THE "5" ROYALES (By Steve Walker)

Late in 1951, the North Carolinan town of Winston-Salem threw a big celebration - their own home-town group had released their first record. The Royal Sons Quintet, a six-man gospel group consisting (at that time) of Lomond "Lowman" Pauling (bass vocal, guitarist supreme and song-writer), Johnny Tanner (lead vocal), Jimmy Moore, William Samuels, Obadiah "Scoop" Carter and Otto "Jeff" Jeffries had been signed to Ike & Bess Berman's Apollo label in New York on the strength of a demo acetate of "It's Going To Rain", recorded at radio station WSJS, Winston-Salem.

The Royal Sons Quintet was formed in 1942. The original members included the three brothers Lowman, Curtis and Clarence Pauling, along with Johnny Tanner, William Samuels and Otto Jefferies. In 1943 Jimmy Moore replaced Clarence Pauling (who would re-appear on the music scene some years later as Berry Gordy's assistant at the beginning of Motown Records) just as the quintet was gaining a regional reputation in the Carolinas. By 1950 Obadiah Carter had replaced Curtis Pauling and Johnny Tanner had re-joined as lead vocalist, following a spell in the services.

Their first gospel recordings, "Bedside Of A Neighbor" and "Journey's End" (recorded at Winston-Salem Teachers College) and four further gospel recordings made in New York, were held back by Apollo in favour of a secular pairing - "Too Much Of A Little Bit" and "Give Me One More Chance" which was recorded in New York in November 1951 and released on Apollo 434 in the same month. Apollo were looking for a group that could compete with the Dominoes, the Orioles, and the Cardinals, three groups who were at the forefront of r&b popularity at that time. "Too Much Of A Little Bit" features the bass voice of Lowman Pauling in much the same style as Bill Brown had employed on the Dominoes big hit "Sixty Minute Man" earlier that year. The record is good, but unexceptional, but when we flip it over, we are suddenly confronted with soulful genius...Johnny Tanner shares the lead on "Give Me One More Chance" with Lowman Pauling and it's Johnny's rasping, declamatory tenor vocal that grabs the attention.

The Royal Sons had been reluctant to change from gospel to secular music for fear of alienating the religious community and so, for this record, their name was changed to the Royals. The backing on this, and most of their Apollo recordings, was provided by Charlie "Little Jazz" Ferguson and His Orchestra with George Rhodes on piano.

Before the group had reached New York, William Samuels had been conscripted to the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, and had been replaced by Johnny Holmes aka Johnny Hodges. However, the latter was a highly religious spiritual singer and he refused to sing secular material, returning to North Carolina and leaving the group as a true quintet for a short time. Shortly afterwards, a pair of the earlier Royal Sons gospel recordings were released - "Bedside Of A Neighbor"/"Journey's End" on Apollo 253 in January 1952.

In August 1952 the group were at Beltone Studios, 4 West 31st Street, New York to record for the first time as the "5" Royales. In late 1951 and early 1952, two other groups named the "Royals" had released records - on Okeh in October 1951 and on Federal in January 1952 (the latter were to later find fame as the Midnighters). In order to avoid confusion, our men of the moment changed their name to the "5" Royales - the "5" in quotation marks being a recognition that for most of their recording life, this quintet actually consisted of six men. The August 1952 session produced "You Know I Know" c/w "Courage To Love", which was released in September 1952 on Apollo 441. "You Know I Know" is a rocking upbeat number sounding as much like a Treniers record as anything else. "Courage To Love" is a sweet ballad, featuring the falsetto tenor of Jeff Jeffries on lead vocal. Charlie Ferguson's Orchestra again provided the backing and Allen Bunn (later to be known as Tarheel Slim) played guitar. As well as Allen Bunn, the connection with the Larks is strengthened by the song's passing similarity to the previous year's "When I Leave These Prison Walls"

By the end of that month, the music press were making enthusiastic comments about "You Know I Know" and reporting that sales were brisk in Richmond, Virginia. Back home in Winston-Salem a sensational party was held for the boys at the Club Flamingo.

As they had done the previous year, Apollo followed this release rapidly with a Royal Sons gospel pairing, "Come Over Here"/"Let Nothing Separate Me" on Apollo 266 in October 1952. These recordings were the result of their first New York studio session the previous October. The music press critics trashed this record and consequently the Royal Sons never released another record under that name. Their future was purely a secular one from now on - as the "5" Royales.

Anxious to capitalise on the group's growing popularity, Apollo called them back to Beltone in October 1952 to lay down the masters for their next record - "Baby, Don't Do It"/"Take All Of Me" on Apollo 443 in December 1952 (label photo at:, and the lascivious "Laundromat Blues" which would be held back until the following July (Apollo 448).

"Throw in all your dirty clothes, all your dirty duds,
Don't worry about no soap, her machine is full of suds,
She's got the best machine,
The best washing machine in town (ooh-wee what a machine!),
Just relax and take it easy,
As the machine goes round and round."

After this, I guess it was unlikely that they would be able to return to their gospel origins even if they had wished. A New York report from November 1952 stated that the "5" Royales had mixed business with pleasure when they'd recently come to town to record some tracks, and had taken in the sights of the Big Apple, also signing to Universal Attractions. No doubt they also took in a few visits to the Laundromat while they were in town. Starting on 5 December, 1952, the group started a six-week tour of one-nighters in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Immediately following this tour, on 16 January 1953, the "5" Royales made their debut at Harlem's Apollo Theatre, appearing for a week alongside Willie Mabon and Gene Ammons. On 23 January, the group was replaced by Ruth Brown and the Tiny Bradshaw Combo, and returned south to tour with Roy Brown for a series of one-nighters. It was during this tour that Federal's "Royals" had an injunction served upon them to desist from using the name "Five Royals/Royales". Fifteen months later, their name would be changed to the Midnighters.

By the end of January, having broken out first in Cincinatti and then Chicago, "Baby Don't Do It" had entered Billboard's R&B chart, starting a sixteen week run, three of those being at number one, reaching that peak on 21 February. Johnny Tanner wails and pleads with his girl not to leave him - "if you leave me, pretty baby, I'll have bread without no meat". Its popularity produced the inevitable answer record by Annisteen Allen called "Baby I'm Doin' It", which prompted a lawsuit by Apollo filed against King Records, citing the exact copy of the arrangement and presentation of "Baby Don't Do It".

Back in the New York studio in March 1953, the group recorded their next single "Help Me Somebody"/"Crazy, Crazy, Crazy" (Apollo 446, April 1953) together with the flip of "Laundromat Blues", "Too Much Lovin' (Much To Much)" (Apollo 448, July 1953), which (lyrically) revisited their earlier "Too Much Of A Little Bit".

At the end of March, the "5" Royales were selling out the Top Hat Club at Dayton, Ohio and, a little later, played a week of full houses at the Regal in Chicago, starting 24 April. By this time, "Help Me Somebody"/"Crazy, Crazy, Crazy" was proving to be a double-sided success. It entered the R&B chart on 16 May, 1953 and the gospel-tinged "Help Me Somebody" reached the number one position on 13 June.

July 1953 saw the release of "Laundromat Blues"/"Too Much Lovin' (Much To Much)", whilst the boys recorded its follow-up, "I Want To Thank You"/"All Righty!" (Apollo 449, October 1953), in New York. "Laundromat Blues" was well-received in most territories but its sales were affected by being banned for its content in places like Boston. The flip, "Too Much Lovin'(Much Too Much)" charted on 15 August, competing with Johnny Ace's "The Clock" and the Orioles' "Crying In The Chapel" and reaching a creditable #4.

Right in the middle of all of this success, on 13 August, 1953, members of the Charlie Ferguson band who accompanied the "5" Royales on tour, were involved in an auto accident in Cleveland, Texas. Ferguson was seriously injured and one member of the band, a 19-year-old bass fiddler, was killed. The tour came to a halt until replacements could be hired to provide instrumental support for the group.

The October release of "I Want To Thank You"/"All Righty!" received glowing reviews from the critics, but failed to make the charts, possibly due to the continuing strong sales of "Too Much Lovin' (Much Too Much)"/"Laundromat Blues". "I Want To Thank You" is a medium-paced blues item, driven along by Johnny Tanner's powerful vocal. "All Righty!" is the upbeat side featuring some fine tenor sax honking by Charlie Ferguson. The first signs of a change in the booming post-war r&b music market were becoming apparent in late 1953. There was a slump in industrial production during this period in the U.S.A., following an almost uninterrupted period of growth and prosperity since the mid-1940's. Additionally, the increasing popularity of T.V. was having an effect on attendances at live performances on the Chitlin' Circuit.

In December 1953, Johnny Tanner's brother Eugene joined the group, thus increasing the numerical strength of the "5" Royales back to six members. They recorded the tracks for their next two singles - "I Do"/"Good Things" (Apollo 452, January 1954) and "Cry Some More"/"I Like It Like That" (Apollo 454, April 1954). "I Do" received favourable reviews in the music press and entered the R&B charts in February 1954, rising to a peak of #6. However, this would be the group's last chart appearance for three years, their popularity declining along with the general demise of r&b vocal groups from 1954 onwards in favour of the return to popularity of solo recording artists.

On 1 April, 1954 the "5" Royales would enter the studio for the last time as Apollo recording artists. Their final Apollo single, "Six O'Clock In The Morning"/"With All Your Heart" (Apollo 467) was not released until January 1955, by which time they had departed the label. "With All Your Heart" shows a return to the glories of "Baby Don't Do It" with the group chanting "do, do-do, do-do" behind Johnny's immaculate lead, but no chart action resulted.

In November 1953, Carl LeBow had left Apollo Records to take up the position of a&r chief at De Luxe Records, a subsidiary of King Records. Carl LeBow was, at the same time, the manager of the "5" Royales. On 10 June 1954, the "5" Royales, started a new chapter in their career by entering the King Studios in Cincinatti to lay down four tracks for single release. "I'm Gonna Run It Down"/"Behave Yourself" was released on King 4740 in August, a month after Apollo had shackled together a couple of tracks that had been languishing in the can from earlier sessions - the fast-moving gospel-flavoured "What's That" and "Let Me Come Back Home" (featuring the falsetto lead of Jimmy Moore) (Apollo 458, July 1954).

With two competing "5" Royales records on the market in the summer of 1954, open conflict broke out between Apollo and King over the ownership of the group. In the music press, the Apollo recording was given better reviews than the King release, but the group would have no more to do with Apollo. Two more tracks recorded at that first King session - "Monkey Hips And Rice" c/w "Devil With The Rest" were released in October 1954 as King 4744 and a further Cincinatti session in November 1954 produced the next two singles - the superb, bluesy "One Mistake" c/w the jaunty, leering "School Girl" (King 4762, December 1954) and "Every Dog Has His Day"/"You Didn't Learn It At Home" (King 470, January 1955). The latter found itself on the market at the same time as the final Apollo release "With All Your Heart"/"Six O'Clock In The Morning" (Apollo 467).

The group were still in demand for tours and throughout 1955 and 1956, visited King's Cincinatti studios on a regular basis, laying down some classic tracks which failed to penetrate the increasingly pop and rock-filled charts. A feature of this period of the group's career was that Johnny Tanner's brother, Eugene, was beginning to take an increasingly important part in sharing the lead vocals with Johnny. January 1955 saw them in New York to record some tracks which were unreleased at the time. "How I Wonder" (eventually released on the 1959 L.P. "The "5" Royales Sing For You") is a slow blues ballad which features Mickey Baker on guitar for the first time on a "5" Royales session.

Four months later, Mickey could be heard to good effect on the latin-rhythmed "I Need Your Lovin' Baby" and the most excellent "Women About To Make Me Go Crazy". The session was completed with "When I Get Like This" and "Do Unto You"; these four tracks were the strongest that the group had laid down for a long time and formed the basis of their next two singles - "I Need Your Lovin' Baby"/"When I Get Like This" (King 4806, June 1955) and "Women About To Make Me Go Crazy"/"Do Unto You" (King 4819, August 1955).

Back in Cincinatti in August 1955, the studio feel was noticeably different from their superb New York sessions. "Someone Made You For Me" is a gospel-tinged ballad featuring Bill Doggett warbling away on electric organ (never my favourite instrument) and "I Ain't Getting' Caught" is a catchy bopper with some showy guitar licks from Billy Butler. These tracks were released on King 4830 in October 1955

Returning to the New York studio in December 1955, the "5" Royales hit the groove again with the rockin' "Right Around The Corner" featuring (possibly) Willis Jackson on tenor sax. This was coupled for release the following month on King 4869, with the slow blues ballad "When You Walked In Thru The Door"; Johnny's voice cracks with emotion, he's so in love with her... "oh, oh, I could scream". Something new at this session - Johnny moves to one side to allow his brother Eugene Tanner to take the lead on "My Wants For Love" which will be the subsequent single release (King 4901, February 1956), c/w "I Could Love You". Eugene's voice has higher register than Johnny's, but is equally satisfying in its soulfulness.

Although the "5" Royales were deemed fit to participate in such tours as the "Rock & Roll Cavalcade" of March and April 1956 (with Roy Brown, Little Willie John, Percy Mayfield, Camille Howard, Joe Tex, Tiny Kennedy and Linda Hopkins), they were never really a rock'n'roll act, being more a true prototype of the sort of soul music that blossomed in the sixties.

At Beltone Studios, New York in June 1956, the boys laid down the tracks for their next two singles: "Come On And Save Me"/"Get Something Out Of It" (King 4952, July 1956) and "Just As I Am"/"Mine Forever More" (King 4973, October 1956). "Get Something Out Of It" is the stand-out track here as Johnny wails, Eugene harmonises and the group chants and testifies in finest fashion alongside them. "Just As I Am" is almost as satisfying - Mickey Baker's gutsy guitar licks hold together a fine gospel-tinged chanter.

The February 1957 session took the group back to the King Studios in Cincinatti. "Thirty Second Lover" is driven along nicely by Tiny Grimes' guitar fills and this would be their next release on King 5032 (March 1957) c/w the slow blues ballad, "Tears Of Joy" which features Eugene Tanner on lead vocal. "Tears Of Joy" at last saw a return to the charts for the "5" Royales, entering the r&b lists on 15 July and reaching #9. Tiny Grimes handed the lead guitar duties over the Lowman Pauling for the next track - "Think" - and straight away we have a very different sound - stinging, bluesy and cutting. "Think" was released in May 1957 c/w "I'd Better Make A Move", entered the R&B Top Ten in September and even crossed over into the Pop charts, reaching #66.

Another influential recording was made in August 1957 when Eugene Tanner took the lead on "Dedicated To The One I Love" (King 5098, December 1957). More tasty guitar riffs from Lowman Pauling underpin the group, who chant and moan in the background, then break to the forefront to do a little call and response with Eugene on the bridge. This record would find later fame and high sales in versions by the Shirelles and the Mamas And The Papas. When the Shirelles version was released in 1961, King re-released "Dedicated To The One I Love" with an over-dubbed female chorus. "Dedicated To The One I Love" was backed by "Don't Be Ashamed" ("I'm a daddy-o, looking for a mummy-o"). At the same session, the group recorded "Say It" c/w "Messin' Up" (King 5082, October 1957). "Say It" is very similar in concept to "Think" and was released as the follow-up to that hit record - if anything, Lowman Pauling's guitar skills shine even more brightly on "Say It" than on "Think".

The record chosen to follow up "Dedicated To The One I Love" was "Do The Cha Cha Cherry" c/w "The Feeling Is Real" (King 5131, April 1958) and was a bit of a disappointment to these ears after the glories of 1957, but the next release saw a return to form - "Tell The Truth" c/w "Double Or Nothing" (King 5141) saw the light of day in June 1958. These four tracks were all recorded in Cincinnati in April 1958 and although Lowman Pauling is credited as the session guitarist, there are none of the wild leaps of imagination from the earlier session, Lowman restricting himself to rhythm strumming. "Tell The Truth" was to be shortly picked up by Ray Charles (Atlantic 2068) for a 1960 r&b hit.

In September 1958, the "5" Royales recorded a fine session for their next two single releases. "Don't Let It Be In Vain" starts off with a heavily-acoustic finger-click a la "Fever" and a simple bass line, then Eugene Tanner hums the intro as the group chant the title alongside him. Lowman Pauling hits an inspired guitar lick and Eugene lets rip, pleading with his girl not to let his throbbing love be in vain. How could she resist? My only complaint is that this little gem fades out at under two minutes - surely the take was longer than that? "The Slummer The Slum" is the boys' attempt at a sort of dance novelty number. These two were released in October 1958 (King 5153). The session was completed with "The Real Thing" (the group trying to sound like the Coasters) and "Your Only Love" which was released in November 1958 (King 5162). "Your Only Love" is a beautiful ballad, once again featuring the soaring tenor of Eugene Tanner, but has a clumsy splice about a minute in.

March 1959 saw the recording, and the release, of the group's next record, on King 5191 - "Miracle Of Love" is a nice ballad and "I Know It's Hard But It's Fair" is the upbeat side. Lowman's guitar antics are subdued on these two recordings. The next session in July 1959 produced "Tell Me You Care" (lead Eugene Tanner) c/w "Wonder Where Your Love Has Gone" (King 5237, July 1959) and ""It Hurts Inside" (Eugene) c/w "My Sugar Sugar". "Tell Me You Care" helps itself to the guitar riff from Paul Anka's current hit "Lonely Boy".

One last session remained with King Records. At Miami Beach, Florida on 3 February, 1960, the "5" Royales recorded the tracks for their last two King singles: "I'm With You" c/w "Don't Give Me No More Than You Can Take" (King 5329, March 1960) and "Why" c/w "(Something Moves Me) Within My Heart" (King 5327, June 1960). Apart from the re-release of "Dedicated To The One I Love" (c/w "Miracle Of Love") in January 1961, that was it. Six years of stunning music-making came to an end when King stable-mate James Brown's recording of "Think", released on Federal 12370 in April 1960, led to a lawsuit between the group and King Records. The ensuing litigation precipitated the termination of the "5" Royales' contract with King. I have been unable to shed any more light on this matter, so if any readers can enlighten me as to the detail of the lawsuit, I'd be most grateful.

Lowman Pauling, sometimes styling himself as El Pauling continued to record at King and released a few records on Federal with Royal Abbit during 1960 and 1961.

The "5" Royales signed to Rubin Cherry's Memphis-based Home Of The Blues Records in the early 60's and produced a number of recordings and releases, some of which were leased to Vee-Jay and ABC-Paramount. There was also a session (without Lowman Pauling) in Nashville in 1963 which resulted in two releases on the Todd label. It is claimed that the backing musicians for "I'm Standing In The Shadows"/"Doin' Everything" (Todd 1086) and "Baby Don't Do It"/"There's Somebody Over There" (Todd 1088) included Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins and Boots Randolph.

The group disbanded in the mid-60's, leaving a recorded legacy of more than one hundred songs. To quote Charlie Gillett: "they presented rhythm and blues at its best, keeping the strength of blues lyrics and presenting them with the emotion of gospel singers" and Arnold Shaw: "they were cut-ups and wedded the visual dynamism of store-front religion to their vocals, anticipating the polished choreography of the Temptations and other Motown groups."

The group had one solitary release in the U.K. - "Dedicated To The One I Love" c/w "Miracle Of Love" was released on the obscure Ember label in 1960/61, while "Think" c/w "I'd Better Make A Move" saw the light of day in Germany (Odeon).

Lowman Pauling, who died in January 1974, wrote most of the group's hits, sang bass on all of their records and, on the later King recordings, produced fabulous guitar licks (cited as a major influence by Steve Cropper in a 1968 interview with Jonas Bernholm).

Anybody familiar with James Brown's early recorded work (in the mid and late 50's) can be in little doubt that J.B. based his work almost entirely on what he heard and saw the "5" Royales do at King Records.

The "5" Royales can justly lay claim to be amongst the founding fathers of soul music.

"The "5" Royales - A Southern Legacy" by J. Taylor Doggett and Tom McCullough.
"American Singing Groups" by Jay Warner (J.C. Marion - Doo Wop Nation Issue #14) (Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide)

"Sing For You", King KCD 616 (1987)
"The "5" Royales", King KCD 678 (1988)
"Baby Don't Do It" Relic CD 7010 (1990)
"The Laundromat Blues" Relic CD 7011 (1990)
"Monkey Hips And Rice" (2 CD) Rhino 71546 (1993)
"The Real Thing" Eagle EA-R 90415 (1998)

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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