The Shrine Of St. Cecelia- The Royals-1953- 45-Federal 12121.wmv





Rating is available when the video has been rented.
This feature is not available right now. Please try again later.
Published on Apr 29, 2012

Charles Sutton on lead. By Marv Goldberg.thank you,,

Based on interviews with Charles Sutton,,Much has been written about the Midnighters, first of the Detroit supergroups, but relatively little has been told about their origins. Starting out as the Royals, there were half a dozen records before they had a hit, and a few more before they rose to the top. This is the story of their beginnings.

Says Charles Sutton: "All of my life I liked to sing, from when I was 10. I listened to the Mills Brothers on radio and records. In 1947 or 48, I started going to amateur shows. When the Orioles came out, that was something different; I started to sing like that."

In 1950, while at one of those countless amateur shows, he ran across some other singers who were looking to start a group and the Royals, all from the East Side of Detroit, were born. In the beginning, they were: Charles Sutton (baritone lead), Henry Booth (tenor; an original member of the Serenaders, when they were in junior high school in the mid-40s), Freddy Pride (baritone), and Sonny Woods (bass). Sonny (whose first name was probably Ardra, although Charles says he never heard him called anything but "Sonny") had once been a valet for the Orioles, and therefore was "by association" less of an amateur than the others. To round out the group, Alonzo Tucker was added as an arranger and songwriter. (Alonzo, who was much older than the others, was also an occasional guitarist, appearing onstage with them a few times. He'd been the vocalist, and probably guitarist, for Jimmy Milner's Blue Ribbon Band, which had recorded for Fortune in 1949.)

Their idols were the Orioles, the 5 Keys, and the Dominoes. They sang mostly other groups' songs, especially at the many amateur contests they entered. Their forte, as was the Orioles', was love ballads. About six months after they formed, Freddy Pride was drafted; before he left, he recommend a friend, baritone/tenor Lawson Smith.

Detroit's Paradise Theater held amateur contests every Tuesday night, in addition to the regular show that was booked for the week. In the late fall of 1951, the Royals entered, singing the 5 Keys' latest hit, "The Glory Of Love". They won first prize (the munificent sum of $25), but more important, they also won the admiration of Johnny Otis, whose band was headlining the Paradise's week-long bill. He told them they had beautiful voices and had everything necessary to make a hit record. He also told them that he'd like to manage them; if they'd sign a 1-year contract, he'd get them a recording deal with Federal Records. Federal was run by Ralph Bass, whom he'd worked with at Savoy. (This was an amazing break for the Royals. While at the Paradise, Otis was actually hoping to see the Serenaders perform. However, he was too late; the Serenaders had appeared on the amateur show the week before. They were backstage, but the group Otis got to hear was the Royals.)

The Royals signed on the dotted line, and Otis was as good as his word. About a week later, Syd Nathan, president of King and Federal, called them and made the deal. He sent them a contract (which guaranteed them a "generous" one-half cent per record sold). On November 24, 1951, Federal records announced that it had signed the Royals, as well as several other acts, including saxman Gene Redd and Pete "Guitar" Lewis. (The same blurb said that Ralph Bass, Federal's a&r man, was finished with his work in New York, and was on his way to the West Coast to take charge of Federal's operations there.) The Royals were on their way.

Lawson Smith A short while later, Nathan scheduled a recording session at Federal's headquarters in Cincinnati, for February 1952. However, once again Uncle Sam stepped in, drafting Lawson Smith. They called up Nathan, frantically asking him to move up the session so that Lawson could be on it. (This was not only doing a favor for a friend, it was a practical step; he knew all the arrangements they'd been practicing.) Nathan came through, rebooking the session for early January. He sent them $200 so they could catch a train down to Cincinnati, and put them up in a hotel. At this point Lawson had already been inducted, but he had about a week to go before leaving.

While New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles labels, being in big cities, could have either a house band or at least a large pool of musicians that played on most of their sessions, Cincinnati wasn't like that. There weren't that many places for bands to perform, so they didn't hang around town much. Therefore, King/Federal sessions were scheduled for times when a King/Federal band was in town for a couple of days to record and/or appear. The Royals were therefore backed up by whoever was around, such as Todd Rhodes or Bill Doggett.


When autoplay is enabled, a suggested video will automatically play next.

Up next

to add this to Watch Later

Add to

Loading playlists...