Comic Strip: The “5” Royales

Here’s a one-pager I did for fall’s issue of Signal to Noise magazine.  I posted some bits and pieces of this a while back when it was in-process, but now that the new issue on the stands here’s the entire strip.

The stirp is an introduction to the ’50s soul/R&B band, The “5” Royales, who hail from right here in Winston-Salem.  The Royales aren’t a household name by any stretch, but they should be to anyone who’s interested in modern music.  The Royales’ influence runs via two conduits: first, James Brown pretty much modeled his first band, The Famous Flames on the Royales’ sound and in fact scored an early hit with the Royales-penned tune “Think.”  Second, the playing of the Royales’ guitarist, Lowman Pualing, was very innovative for the time and was emulated by Steve Cropper (among others) who was a founding member of the Stax Records house band, Booker T & the MGs, and provided guitar on tracks by folks like Wilson Picket and Otis Redding.

An interesting aside here is that this is a job I did mainly because I thought it’d be fun.  I hope I’m not bursting any idealistic young freelancers’ bubbles here, but smaller specialty magazines don’t tend to have the budgets of, say, The New Yorker, but sometimes–as in this case–the opportunity to do something really fun and interesting outweighs monetary considerations.  I this case, though, I managed to have my cake and eat it too.  The original art for this was displayed at a gallery show here in Winston–and sold!

Anyway, here’s the strip–enjoy:



2 pings

  1. LOOKA says:

    HA! That told em!

    Musicians and cartoonists part many a thing when it comes to wider appreciation…

    Say, have you heard of this podcast: http://www.garagepunk.com ??
    There is a show there, called “Hot Slop!” The host, Rob Baker,
    spins superb soul from original 45’s, you might enjoy it!

    All the best,

  2. Ben says:

    Hey, thanks for the tip! I just subscribed to “Hot Slop” and am looking forward to checking it out. -B.

  3. LOOKA says:

    Oh, no problem! I thought maybe that’s interesting.
    The older episodes are also pretty awesome.

  4. Ken Eppstein says:

    This is awesome!

    In a weird piece of synchronicity, Craig Fischer just pointed me to this ‘toon and I just recently bought the Steve Cropper Album “Dedicated.” (Dedicated to the Five Royales, that is!)

  5. Ben says:

    @Ken – Thanks! I’ve heard of, but not heard that Steve Cropper record. He’s definitely one of the two main conduits through which the influence of the “5” Royales flowed, though (the other being Famous Flames-era James Brown). Cropper’s Lowman Pauling-inspired playing and guitar sound is all over that great Stax stuff he played on.

  6. Ken Eppstein says:

    In a funny bit of coincidence I picked up a reprint copy of Kicks #1 in New York last week… With an article by Peter Holsapple about the Winston-Salem music scene and how its under appreciated. He focused more on Mitch Easter era stuff, of course. Still it seems like Winston-Salem is following me around.

    I also saw a Five Royales “greatest” type LP at Bleecker Street records, but it was $15 and my cheap streak combined with my label snobbery to get in the way of me buying it. (It was on Gusto Records… Stuff on Gusto should never be more than a five spot.)

  7. Ben says:

    @Ken – Yeah, Holsapple’s a WS staple (despite how often it’s erroneously claimed in the music press that he’s “from Chapel Hill”). Local rock critic/reviewer Ed Bumgardner is writing some sort of history of the WS music scene. I’ll be really interested to read it whenever it sees the light of day.

    You can actually stumble non-Best Of LPs of “5” Royales stuff at reasonable prices these days if you keep your eyes open.

  1. Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo » Blog Archive » Inked Ukulele One-pager says:

    […]  This strip will appear in the Fall issue of Signal to Noise magazine, which is where my previous very wordy one-page music strip about Winston-Salem’s “5″ Royales also appeared.  Like the Royales strip, this one will be in full color, but I’m not going to […]

  2. One-Page Comic Strip: History of the Ukulele » Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo says:

    […] interested in music and they give me a pretty free rein to choose a subject I like.  For example, one of my past strips for them was about the obscure but very influential local Winston-Salem soul band, The […]

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