Arts and CultureNew York

A Little Soul in Your Bowl: The “5” Royales

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This is the first in what will be a periodic post bringing you music that might brighten your day, could never be considered bad, and will definitely put a little soul in your bowl.

The 5 Royales looking....um, Royal

The "5" Royales looking....um, Royal

The “5” Royales were a phenomenally talented and overlooked group that recorded in at least five different genres–doo wop, jump blues, gospel, rhythm n’ blues and rock n’ roll–over three decades–the 40s through the 60s. Often referred to as a “proto-soul” group, The “5” Royales (allegedly, the quotation marks around the five in their name were added because they initially had six members) were led by guitarist/songwriter Lowman Pauling, whose songwriting developed over the late 40s and early 50s to more heavily feature his prominent guitar style, which can (and has) been described as biting, stabbing and stinging. This is the guitar style that went on to influence countless axe-wielders, the most prominent, and possibly the most obvious, of these is Steve Cropper, whose idol-worship of Pauling is well-documented (see this compilation’s liner notes and Peter Guralnick’s fantastic book Sweet Soul Music). Steve Cropper, of course, was the guitarist for virtually every song recorded at Stax in Memphis. He was also Otis Redding’s songwriting partner and was later in the Blues Brothers band.

Aside from being a huge influence on guitarists, The “5” Royales were incorporating their gospel roots into their popular recordings (the very definition of soul) years before the term “soul” was coined in reference to music. They have been covered by a who’s who of soul music: James Brown, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. Not to mention, their “Dedicated To The One I Love,” was a huge hit for The Shirelles and The Mamas And The Papas. So you may not have heard of The “5” Royales, but you are most likely familiar with their work.

The “5” Royales have experienced a renaissance amongst latter day soul enthusiasts, as evidenced by their abundant availability on Youtube, two recent releases (here and here) compiling some of their lesser known material, and the prices fetched by their out-of-print two disc Rhino compilation on Amazon (between $40 and $170), let alone their original rare 45’s.

Check out the following hand-picked amazing songs. (None of these are actual music videos, as these songs are from the BMTVE–Before MTV Era.)

Dedicated To The One I Love

Think

Catch That Teardrop

Take Me With You

Right Around The Corner

I’m With You

The Slummer The Slum

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Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe grew up in South San Francisco, spent a decade in Santa Cruz, and
relocated to Brooklyn in late 2008. He has been a waiter, a maintenance
man, a record store clerk, a professional radio DJ, an amateur
newcaster and a movie theater popcorn-slinger. Being broke is his
birthright, as he is from broke stock and has limited prospects. He
likes comic books and is obsessed with soul music.