In 1956 a group of friends stood on a street corner in the projects of New Haven, Connecticut singing songs of the ‘50s. A record producer heard them and encouraged them to cut a record. That group of friends named themselves “The Five Satins” and went on to record a world-wide top hit and one of the most enduring songs in rock and roll history: “In The Still Of The Night”.
The group on the record consisted of Fred Parris, Al Denby, Ed Martin, pianist Jessie Murphy, and bass singer James Freeman. A year later, in 1957, the group followed up with another top hit, “To The Aisle” which reached Number Five on the national charts. In 1959 the group recorded “Shadows” which #27 on the national R&B charts.
Today, nearly all “Greatest Song” lists show “In The Still Of The Night” as one of the top Doo Wop hits of all time. It was recorded in the basement of Saint Bernadette Catholic School, a church school in the group’s neighborhood. The song has sold over ten million records and is still played on radios throughout the world. In 2001 the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts named the song one of the “Songs of the Century”.
As a member of The Five Satins, James Freeman played in venues such as the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem and toured with such greats as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and The Platters. The Five Satins were the headliners in many of the shows which featured artists such as these, with the other performers often billed as special guests. The original Five Satins performed into the 1960’s when eventually the group members went their separate ways.
James Freeman moved to Des Moines in 1970, following his brother who was a law student at Drake University . Later, James moved to Waterloo where he worked for a number of years as a substance abuse counselor, heading up Black Hawk County Drug Council. In the mid 1980’s he returned to the Des Moines area where he has lived, owned a pest control business, and, for a short time, even owned a nightclub.
In 2001 James was honored by the Iowa Legislature under House Resolution 36 which states in part that: ”WHEREAS, as a member of The Five Satins, James Freeman recorded one of America’s most beloved and recognized ballads, “In The Still Of The Night”, and WHEREAS, James Freeman has been a resident of the state of Iowa since 1970, and has been an Iowa business owner for two decades, “BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, That James Freeman be recognized as a pioneer of rock and roll music, whose contributions to the uniquely American genre of music is appreciated not just by the citizens of Iowa, but also by music fans all over the world”.
James was inducted into the United in Harmony Association Hall of Fame in 1995, and received a Pioneer Award from the American Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 1998. He has represented The Five Satins on several major Hall of Fame awards programs and performed the group’s two major hits for national audiences. He resides in Norwalk, just south of Des Moines , where he continues to own and operate his business. In addition to appearances at major national events, James performs for special events in Iowa . A devout supporter of IRRMA’s mission, James Freeman is a recipient of the IRRMA Dan Matousek Lifetime Achievement Award for sharing his musical talent with us all for his entire adult life.