Royal Torrence (22nd* November 1933, Durham, North Carolina - 29th September 2016, Washington) was an American 'soul' singer, with 'Little Royal and The Swingmasters'. He is often referred to as 'James Brown's little brother'.
Royal Torrence was born in Washington DC, USA, on November 22th 1933.It’s difficult to imagine that he had no idea what rhythm and blues was as a young boy in the south. When the singer joined his Uncle Bill Weaver’s Washington, DC gospel group in his twenties he only knew spiritual songs. Torrence became the leader of the group, which transitioned to rhythm and blues at Weaver’s suggestion, and was therefore known as Little Royal and the Swingmasters.
Torrence had a following in soul music circles and is often credited with discovering Teddy Pendergrass, who was a waiter at Edgehill’s Club in Atlantic City when Torrence held auditions for his band. Pendergrass won over the job as drummer, which gave him his first break touring. His work with the Swingmasters led to a future opportunity with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and his entry into stardom.
One evening in 1963, Torrence had a chance encounter with James Brown at The Howard Theatre. The Godfather of Soul told him they looked like brothers and introduced Torrence to promoter James Dudley. Soon Little Royal and the Swingmasters were touring with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and The Temptations.
In 1967 Torrence released his first 45—“I Can Tell”/ “You Made Me Love You” on Carnival Records. In 1972 Little Royal and the Swingmasters, which featured horn player Andrew Sims, Marvin Shears on drums, and Burnett Jackson on bass, released their “Jealous” LP on Torrence and producers Huey P. Meaux and Stanley Little’s Tri-Us label. The LP contained the hits “Jealous,” “I’ll Come Crawling,” “Razor Blade,” “Panama Red,” and “Soul Train.”
Despite this, he recorded fairly frequently during those two decades (some of his other labels included 'Carnival' and 'Excello). One of his most memorable records was "Crazy Cajun", produced by Huey P Meaux. The B-side to the "Jealous" single, "Razor Blade", would later be sampled by a total of 16 modern 'electronic' artists, including 'Ice-T', 'Lord Finesse' and 'J Dilla'.
Torrence created a popular dance for the instrumental track “Razor Blade” when he appeared on the Cincinnati, Ohio television program, “Soul Street.” In 1973 Torrence released another 45 on Tri-Us—“Keep Pushing Your Luck”/”(I Want To Be Free) Don’t Want Nobody Standing Over Me.”
Beginning in 1983 Torrence released several crossover beach music singles including “Groovin” and “Down On The Sand” on Firestone and Flame Records respectively, which played from Virginia to Florida. His band also backed many of the biggest stars of the world when they toured through his adopted home of Washington, DC.
This decade he cut back to doing a few performances a year, mostly at the “Blue Monday Blues” nights at Westminster Church in Southwest. Even after suffering a stroke, Royal energetically sang and strutted at these events. His daughter said “entertaining was his passion. He was content with what he had done. He had an amazing life.”
Though he was never a huge charting star, Little Royal maintained a following, particularly in Europe and in the DC area, right up through the time of his death at the Washington Hospital Center ICU, Washington D.C., U.S.A. on September 29th 2016, at the age of 82.
(Info edited mainly from Soultracks.com & Soul57.com) (* a few sources give birth date as 20th)