Tommy Roe





Tommy Roe is sometimes described as The father of Bubble Gum Music. 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 high school, Tommy signed as a solo 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 three 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. The follow-up to "Sheila" was a cover of Robin Luke's "Susie Darlin'", which only managed to hit #35 during a two week stay on the Billboard Hot 100.

Tommy's 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. 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 '60s.

Roe continued to have success in America with "Everybody", which became a U.S. #3 in 1963, and "Come On", a #36 chart maker in early 1964. A stint in the Army kept him off the charts until 1966 when he recorded a song called "Sweet Pea, which garnered considerable air play. 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" (#29) and "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" (#8), before enjoying one last Billboard Top 40 hit with "Stagger Lee" in the Fall of 1971. Facing stiff competition from the likes of Elton John and Neil Diamond, Tommy opted to pursue a low-key career for much of the 1970s.

Roe did release some new material with albums like "Energy" and "Full Bloom", but when they failed to get much attention, he subsequently stuck to the nostalgia circuit. He released several more albums in the 1990s, 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 Billboard Top 40, two of which made the number one spot on the charts: "Sheila" and "Dizzy". He placed a total of twenty-three singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

For more, be sure to read Gary James' interview with Tommy Roe.