Carter was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the youngest son of John Carter, a gardener, and Octavia, a laundress. His father died when Obadiah was young, and he and his mother had to move in with his older sister, Lottie, and her husband.
In 1951, the group originated as a gospel quintet known as the Royal Sons, which originated in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The members were locals: Carter, Johnny Tanner, Eugene Tanner, Lowman Pauling, and Jimmy Moore. The band sang in churches and on street corners, but eventually recorded in the Apollo Records Label in New York City. The Royal Sons transformed into an R & B group after their secular songs, "You Know I Know" and "Courage to Love," became popular. The name changed as well as the music, and the hometown quintet became commonly known as the "5" Royales.
- Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Social Security Administration.
- LLC, Zencos Consulting. "Welcome to the Arts in North Carolina!". search.ncarts.org. Retrieved 2016-04-06.
- 1930 United States Federal Census
- 1940 United States Census
- "The "5" Royales Biography | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". rockhall.com. Retrieved 2016-04-06.