The Fifth Estate is a band that originated in Stamford, Connecticut, as an early 60s rock n’ roll band. In the beginning, the band’s touring area stretched from Greenwich Village to New Haven to Boston, doing what today is called Garage and Fuzz, even Grunge. To them it was just Rock & Roll.
At a very early age, child prodigy Wayne Wadhams played the organ between movies at the Paramount Theater on Temple Street in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1963, Wadhams enlisted Ken “Furvus” Evans, Doug Ferrara, Rick Engler and Bill Shute, and formed the band called the Decadants. At a record company signing the name of the band was changed to the D-Men. As the D-Men, the band signed with United Artists/VEEP recording label and released three songs that were played on East Coast radio stations. The D-Men gained national attention when they performed their song “I Just Don’t Care” on the popular national music variety TV show Hullabaloo. In 1965, the band changed their name to the Fifth Estate.
In 1967, the Fifth Estate had a major smash hit with their signature song “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” a tune that peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard charts. In Connecticut, “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” was a no. 1 hit record. The song was also a no. 1 hit on local radio stations across the country, such as Vancouver (Washington), Florida, Oklahoma City, Hartford, CT and so on. Due to its popularity, the song was sung in five different languages. Ken Evans, drummer for the Fifth Estate, describes the tune this way: “The song ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead’ is a creative mix of pop, rock and classical baroque. It is the highest-charting song from the number 1 most watched movie of all time, The Wizard of OZ.”
Evans characterized the band this way: “The strength of the band was that we did things ourselves and in our own way. Whether it was the D-Men or the Fifth Estate bands, we did things on our own terms. Our sound evolved from surfing instrumentals in ’63 to pop/rock tunes in ’64 and edgier rock ’n’ roll in ’65, adding more R&B in ’66 and adding more harpsichord and psych in ’67. All without losing our rock ’n’ roll dance band center ever—even today! Our innovative style caught the attention of Brian Epstein and George Martin. Epstein actually knew of us before we were the Fifth Estate. He was the co-host when we appeared on the popular Hullabaloo TV show as the D-Men. Epstein was serious about signing us, but unfortunately, this was ended by Brian’s untimely death.”
The band first played during the 60s. The strength of the band was their live performances. Their music venues consisted of large coliseums as well as numerous clubs throughout the U.S. From TV to the stage they played with The Rolling Stones, Byrds, Easybeats, Ronettes, Turtles, Sam and Dave, Lovin’ Spoonful, Fifth Dimension, Velvet Underground and many, if not most, of the top names. Following the success of “Ding Dong,” the band released other songs which became Top 40 hits in various parts of the country, and even outside the U.S.
Throughout the years, the Fifth Estate has proven to be a multitalented band. In 2004, the band reunited. Since then, the band has released a number of albums. Two of the albums, Time Tunnel and Take the Fifth, were co-produced by Ken “Furvus” Evans and famed producer Shel Talmy, who produced the Kinks, the Who and the Easybeats. They continue on today with special live dates, and with 4 new albums in the past four years. In 2016, remastered older material was released. Much of this remastered material was previously unreleased, including some live performances.
The Fifth Estate band has made a definite impact on the rock ‘n’ roll scene, reaching audiences all across the U.S. and worldwide. The band has played a significant role in the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
by Tony Renzoni (author of Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll: A History © )
NOTE: Portions of the Fifth Estate write-up are Copyrighted and taken from Renzoni’s book “Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll: A History”. For further info, check: https://www.connecticutrocknroll.com
Published on February 27, 2018