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In the Spotlight: The "5" Royales

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In the Spotlight: The

The "5" Royales in the late '50s

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Formed:

1951 (Winston-Salem, NC)

Styles:

Claims to fame:

  • Perhaps the first hard R&B vocal group of the Fifties to come from a full gospel background
  • Presaged the sound of soul music by nearly a decade
  • The main inspiration for James Brown and the Famous Flames
  • Guitarist Lowman Pauling is considered one of the great pioneers of blues-rock and soul, an inspiration to both Steve Cropper and Eric Clapton
  • Their mix of jump-blues and gospel was a major factor in creating rock and roll
  • Pauling was also considered one of the greatest songwriters of the genre
  • Equally adept at handling gospel, pop, and R&B
  • Their songs went on to become hits for other artists, as well, including James Brown's "Think," Ray Charles' "Tell the Truth," and the Shirelles' "Dedicated to the One I Love"

Members:

Lowman "El" Pauling (born Lomond Pauling, July 14, 1926, Winston-Salem, NC; died December 26, 1973 in New York, NY): lead guitar, vocals (bass) (1951-1966)
Johnny Tanner (born November 28, 1926, Forsyth, NC; died November 8, 2005, Winston-Salem, NC): lead vocals (tenor) (1951-1963)
Gene Tanner (born Eugene Elijah Tanner, February 1, 1936, Winston-Salem, NC; died December 29, 1994, Winston-Salem, NC): lead and backing vocals (second tenor) (1953-1965)
Jimmy Moore (born James E. Moore, March 7, 1926, Winston-Salem, NC; died August 16, 2008, Ossining, NY): lead and backing vocals (second tenor) (1951-1964)
Sccop Carter (born Obadiah Carter, December 12, 1925, Winston-Salem, NC; died June 30, 1994, Winston-Salem, NC): vocals (baritone) (1951-1965)
Jeff Jefferies (born Otto Jefferies, May 23, 1912, Winston-Salem, NC; died August 8, 1975, Winston-Salem, NC): vocals (bass) (1951-1961)

Early years:

The "5" Royales - the quotes are part of the name - began as a gospel group in Winston-Salem, NC known as the Royal Sons Quintet, formed by three of the Pauling brothers and their father way back in 1942. The Apollo label signed the group after hearing a demo submitted by their manager in 1951, eventually convincing them to go secular under the secret name The Royals so as not to anger their religious base. A year passed before one of their Apollo sides, "Baby Don't Do It," became a hit on the national charts, and by that time, the group had opted to add an "E" to their name to set themselves apart from two other vocal groups named The Royals (and also to jokingly put the number "5" in quotes, since they often had six members).

Success:

Once that hit took off, Syd Nathan's King Records, later the home of James Brown, signed the group. The "5" (that is, six) Royales were a hit on what was called the "chitlin circuit" of hardcore R&B shows, and their material was being written to match that -- songs like the notoriously raunchy "Laundromat Blues," the silly yet violent "Monkey Hips and Rice," and the self-explanatory "Women About To Make Me Go Crazy." Although pop success eluded them, the combination of Pauling's stinging, revolutionary guitar solos and his witty lyricism, coupled with Johnny Tanner's expressive tenor, made them a mainstay on the R&B charts through the decade.

Later years:

However, by 1961, James Brown had picked up on the group's raw, all-encompassing style of R&B, and he and his own show band, the Famous Flames, scored a hit by covering the Royales' "Think" on Federal instead of King. The ensuing lawsuit forced them to leave the label, and their decline had begun, even though their style was perfectly suited to the new decade. The group lost a few key members but soldiered on until 1965; Pauling, an unappreciated master of many genres, took to drinking and got a job as a night watchman in a church. He died of a seizure in 1973; the last of the original group, tenor and occasional lead Jimmy Moore, passed away in 2008.

The "5" Royales honors and awards:

  • North Carolina Music Hall of Fame (2009)

The "5" Royales facts and trivia:

  • The original members all grew up picking tobacco in the Carolinas
  • Other "5" Royales members included Robert "Pee Wee" Burris (guitar), Royal Abbit (piano and organ), Eudell Graham (lead vocals), Tom "T-Bone" Pruitt (guitar), Larry Robinson (lead vocals), Larry Taylor (vocals) and Lebarron Washington (vocals)
  • Once substituted for Ray Charles female backup singers, the Raelettes, when they failed to make a show
  • The song "Monkey Hips and Rice" was written after Pauling heard a drunk man try to place that order in a diner
  • One of the other "Royals" groups forced to rename itself became Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
  • While driving through Alabama in 1963, the group accidentally found itself in the middle of the Birmingham "race riots"

The "5" Royales hit singles and albums:

#1 hits:
R&B:
  • "Baby Don't Do It" (1953)
  • "Help Me Somebody" (1953)
Top 10 hits:
R&B:
  • "Crazy, Crazy, Crazy" (1953)
  • "Too Much Lovin' (Much Too Much)" (1953)
  • "I Do" (1954)
  • "Tears of Joy" (1957)
  • "Thirty Second Lover" (1957)
  • "Think" (1957)
Other notable recordings: "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Tell the Truth," "The Slummer the Slum," "Laundromat Blues," "I Know It's Hard But It's Fair," "Please, Please, Please," "I'm With You," "Let Nothing Separate Me," "Courage to Love," "All Righty," "I Like It Like That," "Let Me Come Back Home," "Monkey Hips and Rice," "School Girl," "Mohawk Squaw," "When I Get Like This," "Women About to Make Me Go Crazy," "Someone Made You for Me," "Right Around the Corner," "When You Walked Through the Door," "Come on and Save Me," "Get Something Out of It," "Just as I Am," "I'd Better Make a Move," "Say It," "Messin' Up," "Don't Be Ashamed," "Do the Cha Cha Cherry," "Double or Nothing," "The Real Thing," "Miracle of Love," "Wonder Where Your Love Has Gone," "Tell Me You Care," "My Sugar Sugar"

Covered by: James Brown, Ray Charles, The Shirelles, The Mamas and the Papas, The Detroit Cobras, Mick Jagger, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, Laura Nyro, The Lettermen, The Orlons, Wilson Phillips, The New Seekers, Sandy Posey, The Tokens, Rosie and the Originals, Stacy Lattisaw, Johnny Winter, Taj Mahal, Ike Turner, The Sonics, Lou Rawls, Humble Pie, Booker T. and the MGs, Steve Cropper, The Residents

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