Liner Note Author: Gordon Skadberg.
The Royals were discovered at a talent show in 1952 by Johnny Otis, who brought them to Federal Records, and even wrote the group's first single, "Every Beat of My Heart," which was released by Federal that same year. "Every Beat of My Heart" would later be a big hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1961 (in an upbeat version), but the Royals' rendition failed to generate much attention, even though it had a chiming backing track and vocal harmonies that glowed with an endearing sweetness. "Heart" leads off this collection of the complete Royals singles, and is clearly one of the highlights. The group at this point featured the lead vocals of Charles Sutton, with most of this early material written by the group's guitarist and arranger Alonzo Tucker. As much doo wop as R&B, these earliest tracks, like Tucker's "Fifth Street Blues," are innocent, relaxed affairs. Everything changed, however, when original member Lawson Smith entered the U.S. Army in 1953 and was replaced by a young singer named Hank Ballard. Ballard, although still only 16-years-old, brought a rougher R&B edginess to the table, and his songs had a decided raunchy tone that changed the temper of the group. Ballard's "Get It" had some success out of the box in 1953, but it was his even more suggestive "Work with Me Annie" a year later that really put the Royals on the musical map. Well, sort of. As the single climbed the charts, the Royals changed their name to the Midnighters, and by the time "Annie" hit number one on the R&B list, that was the name on the label, making it, in essence, the final single by the Royals and the debut single by the Midnighters all rolled into one. Federal Singles collects the 45s issued by the Royals up to this transition, including "Annie" (plus an alternate take of the song), and illustrates the path the group took from sweet doo wop to double entendre-laden (and successful) R&B. ~ Steve Leggett