When Steve Cropper was in high
school, he was a huge fan of the 5 Royales and their
guitarist, Lowman Pauling, covering their tunes and
being influenced by Pauling’s hip, minimalist style.
Cropper pays tribute to Pauling on his latest record,
Dedicated, a star-studded salute to the 5 Royales.
You talk in the liner notes about some of
what you got from Lowman Pauling, in particular
the concept of playing rhythm and then
throwing in little lead licks where appropriate.
That sounds like a great description of
your playing. When you hear famous parts of yours, like “Soul Man,” do you think those lines
are referencing the Pauling influence?
Probably. I would say that the energy
and the flavor were a lot like Lowman. I
wouldn’t say I was good enough to play as
well as him, but that formula seemed to work
in the studios. The style that I went with
was the one that was working. Whatever
they were happy with, you continued doing.
You get really nice tones on this album.
How did you track your guitars?
To do the rhythms, I pulled out my old
touring amp—my Gibson Quad Reverb. We
cut all the tracks in two days, and the first
day I used my custom
Peavey that I play all
the time. The second
day I grabbed one of
my favorite old ’50s
or ’60s Telecasters
that I used on a lot of sessions in L.A. in the ’70s.
How familiar were the other players you
have on this tribute, like B.B. King and Brian
May, with Pauling’s work?
I don’t know about Brian but I know
about B.B. He was definitely familiar with
him. He was telling me stories about meeting
How did B.B.’s session go down? Did he
come to the studio with you?
No. We went to him. We flew to Vegas,
went in the studio, set him on the couch with
his guitar, put a microphone on the coffee
table, and he started singing and playing.
He sounds fantastic. We had so much fun.
What is the most important thing guitarists
would get if they went back and checked
out Pauling’s guitar work?
That as a guitarist you should listen to
the singer. I think if you listen to the records
and Pauling’s guitar fills, you’re obviously
going to focus on his tone and all that, but
you’re really going to wind up listening to
that song. You’re going to walk away humming
the melody of the song.
When I hear a lot of the riffs and progressions
in these songs, they remind me of things
I’ve heard, like a Chuck Berry tune or a Little
Richard tune. But a lot of these songs actually
predated those guys?
Absolutely. All during the overdubbing sessions,
they’d be playing the track back and I’d
start singing the song with Jackie Wilson or
Sam Cooke lyrics. They’d go, “Cropper, would
you stop doing that?” There are so many melodies
in his music that will remind you of big
hits from the ’60s and ’70s. I don’t want to
accuse anybody. I would just like to say that
they were probably listening to the 5 Royales
too, and they were influenced just like I was.