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October 22, 2013

Oct. 22, 2013: Letters to the editor

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.

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