Tommy was born in Atlanta on May 9th, 1942. Among his boyhood friends were Joe South, Mac Davis, Ray Stevens and Billy Joe Royal. While a student at Brown High School, he formed a group called The Satins which played at local dances around town. The group performed several of his compositions, notably 'Sheila', which they recorded in 1960. At the time, the single was unsuccessful.
After highschool, Tommy signed as a single act with a local label called "Judd" and later with ABC-Paramount. In 1962, He recorded a song called "Save Your Kisses". To fill the flip side of this record, Tommy's original version of Sheila was dug out of mothballs and when DJ's began to play it, it caught on. Suddenly, he had a song that went to number one on the U.S. record charts, and number 3 in Great Britain. From then on, a drum-laden intro followed by driving rhythm electric guitar became the trademark element behind Tommy's chart successes.
His material often bordered on the plight of a hopeless romantic always ready to kiss and tell. Self penned lyrics such as those found in Dizzy ("...and kissed you and my heart began to melt,") stirred critics to label him a bubblegum artist, catering to just teen and pre-teen appetites. But whatever formula he chose to follow, it wasn't long before teen girls were following him. Especially girls whose names were cleverly featured in his songs!
In March 1963, he toured the UK along with Chris Montez, (best known for "Call Me", "The More I See You" and "There'll Never Be Another You"), and both gained their first substantial exposure. Interestingly, they were the headliners on a bill with the Beatles and witnessed some strong competition when the fab four reportedly stole the show.
Robin Luke had recorded a song in Hawaii that he had written for his sister called "Susie Darlin'". Tommy Roe covered it and had his second top forty song. From there, Tommy was on his way. His popularity soared in Great Britain, and some of his songs would do very well there, but not in the United States, such as "The Folk Singer". To capitalize on his overseas success, he moved to England and lived there for several years in the mid-to-late 60's.
Roe continued to have success with 'Everybody', which became a US number 3 in 1963. A stint in the army kept him off the charts until 1966 when he recorded 'Sweet Pea', which garnered considerable airplay. The song reached the US Top 10, as did its follow-up, 'Hooray For Hazel', but Roe's biggest hit came in 1969 when 'Dizzy' topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The singer enjoyed further success that year with 'Heather Honey' and 'Jam Up and Jelly Tight', but for much of the 70s he opted to pursue a low-key career in his home state.
Roe did release some new material with 'Energy' and 'Full Bloom', but when they failed to get much attention, he subsequently stuck to the nostalgia circuit. He released several albums in the 90's, but they were just re-packaged songs from his heyday. Memories of his past success were resurrected when 'Dizzy' returned to the top of the UK charts in 1992 in a version by "the Wonder Stuff" and alternative comedian Vic Reeves.
In later years, Tommy worked in Country music and did some touring with oldies shows. His 2012 schedule was filled with dates across the United States and Canada. In October, 2013, Tommy surprised many by releasing a new album called "Devil's Soul Pile". The title track is a social commentary about crime in inner cities. Tommy continued to make occasional appearances across America into 2017.
In all, Tommy Roe placed eleven songs in the US Top 40 in the 1960's, two of which made the number one spot on the charts: "Sheila" and "Dizzy". He placed 23 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
2 (#35)...Susie Darlin'-1962
4 (#36)...Come On-1964
5 (#8)...Sweet Pea-1966
6 (#6)...Hooray For Hazel-1966
7 (#23)...It's Now Winters Day-1967
9 (#29)...Heather Honey-1969
10 (#8)...Jam Up Jelly Tight-1969
11 (#25)...Stagger Lee-1971
For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with Tommy Roe.