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Most of the time it doesn’t happen in quite this way… an innovative rock group arriving on the scene usually draws from outside influences and shapes them into something new, but not here.

Here the group is influenced by… themselves… drawing on their OWN back story as a gospel group and reshaping those songs into secular tunes for a rock audience.

Not only were they breaking taboos by mixing the sacred with the profane, but they were in fact bastardizing their own songs to do so, but in the process creating something which over the next twenty years would have a profound effect on the future of both rock ‘n’ roll, and ironically, on gospel as well.


You Didn’t Do The Things That You Should Do
We need to start with their gospel career… their concurrent gospel career on the same label it should be pointed out… as The Royal Sons Quintet which morphed into a rock ‘n’ roll career much as Apollo Records had done the year before with The Larks who came to them singing gospel and emerged as rockers.

The difference between the two groups was this… The “5” Royales, as they’d come to be known after this initial effort was released as The Royals… maintained their gospel deliveries and gospel song frameworks for the most part, even as the topics changed.

Whereas The Larks had sung in a tight harmony style, The Royal Sons Quintet were more jubilee styled singers, an approach that hadn’t really been seen in rock groups before and would set them apart from the crowd at the time, but clearly distanced them from the groundswell of historical recognition that befell more traditional close harmony doo wop groups like The Larks.

The group had been singing and performing all around the mid-Atlantic coast region – they were from North Carolina – since 1938 as kids and while people came and went of the next dozen years, including future Motown producer Clarence Paul, brother of group leader Lowman Pauling, the group eventually centered around Johnny Tanner on lead and Pauling as songwriter and guitarist.

Signed to Apollo in 1951, Bess Berman, who’d built the label on gospel, had it put in their contract that the company would have the right to insist they sing whatever type of music she chose for them… a sign that rock ‘n’ roll was clearly the intent for her all along. With earthly success their goal more than heavenly rewards the group didn’t protest in the least and after their first session as The Royal Sons Quintet produced Bedside Of A Neighbor, they came in a few months later to sing something far, far different than venerable gospel tracks.

The problem was however Pauling only knew how to write gospel… the melodies, the changes, the entire structure of their music had always been that kind of music, not pop or blues or jazz, and so he simply reconfigured a gospel song into Give Me One More Chance.

It still has a moral lesson at its core, but this time they’re the ones straddling the great divide between good and evil.


Mister Won’t You Ask?…
The piano of their longtime acquaintance, distant relative and frequent contributor Royal Abbit opens the record with some tentative lurching notes being echoed by Lowman Pauling’s acoustic guitar and you immediately think gospel.

We know that’s what Pauling was thinking when he hurriedly scribbled down lyrics in the studio when the group was asked by Apollo’s producer Carl LeBow to try something the Lord would disapprove of and by the sounds of it the guys didn’t need any more instruction or convincing than that, because this – while still more of a rough sketch than a finished portrait of their future image – gets every lyrical and vocal detail right.

Johnny Tanner’s lead is pitched much higher than his usual range, uncomfortably so almost, but he manages to pull it off well enough as the others are contributing the kind of floating wordless harmonies that gospel singers were known for, topped by some high tenor flourishes by Jimmy Moore.

Where Give Me One More Chance really impresses is worked out the parts are, both in terms of the songwriting and the singing, something highlighted when Otto Jefferies comes along to deliver what you think is just going to be a simple bass-led bridge. It’s here that Pauling the writer shows his latent creativity, as the parts led by Tanner framed the record as a pleading sermon of a guy who messes around asking for another chance from his girlfriend through an intermediary.

Jefferies becomes that intermediary… her father or older brother, maybe her spiritual advisor for all we know… answering Tanner’s claims with rebuttals, putting Johnny in his place to which Tanner starts begging for mercy as Jefferies tells him he needs to “Suffer!”

When the others come in singing like an admonishing Greek chorus, mocking Johnny by repeating the same charges that Jefferies laid out in a strained falsetto harmony, you marvel at the ingenuity of it all. This isn’t a record so much as it is a stage play and they’re all playing their parts beautifully, even taking advantage of Jefferies being the oldest of the group by a dozen or more years (he’d eventually become their road manager and his place would be taken by Johnny’s younger brother Eugene, with Pauling moving down from baritone to bass).

As for the lyrics themselves?… well, let’s just say like so many gospel acts – not to mention so many sanctimonious religious types in general – the divine exterior often masks a dirty mind and body as when Tanner admits “I like to drink and I like to ball” he doesn’t sound as if he were unfamiliar with either activity, nor does the group seem uncomfortable with singing what is clearly a tune destined for the wrong side of the tracks.

Now granted you might successfully argue they’re condemning the sinner here, who doesn’t get his girl back after his misdeeds, but unlike the character Tanner plays who goes home with nothing to show for it, the group would go on to have a thriving career to show for dancing with the devil.


You’re Standing There Gazing At Me All Crazy
In many ways – as you might expect for a record that sounded as if it were demo, which it very well may have been intended to serve as – this is an outlier to their subsequent career, almost like a trial balloon to see if they could deliver the goods in this field.

That they succeed in doing so right out of the gate is a promising sign, but Give Me One More Chance still has a very crude sound to it, the higher pitched vocals of all of them are by far the weakest technical aspects to it. In the context of late 1951 where it was going up against far more polished vocal group records by The Clovers, Dominoes, Five Keys, Orioles and their labelmates The Larks among others, this definitely shows something new was on the scene however and if it can’t compete on the voices alone just yet, it makes up for it by how well written and arranged it is.

So while this is an atypical sounding record for rock vocal acts at this juncture and its rawness sticks out enough that we can’t go overboard with our praise, but imagining how much higher it’d have gone with more than ten or fifteen minutes to work it out and a full band behind them should leave you staggered at the possibilities of what is to come.


(Visit the Artist page of The “5” Royales for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)