Remembering 90’s R&B Group Hi-Five: Love & Tragedy

In 1990 and it wasn’t long after that Hi-Five’s self-titled album–produced by the legendary Teddy Riley–went platinum, thrusting them into fame. One of their standout hits, “I Like The Way (Kissing Game)” had major radio play all over the world. Over their next years together, the boys would release two more albums that garnered modest success. They disbanded in 1994 until reuniting in 2006.

Lead singer Tony Thompson, along with Roderick “Pooh” Clark, Marcus Sanders, Russell Neal and Toriano Easley were just a group of boys from Waco, Texas when the 90’s R&B group Hi-Five was formed. But Thompson and Hi-Five were riddled with tragedy.

Tony Thompson

In 1984, Thompson started singing solos in the local church choir at the age of eight. He then started singing in local talent shows. Local talent and up-and-coming artist William Walton reached out to Thompson in hopes of making his musical dreams a reality. He was noticed by the first R&B group signed by Jive Records, which consisted of Toriano Easley (who is the only native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and was later replaced by Treston Irby), Marcus Sanders, Russell Neal, and Roderick “Pooh” Clark who were also from Waco. Taking the name Hi-Five, the group signed with Jive Records in 1990. The quintet’s self-titled debut album went platinum and produced several hits, including “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)”, “I Can’t Wait Another Minute”, and “Just Another Girlfriend”.[1] In 1992, the group released their second album, Keep It Goin’ On, with “She’s Playing Hard to Get” and “Quality Time”. Their third album, Faithful, was released in 1993.

After the group disbanded in 1994, Thompson found solo success the following year with his debut album Sexsational in 1995. After leaving Giant Records, Thompson was signed to Bad Boy Records; however, he never was able to release an album under them due to his struggles with drug abuse.

On June 1, 2007, Thompson’s body was discovered by security officers at around 10 p.m. near an air-conditioning unit outside of an apartment complex in his native Waco, Texas. He was found next to the air conditioning units located behind the apartments. Autopsy reports said that he died from huffing a toxic amount of freon from the air conditioning units. Freon is a hydrocarbon that is widely used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Apparently, Tony was trying to use the freon to get high.

But Thompson isn’t the only one from the group who suffered tragically.

Roderick “Pooh” Clark died in April 2022 at the age of 49. The group’s official Instagram Page @officialhifive confirmed Clark’s passing with a portrait of the 49-year-old above a caption that ends with “RIH.” Originally based in Waco, Texas, the quintet saw mainstream success in the early 90s and may be best remembered for the single, “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game).”

“I am saddened to find out that Roderick ‘Pooh’ Clark another member of the famed singing group ‘Hi5’ passed away on Easter Sunday,” Little wrote. “Pooh was the most athletic of them all. In basketball he could stand right under the basket and jump straight up and dunk the ball. Our play fights and Super Soaker battles were epic. We also used to battle each other hard on the Bball court in most cities. I still miss the fun times times touring with my little brothers as Musical Director. My condolences to Hi5 and his family. R.I.P. Pooh”

Before his death, Clark was… … paralyzed in a car accident in 1993. In 1993, Clark was involved in a near-fatal car accident, leaving him permanently paralyzed.

Plus, original member Russell Neal, beat and stabbed his wife to death. Catherine Martinez, 24, was found brutally murdered in the apartment she shared with Neal, then 40, after he walked into a Texas police station and said his wife was dead.

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