that gave the somewhat dated doo wop quintet a modern soul sound.

The group started strong at United Artists with "I'm a Happy Man. "A Bench in the Park," the most uptempo A side yet, utilized Pitt's falsetto scream in a contemporary context. Seven singles were released on UA, though follow-ups performed disappointingly. 

In '67 and '68 with soul singles "Crying Like a Baby" and "Sugar (Don't Take Away My Candy)" on the Musicor label. A single for Decca Records, "I Want You to Be My Baby," hit the R&B charts near the end of the year.

After United Artists, The Jive Five went to ABC where we became Sting and we did an album. We had a hit record in England. We went to Decca, where we went back to the name, but we changed the spelling to Jyve Fyve. Then we went to Honey Bee Records, where we became Ebony, Ivory & Jade and Shadow and Showdown; recorded “You’re a Puzzle” with Richard Fisher on lead for Decca; recorded “If You Let Me Make Love to You. In the early 1970s the group, under The Jyve Fyve, released records on the Avco Embassy and Brut labels before resuming the original spelling.

In the early 80’s The Jive Five put out 2 albums with Ambient Sound, “Here I Am” and “Way Back”. We did those 2 albums and the company disbanded so we moved. In 1983 Eugene hired his brothers, Frank and Herbert Pitt, and in 1985 Casey Spenser rejoined the touring act. They performed along with Beatrice Best.

In 1984, Eugene and The Jive Five were introduced to branding consultants Fred Seibert and Alan Goodman by their latest producer, Ambient Sound's Marty Pekar. Together whey embarked on an almost ten-year relationship, creating and singing the a cappella signature sound of the American kids' television network Nickelodeon. They used the group to write and record some of the most memorable advertising jingles, including the 13-note "Nick-Nick-Nick" motif the network continues to use to this day.

From 1998-2006 - The Jive Five consisted of: Eugene Pitt, Artie Loria, Bea Best, Danny Loria, Maurice Unthank and Harold Gil. They recorded "It's Christmas" for Dazzle Records.

The group performed on the PBS special Doo Wop 50 and eleased a single in 2016 entitled "It's Christmas", written by Pitt and the Lorias. It was credited to 'Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five' and featured Pitt, Best, Gill, Unthank, and the Loria's. Dan Loria also took on booking duties and management for the group. Other recordings this line-up recorded included: "Jive Five Sing Along", "Pretend", "I Am Yours", "Falling Tears (remake) "Today", "Close Your Eyes", "You", "Daddy's Home" and many other single releases. Alpine Entertainment announced that a future CD would consolidate these singles into one Jive Five release.

In June 2010, the group consisted of the then 72-year-old Eugene Pitt, first tenor Frank Pitt, second tenor Casey Spencer, baritone Beatrice Best, and bass Herbert Pitt.

Eugene Pitt performed and recorded with The Doo Wop All Stars between 1990 and 2006. The group recorded a tribute song to the September 11 attacks victims and heroes, named "We Will Never Fall". It was a Jive Five release in 2001 that was credited to the group "Voices for America".

Norman Johnson died in 1970. Webster Harris died in 2003. Maurice Unthank died on July 21, 2008. Artie Loria died on October 23, 2010. Beatrice "Bea" Best died on September 15, 2014. Eugene Pitt (born on November 6, 1937) died on June 29, 2018, at the age of 80. They are best known for their debut hit single, "My True Story" (1961), the Nickelodeon (Kid Choice Video) (Jive Medley) (Doo Wop Bumper)  jingles in the 1980s and 1990s, and the fact that they outlasted most of their musical peers by re-modeling themselves as a soul group in the 1970s and beyond.


The Jive Five never recorded on Clifton Records but did appear at many UGHA Shows.

Eugene Pitt and Baby Washington in blue dress
 and the Enchanters 
(Pam Nardella Photo Collection)

 UGHA Show #??, 1982?




45-1006 - 1961 "My True Story" / "When I Was Single"
45-1014 - 1961 "People From Another World" / "Never, Never"
45-2024 - 1962 "What Time Is It?" / "Beggin' You Please"
45-2030 - 1963 "Lily Marlane" / "Johnny Never Knew"
45-2034 - 1963 "Rain" / "She's My Girl"
45-3001 - 1964 "Hurry Back" / 

S 211 - 1964 - "You Got To Feel It" / 
S 219 - 1964 - "United" / "Proud Every Word You Say"

United Artists

UA 853 - 1965 "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss" / "I'm A Happy Man"
UA 936 - 1965 "I'm a Happy Man" / "A Bench in the Park"
UA 580 - 1965 "Main Street" / 
UA 533 - 1966 "Then Came Heart Break" / 
1967 "Crying Like a Baby"


MU 1250-2 -1968 "You'll Fall In Love" / 
MU 1270-1 - 1967 "No More Tears" / 
MU 1305-2 - 1968 "Sugar (Don't Take Away My Candy)"
2006 "It's Christmas"


32736 - ???? - "If I Had A Chance To Love You" /  "I Want You To Be My Baby" (Jive Fyve)


The Jive Five Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The Jive Five Biography by Michael Jack Kirby

The Jive Five Biography by Heikki Suosalo

American Singing Groups by Jay Warner 

Wikipedia, IMDb, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin, Acknowledgements also to Mary Garcelon and Richard Hourihan, Thomas, Stephen. "The Jive Five - Music Biography,  AllMusic, Biography of The Jive Five - Billboard, Facebook, An interview with Eugene Pitt in 2009 at Soul Express.

About the Researcher

14 July 2023 - This page created / updated by Tom Mitchell (NMMitch.com - Beaudaddy.com).
If you would like to contribute your knowledge to this page or provide corrected / updated information to my research, please email me at my email below on template.  Thanks and Enjoy



  2. Thank you so much. Jive Five were beloved by us. Gene was a friend.


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