Who Are the Hi-Five?

Winning their fourth straight AFC West championship, the San Diego Chargers ended their regular season as a possible Super Bowl team. As their postseason commenced last Sunday, one could imagine hopeful Bolts faithful singing along to a football-specific ditty like “Let’s Go All the Way,” crooned by actual Charger players, a slinky soul number produced at the 39-year-old Studio West in Rancho Bernardo, one of seven tracks on an album sporting a cover of the five jocks in tuxes outside their Mission Valley stadium, lightning bolts rending the night sky behind.

That is, if the fans knew about it. Because 1981’s The Other Side of Us by the Hi-Five — Chargers Kellen Winslow, Leroy Jones, Charles DeJurnett, John Jefferson, and Fred Dean — appears largely unknown, shrouded in misconception, even for the reverent record collectors who’ve paid $154 for a rare vinyl copy. One online description from Europe sets the typical breathless tone: “Soaring grooves with a warm and jazzy finish, a great bit of lost early ’80s soul from the California indie scene! … The vocals are especially great, often with harmonies that glide and groove in a wonderful way.…”

Helping to obscure the identity of the Hi-Five is widespread confusion with a charting New Edition–ish R&B act from Texas bearing the same name. Apple’s online iTunes store even has the SD Hi-Five album tracks in the Texas act’s catalog. Misleading further, the Charger Hi-Five record was produced by Bernard Thompson, who also cowrote its original material with a Kirk Thompson (only cover is oldie “Backfield in Motion”) — and the Texas boy-band’s lead singer was Tony Thompson (who had a fatal “huffing habit,” overdosing on Freon in 2007).

Of the 20 musicians credited, current Studio West owner Peter Dyson only recognized the last listed, saxist John Rekevics — a vet sideman for Dianne Carrol, Mel Tormé, David Sanborn, Bob Hope, Lynyrd Skynryd, Natalie Cole, the Four Seasons, Johnny Mathis, the Fifth Dimension, and the Temptations and 20-year SDSU faculty member. “I think it was a pretty good LP for a bunch of football players,” assessed Rekevics when contacted. “Some of the tracks were in an Earth, Wind & Fire vein, with the tight horn lines.”

According to an October 1981 Billboard article, there were 15,000 copies pressed. And though the members “admit …they were essentially locker-room singers” who “had become serious,” there’s scant trace of further vocal activity other than Hall of Fame tight-end Kellen Winslow later singing in SD’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church choir. Indeed, on the record, Winslow puts in a churchy “Have mercy!” after his memorable sung-spoken part: “My name is Kellen…/ Alias/ the brown-eyed Scorpio/ #80 in your program/ #1 in your heart.”

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