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Sunday, 16 June 2019

The "5" Royales - The Roots Of Soul

Side One:
01. I'm Gonna Run It Down
02. Devil With The Rest
03. You Didn't Learn It At Home
04. How I Wonder
05. Mohawk Squaw
06. When I Get Like This
07. I Ain't Getting Caught
08. Right Around The Corner

Side Two:
01. I Could Love You If You Let Me
02. Come On And Save Me
03. Get Something Out Of It
04. Think
05. Tell The Truth
06. Don't Let It Be In Vain
07. The Slummer The Slum
08. I'm With You

This LP has been posted on other blogs but having posted recently on the Apollo sides of  The "5" Royales, I couldn't resist presenting my own copy of this compilation of King sides which were recorded by the group between 1954 and 1960. It's a good follow up to the previous "The Rockin' 5 Royales" post and, more importantly, it's an excellent LP in its own right.

The "5" Royales signed for King in the Spring of 1954 although their first recording session for their new label was delayed by a lawsuit brought by Apollo chief Bess Berman. Their first issue on King was in August 1954 - "I'm Gonna Run It Down" / "Behave Yourself." If the group thought that their transfer to King with its superior distribution facilities would revive the R&B chart success they had experienced in 1953, they were in for a rude awakening. The single failed to chart as did every other of their King singles until July 1957 when "Tears Of Joy" climbed to #9 in the R&B chart.

Their next King release, "Think", also reached #9 in the R&B chart in September 1957 and even made it to the lower reaches of the pop chart (#66). And that was it for The "5" Royales as far as chart action was concerned. Not another hit, nada, despite two of their subsequent releases becoming hits for other artists - "Dedicated To The One I Love" for The Shirelles (and later for The Mamas and The Papas) and "Tell The Truth" for Ray Charles.

It's a common theme whenever anyone writes about The "5" Royales. Why, after releasing 25 singles on King between August 1954 and June 1960, did this group only chart twice? I've been immersing myself in their King material over the last few weeks and can say that their records mostly ranged from the very good to the absolutely outstanding. So what went wrong?

Perhaps they were too old for the teen market which drove the success of most of the big vocal group hits of the 1950's. Their material was mostly adult in nature and their performances may have been too intense, too bluesy, and simply too Southern for Northern city teenagers. In his introduction to the notes for the Ace CD "It's Hard But It's Fair" Billy Vera noted that as an avid listener of R&B radio in 1950's New York he never once heard a "5" Royales record.

It's largely in retrospect that The "5" Royales are now seen as a major vocal group. They were an important influence on James Brown and the rise of Soul music in general. Group guitarist (and songwriter and bass singer) Lowman Pauling has been acknowledged as an influence by Steve Cropper, although his superb guitar work only really came to the fore on the group's records from 1957 onwards. His guitar playing had been kept in the background while lead guitar duties on the records had been carried out by Mickey Baker, Billy Butler and Tiny Grimes.

The "5" Royales left King in the Spring of 1960 and retreated south to the Memphis based Home Of The Blues label. Lowman Pauling, however, remained at King. Teaming up with "5" Royales pianist Royal Abbit, he had five singles released on King subsidiary Federal between September 1960 and June 1962.

For a more in depth account of The "5" Royales see the excellent article by Steve Walker on the Blackcat Rockabilly website. I've compiled a list of the "5" Royales' single releases on King largely from the article with a couple of alterations from info on Billboard and the website and included it as a pdf in the download from this post.

Original Issue Of The Holy Rollin' Trax on "The Roots Of Soul"

King 4740 - I'm Gonna Run It Down / Behave Yourself - August 1954

King 4744 - Monkey Hips And Rice / Devil With The Rest - October 1954

King 4770 - You Didn't Learn It at Home / Every Dog Has His Day - January 1955

King 4785 - How I Wonder / Mohawk Squaw - March 1955

King 4806 - I Need Your Lovin' Baby / When I Get Like This - June 1955

King 4830 - I Ain't Gettin' Caught / Someone Made You For Me - September 1955

King 4869 - Right Around The Corner / When You Walked Through The Door - January 1956

King 4901 - My Wants For Love / I Could Love You - March 1956

King 4952 - Come On And Save Me / Get Something Out Of It - August 1956

King 5053 - Think / I'd Better Make A Move - May 1957

King 5141 - Tell The Truth / Double Or Nothing - July 1958

King 5153 - Don't Let It Be In Vain / The Slummer The Slum - October 1958

King 5329 - I'm With You / Don't Give No More Than You Can Take - March 1960

Recommended CD

Ace CDCHD 1038 "It's Hard But It's Fair" (2005)

I've had the above CD for many a year and it most definitely is one of my favourite vocal group collections. 26 tracks and informative notes by Tony Rounce with an introduction by Billy Vera.

There are several more comprehensive collections of The "5" Royales available - just search in the usual places and peruse the results. "Soul & Swagger - The Complete 5 Royales 1951-1967" (5 CD set) seems to be the one for the completists.


slr in tx said...


Nice write-up on the Royales - it is indeed a mystery that a group this strong only charted twice in six years. Granted, we are listening with 21st century ears (mine are actually 20th century models), but they worked fine on all the other tunes of the day! Of course, I'm still wondering why Louis Jordan's birthday isn't a national holiday, so I may not be an unimpeachable source.

Thanks for your hard work keeping us rolling in aural clover, as it were.

boogiewoody said...

Did somebody mention The Clovers? Another great group!


Bob Mac said...

Thanks for this BW. As always an interesting write-up about the group. And it's always interesting to ponder why some make it big and others don' many variables. Depends on the time and who else is around at the time. Lucky breaks and bad luck.

boogiewoody said...

Thanks Bob. Yep, I agree. There were several factors working against the music of the "5" Royales back then. Perhaps they were just too out of kilter with the public's taste in vocal group styles of the 2nd half of the 1950s. Just a little bit ahead of their time. I had a look through reviews of "5" Royales 1956 releases in The Cash Box. They were invariably praised yet just didn't sell in sufficient quantities to chart nationally.


Chi-Town said...

Fantastic BW. Thank you very much!

Jeff said...

Great record and nice write up! This is the first album I ever picked up by them. Played this constantly. I've picked up just about everything by them since.