This is dedicatedto Lowman Pauling
Ellise Maye Pauling passed away recently in Winston-Salem, N.C., at age 82. She was the widow of Lowman Pauling, a little known rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, visionary guitarist and songwriter who produced music that cut across every musical category, from gospel to doo-wop, jump blues, rhythm and blues, and soul.
Lowman Pauling was born in South Carolina on July 14, 1926. When his parents split up, he and younger brother Clarence lived with their dad in a Bluefield, W.Va., coal camp. There he heard all kinds of music: country, Vaudeville tunes, gospel and blues. Jazz performers Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Lunceford and Count Basie used to play there.
Lowman built a guitar of sorts out of a cigar box and strings, and learned to play. With Clarence he put together a musical act to play in school talent shows, and in one of these they won an indoor toilet, a first for their school. When they were a little older, they moved to Winston-Salem to live with their mother.
They put together a gospel group and sang in churches; there, also, Lowman met Ellise Maye, and they were married in 1951.
The band added other members and became The Royal Sons Quartet. Then they became just The 5 Royales. By 1953, songs penned by Lowman Pauling began to appear on the R&B charts, and the band hit the road with non-stop touring.
They played places like the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, and got to know performers like Little Richard, Sam Cooke and James Brown. With his Gibson Les Paul hanging down at his knees, Pauling played blasts of distorted notes and riffs, and even played with his feet. Guitarist Steve Cropper, as well as performers Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, were influenced by his progressive music.
Some of the band’s songs, mostly written by Pauling, were “Help Me Somebody”, “The Feeling is Real”, “Thirty Second Lover” and “Monkey Hips and Rice”. His biggest hit song, the song he is most remembered for, was “Dedicated to the One I Love”, about being away from his wife so much. It was recorded by The Shirelles, The Mommas and the Papas, and The Temprees.
But with all that, bigger success eluded The 5 Royales and they disbanded in the 1960s. Lowman Pauling, who possessed a quiet, even mysterious personality, used to tell his wife she would have nothing to worry about financially, should something happen to him — song royalties would keep her and their son, Darryl.
But Lowman did not retain ownership of his songs and the royalties never came. He dropped out of music and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., working as a janitor in a synagogue. A steady drinker, he was also an epileptic and didn’t take good care of himself. He suffered a seizure and died alone and broke on Dec. 26, 1973 — on Ellise’s birthday. He was 47 years old.
Barely noticed and largely forgotten, when he died the Winston-Salem newspaper ran a small announcement of his passing and misspelled his name. At the cemetery, a small headstone listed his death date wrong. A seminal figure on the music scene, the influence he had qualifies him to be in both the Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues halls of fame, but he is in neither.
Ellise Pauling, married to Lowman for 22 years, never remarried and was a widow for almost 40 years. And while her husband was far away from her much of the time, she continued to think of him often.
Now she lies beside him in Winston-Salem Evergreen Cemetery, never again to be separated and always to be “Dedicated to the One I Love”.