Slim Furness

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With a name like a line out of a real estate listing, Slim Furness was one of five musically talented brothers whose family ventures included the Furness Men and Furness Brothers. Despite the appeal of…
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With a name like a line out of a real estate listing, Slim Furness was one of five musically talented brothers whose family ventures included the Furness Men and Furness Brothers. Despite the appeal of a warm furnace, the brothers did better as individual members of groups called the Three Keys and the Four Keys, although legal action stopped all five brothers from performing as the Five Keys; the name was already taken. Slim Furness, whose first name at birth was John, was also known for his playing with bandleader Erskine Butterfield, a relationship that even continued during the second World War when Butterfield and Furness plus drummer Eugene Brooks and bassist Lynwood Jones had one of the hottest combos at Fort Dix.

The Three Keys began unlocking doors in the music industry in the '30s, the initial lineup of the group combining Slim Furness with George "Bon Bon" Tunnell and Bob Pease. This trio managed to cut sides for Columbia, Brunswick and Vocalion including the philosophical "Somebody Loses, Somebody Wins," pressed on nifty blue shellac in 1932. Roughly a decade later, the Four Keys were ready to dangle with the Furness family now dominating membership. Besides Slim and Bill there was now Peck Furness handling bass with Ernie Hatfield on the drum throne. This group was kept quite busy by the Decca label, not only recording on their own but providing accompaniment for a series of vocal groups and soloists. Joe Furness took over on drums at the outset of the following decade.

As the fifth and youngest Furness sibling was being groomed for introduction into the combo, a name change to the Five Keys seemed both inevitable and appropriate. Unfortunately, bandleader Rudy West had his own Five Keys and apparently triumphed in the court battle over who got to use the name. Thus the Furness Brothers were born, promoting themselves as "the entertainment world's handsomest" group, a claim that is a bit difficult to support -- at least based on available photography from the era. Slim Furness died circa 1966. His brothers went on to participate in a later edition of the Red Caps band led by Steve Gibson and Emmett Matthews.