5 ROYALES HISTORICAL TRIBUTE
The “5” Royales, a vocal group from Winston-Salem in the 1950s and 1960s, was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame late last year. The group will be officially inducted on April 18 at Cleveland’s Public House in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Hall.
In recognition of this, Winston-Salem held “A Historical Tribute to the “5” Royales” on March 19 at Hanes Brands Theatre. While the original members are no longer living, children of John Tanner, Lowman Pauling, Otto Jeffries, Obadiah Carter and Jimmy Moore were there for the tribute to their fathers. So were Fred Tanner and Purnell Tanner, two of John Tanner’s brothers, as well as brothers of the late Eugene Tanner, who joined the “5” Royales early on. Also in attendance was Robert “Pee Wee” Burris, the lead guitarist who joined “5” Royales after Pauling left.
The “5” Royales were originally a gospel group called the Royal Sons. They had other members, including one of Pauling’s brothers, who ended up as a Motown executive and became extremely close to Stevie Wonder. After Clarence Pauling left, the singers began recording for Apollo Records with songs like “Bedside of a Neighbor.”
In the early 1950s, Apollo Records asked the group to switch over to secular music, which they did after a little deliberation. As a result, the Royal Sons Quintet became the “5” Royales. The reason quotation marks surrounded the “5” was so the group’s size could be altered if necessary. At that point, the singers enjoyed their biggest successes, topping the R&B charts with tunes like “Baby Don’t Do It” and “Help Me Somebody.” After their hits stopped coming at Apollo, the group switched over to King Records. Unlike groups like the Midnighters (who had changed their name from the Royals to avoid confusion with this group), the Drifters, the Coasters and a few others, the “5” Royales did not enjoy recognition with the white rock and rollers at the time.
Later, however, the vocal group’s King releases have earned them recognition as originators of the soul sound. In addition to the original version of “Dedicated to the One I Love,” the “5” Royales at King recorded the first version of “Think,” which became a bigger hit for label-mate James Brown.
Another occurrence while they were at King was Pauling’s addition of the electric guitar. He had played some with the Royal Sons, but had refrained from it during his secular recordings at the label and the early releases for King. When the guitar returned, it would often hang down to his knew and allow Pauling, also the bass singer and principal songwriter of the group, to add a little comical effect to the act. His style of guitar playing turned out to be an enormous influence of Steve Cropper, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of his group, Booker T. & the MGs. Cropper has publically praised Pauling’s guitar playing, and he recently recorded an album called “Dedicated,” consisting entirely of “5” Royales songs. Last week Cropper was announced by the Hall as the person who will introduce the group at the upcoming Cleveland ceremony.
John Tanner had been the group’s primary lead singer. Sometimes his brother took the lead, including on “Dedicated to the One I Love.”
At the Winston-Salem event, Mayor Allen Joines read a proclamation and various family members expressed their appreciation for the late members of the group.
“We are so proud of the accomplishments of the “5” Royales,” said Dr. Fred Tanner. “They didn’t just influence performers; they influenced the top performers in history.”
Ironically Dr. Tanner, chaired the Department of Fine Arts at Winston-Salem State University. His brother, John, and the other Royal Sons had initially recorded at Winton-Salem Teacher’s College, the former name of the university.
“I think Taylor Doggett contributed to this induction as much as anybody,” Dr. Tanner said about the Greensboro resident. “If he had not pushed and documented everything and promoted these guys a great deal, this may not have happened. I think he let the world know who they were.” !